With a choice of award-winning palm-fringed beaches, unspoiled bays and a warm tropical climate, the charming and unpretentious seaside town of Bowen provides an excellent getaway for honeymoon couples wanting some quiet time together in the Whitsundays.
Located on the shores of Edgecumbe Bay, and only a 40-minutes drive north of Airlie Beach, the chilled-out beach town of Bowen is one of the undiscovered treats of North Queensland.
Officially declared a town in 1861, Bowen is North Queensland’s oldest town.
Genuinely different, the town of Bowen provides a languid lifestyle that seamlessly merges with the pristine beauty of the region's unspoiled bays and beaches.
Add in a fringing coral reef waiting to be explored straight from the shore, a choice of water-sports, fishing and bushwalking options as well as stunning coastal scenery and it's easy to see why Bowen is a natural holiday playground.
Bowen also offers a wide choice of dining experiences, with dishes that use top quality local fresh produce, beef and seafood.
The Bowen region is known for its abundant fruit and vegetables. Nicknamed the ‘salad bowl of the north’, Bowen and the surrounding districts produce mangoes, tomatoes, corn, capsicum, melons, beans, pumpkin, and limes.
There is also a plentiful supply of wild-caught seafood, available fresh every day off the boats as they come into the marina.
To the north and east of Bowen lie a series of eight remarkably peaceful, and often unoccupied, sandy beaches where the water temperature rises to 28°C (82°F) in summer (although beware of the stingers) and drops to 22°C (72°F) in winter.
Here, you can walk off the beach and head underwater to explore the living reef. High tide times allow snorkellers to explore up into the rocks and swim among the bountiful fish life at Horseshoe and Murray Bays.
Explore the granite outcrops of Horseshoe and Rose Bay or make your way to Kings Beach to experience views over Gloucester, Middle and Stone Islands.
Check out Queens Beach for a leisure stroll, at 5km (3mi) it's the longest beach in Bowen.
Horseshoe Bay – Arguably the most beautiful of Bowen's beaches, Horseshoe Bay is characterised by white sand and a coral reef that is ideal for snorkelling and scuba diving.
The beach is framed by giant granite outcrops which protect the 150m long north-facing cove.
The crystal clear water is perfect for snorkelling. Discover soft and hard coral, giant clams and brightly coloured tropical fish direct from the mainland shore.
Spend the day relaxing here and enjoy lunch or a snack at the Horseshoe Bay Café and Beach Bar. Discover the intertidal sculpture Bwya.
Gray Bay – Recognised as one of the most beautiful bays in north Queensland, Gray Bay offers large trees with picnic facilities, a children's playground and a boat ramp.
The bay is a popular place to launch boats and jet skis and there’s plenty of parking. It’s also a good spot for paddle-boarding, canoeing, kayaking, water-skiing, tubing and wake-boarding. If you go for a dip, be careful of the rocks and coral.
Grays Bay is just a short walk down the road from Horseshoe Bay, on the southern end of Queens Bay.
Murray Bay – This secluded bay is fringed with coconut trees, offers protection from the wind and has clear waters that are ideal for snorkelling and fishing.
The spacious beach is a great spot for snorkelling, diving and fishing. Access to the beach itself is down a short dirt road but it’s worth getting the car dusty for this secluded slice of paradise.
Murrays Bay is located a short drive south of Horseshoe Bay.
Rose Bay – Picture-perfect Rose Bay offers gorgeous views across to Gloucester Island.
The sandy east-facing beach is around 100m long and is protected by granite headlands on each side with a fringing reef.
At low tide, you’ll find a number of rock pools. In summer, look out for flatback and green turtles hatching on the beach.
Rose Bay beach is ideal for families, with good picnic facilities and a children's play area.
Kings Beach – The often deserted Kings Beach is great for long strolls or checking out the kite surfers.
Views overlook Gloucester, Middle and Stone Island. The granite boulder protected by the mangroves of Magazine Creek, provide a great spot for estuary fishing.
Kings Beach is quiet and peaceful and ideal for walking and for beach-combing. The northern end of Kings Beach is dog-friendly while the southern end is for horses.
Front Beach – Just a short stroll from Bowen's main street, Front Beach is a popular spot for picnics.
The foreshore provides a water-park, playground and a jetty which is the perfect spot to see to see some local sea-life including turtles and stingrays.
Front Beach has both a replica of the Big Mango, a visitor centre, lots of grassy play areas and the town's wharf.
Queens Beach – At 5km (3mi) long Queens Beach is ideal for walking and for sun-baking.
Coral Bay – This clothes optional beach is nestled between Horseshoe Bay and Grays Bay.
Note: Dangerous marine stingers may be present in the waters around Bowen during summer between November and May.
During this time, it is suggested you wear protective clothing such as a full body Lycra or neoprene suit, which also provide great protection against the strong North Queensland sun. Skin should be covered, even when wading.
Swimming in stinger enclosures at beaches provides protection from the deadly Box Jellyfish but not from the smaller but venomous Irukandji jellyfish.
While not a fashion statement – the stinger suit is the best way to safely enjoy swimming or snorkelling in these beautiful waters during summer.
With some of the Queensland’s best fringing reefs lying just a few metres offshore, there are lots of opportunities to snorkel or dive reefs teeming with colourful tropical fish.
Scuba diving and guided snorkel tours are available from dive companies located at Horseshoe Bay and Murray Bay. Or cast a line for fish along the reef, from the beach or in the estuary.
For one of the best view in the Whitsundays head up to Flagstaff Hill – Bowen’s premier lookout (photo).
Don’t miss the tropical delights of a Bowen mango or a wander around Muller’s Lagoon, a picturesque parkland of 23ha in the centre of town with a superb botanical gardens and wetlands habitat.
One of the best ways to explore Bowen’s attractions and coastal scenery is on one of the several walking tracks.
Cape Edgecumbe Trail – With its many elevations and beautiful views this 2.5km (1.5mi) trail starts from Horseshoe bay, traverses Murray Bay and terminates at Rose Bay.
Nature lovers will be impressed by postcard-worthy lookout views of the bays and beaches, while having the opportunity to see native wildlife up close.
You can walk the entire circuit or just part of it, as there are entry points at Horseshoe, Murray and Rose Bays.
Hansen Park to Horseshoe Bay Walk – This pleasant 2.6km (1.6mi) paved walk follows the coast from Hansen Park on Queens Bay to Horseshoe Bay, with picture-perfect lookout views of the bays and beaches along the way.
The wide paved track is wheelchair and stroller friendly.
Horseshoe Bay to Murray Bay – This pleasant walking trail runs from Horseshoe Bay via a lookout to Murray Bay (870m away) and Rose Bay, 2.5km (1.5mi).
Kings Beach Walk – This 1.8km (1.1mi) walk along Kings Beach offers views up to Flagstaff Hill and across to Gloucester Island.
This easy walk along the sandy beach starts from the car park below Flagstaff Hill. Access to the beach can also be made from Rose Bay or via a short, unsealed road off Queens Road.
Queens Bay Walk – This 1.6km (1mi) beach walk from the Don River estuary heads south along the beach to Golf Links Road.
This path has beautiful views of both the bay and the suburb of Queens Beach.
Front Beach – Enjoy a pleasant walk along Front Beach then relax with a picnic in the adjacent parkland which features thousands of shade trees.
Mullers Lagoon to Queens Bay – This 3.8km (2.3mi) walk takes you around the lagoon and offers views of the area's rich birdlife and across parkland to Queens Bay Beach.
Mural Trail – Follow the mural trail through this historic Queensland town.
Inland, go bushwalking or horseback riding through the rugged countryside and discover a landscape of eucalypt forests, dry creek beds and cattle-grazing pastures.
Head to the old mining area of Collinsville and explore the Coal Face Experience museum.
Top attractions in Bowen include…
Flagstaff Hill – Discover panoramic 360° views up and down the coast and across to Gloucester Island.
This is the best place for an overview of Bowen and its surroundings.
Bowen's Murals – Take a stroll around Bowen's 27 murals.
Most murals focus on the historical aspects of Bowen, from transporting a boiler to the coalfields (photo) to Federation of Port, which shows the evolution of the town from the days of sailing ships through the steam ship days to the industrial port today, and pioneer women – a triptych honouring the pivotal role that women played in the town's development.
The mural 'Coal Loading from Jetty' seen at the Centrepoint Shopping Centre in Herbert Street was painted by renowned artist Ken Done.
Pick up a map from the Visitor Information brochure – or downloaded from https://www.tourismbowen.com.au/BTG15-16-Web.pdf.
Bowen Historical Museum – Located at 22 Gordon Street, the Bowen Historical Museum is regarded as one of the best local history museums in Queensland.
The museum boasts a fine collection of memorabilia and historical artefacts relating to geological, Aboriginal and industrial history, as well as shipwreck relics, a restored 1873 slab cottage with period furnishings, Captain Sinclair's waterman's badge, photostats of early maps relating to the township and a map of the arduous Old Bowen Downs Road over the Leichhardt Ranges, which took up to three months to traverse.
Mullers Lagoon and the Bowen Botanic Gardens – Try to spot some of the more than 176 bird species that live in Mullers Lagoon – a 23ha botanical gardens and wetlands situated in the centre of town.
A walking track around the lagoon features interpretative facilities, seating and bridges with displays of dry climate palms, native and exotic shrubs and perennials.
Facilities include a playground, picnic area with toilets, barbecues and shade trees.
The Big Mango – Mangoes have been grown in the district since the late 1880s.
Unveiled on 25 May, 2002, The Big Mango was a community initiative that was hoped would lure travellers to the town.
At a cost of AUD90,000 ($60,000 over budget) the locals are still arguing as to whether it is the right way up.
The Big Mango is located on the Bruce Highway, at Mount Gordon, South Bowen.
Yasso Point and the Kanakas – Learn about the harsh lives of the South Pacific Islanders – known as Kanakas – who were enslaved and brought to the area to cut cane, from a series of information panels at Yasso Point.
Located at the northernmost end of Queens Beach near the mouth of the Don River.
Largely undiscovered, Bowen offers accommodation ranging from backpackers and caravan parks, to 4-star beach-front apartments.
Find the best deal, compare prices and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Bowen at TripAdvisor.
For the best weather visit Bowen anytime from May to November. The wet 'green' season last from December to April and is generally hot, wet and humid.
Bowen enjoys a tropical climate with hot summers, warm winters and a pleasant spring and autumn.
Summer, from December to February, averages a high of 31°C (88°F) and a low of 23°C (73°F); and winter, from June through August, averages a high of 25°C (77°F) and a low of 15°C (59°F).
For more climate info: Airlie Beach Weather Guide…
Bowen is located 78km (48mi) north of Airlie Beach and 205km (127mi) south of Townsville.
The most convenient route to Bowen is by air to Proserpine Airport (PPP), also known as Whitsunday Coast Airport, followed by bus or taxi to Bowen, a 50-minute drive.
Having your own car is the ideal option for getting around in Bowen. Care hire is available in Airlie Beach or from Whitsunday Coast Airport.
The Whitsunday Coast Airport is located about 38km (24mi) south of Airlie Beach, around 40 minutes by shuttle bus and less by taxi. Whitsunday Transit operates a regular bus service from the airport.
There are no direct international flights to Proserpine Airport (PPP).
From international destinations this may require first flying into Brisbane Airport (BNE) – or Melbourne or Sydney – followed by a connecting flight to Proserpine Airport.
Alternatively, you can fly to Hamilton Island Airport (HTI), also known as Great Barrier Reef Airport, then hop on the ferry to Port of Airlie, which takes 1 hour 10 minutes, hourly.
By train, the nearby town of Proserpine, about 26km (16mi) from Airlie Beach, is on the main railway line between Brisbane and Cairns, with a frequent service provided by the Spirit of Queensland.
By bus, Greyhound and Premier coaches stop at Airlie Beach on their journey between Brisbane and Cairns.
For more info: Getting to Airlie Beach…
Latest update: Bowen attractions: 29 March, 2021
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