The town of Bowen is situated on the Queensland coast in the northern parts of the Whitsunday region. As a tourist destination it's often overlooked in favour of its southerly neighbour, Airlie Beach, which is about a 45 minute drive down the coast. However, visitors to the region are realising the benefits of basing themselves in Bowen for their holiday to the Whitsundays, and it's slowly establishing itself on the Australian tourist map. Established it deserves to be, for this delightful old town seems to have resisted keeping up with the times, opting instead to retain a sense of old-world charm characterised by a very easy-going and laid back atmosphere. For a holiday in which you cannot help but forget all the problems and hassles of life you simply have to head to Bowen!
With many of the 74 islands of the Whitsunday group easily accessible from Bowen, a lot of recreational pursuits are centred around those. Tours to the islands (which include Gloucester, Poole and Holbourne) are available, and an especially popular option is to go sailing through the still azure waters between the islands. Needless to say the snorkelling and scuba diving here is second to none, and the sheltered reefs around the islands are the perfect starting point for beginners and children to first get accustomed to the delights of the underwater world. You can spot up to 86 different species of marine animal swimming amongst the brightly coloured coral, from colourful tropical fish to large wrasse to everything weird and wonderful in-between!
Whilst the Whitsundays are a definite selling point for Bowen, for many the true attraction of the town are the beautiful beaches and secluded bays dotted up and down its own coastline. The seven award winning beaches near to the town are amongst some of the best in Queensland, and have something for everyone, from adventure seekers to sun bakers. Front Beach is the easiest to access from the town, situated right at the end of the main street. Bordered by a green park where there are picnic and barbeque facilities, its a popular place for people to stop for a bite to eat and a refreshing swim.
But the real secluded gems lie slightly out of town, in the unspoiled bays a short drive north. Rose Bay is very popular because of the views it offers of the Whitsunday waterways and of Gloucester and Middle Island. Serviced by public amenities, families love it here because the gentle lie of the beach make it perfect for a bit of beach cricket or footy! Probably the best known beach in the region lies in Horseshoe Bay, a popular swimming spot which is lifeguard patrolled. Its white sands, deep blue waters and granite headlands demarcating its northerly and southerly points. Fishing is a common activity here, as it is over the whole region. There is the choice of fishing in rivers and creeks, off the shoreline, or in deeper waters in a chartered boat, and it is this diversity that keeps anglers interested and keeps them coming back for more.
Bowen is often lauded as the town where "the bush meets the beach", an apt description considering it has the feel of a country town that somehow found itself on the coast of Queensland! The bush does literally converge onto the shoreline here, and inland of Bowen there are some amazing walks that can be taken through the thick vegetation. The walk up to Flagstaff Hill lookout cannot be missed, because your efforts are well rewarded by panoramic views of Bowen, the coast and the countryside once you actually reach Flagstaff. Once up there you will see the massive mango tree plantations that surround the town, where the infamous 'Bowen Mango' is cultivated. Its essential you visit the 'Big Mango', a large colourful replica of a mango situated at the Visitor Information Centre on the highway just out of town. Its a great kodak opportunity!
There are plenty of places in which you can stay in Bowen, but none quite capture the laid back vibe and the friendly local atmosphere like the Castle Motor Lodge, located on Don Street in the centre of town. Air-conditioned ground floor rooms are complemented by a swimming pool and spa, and a popular licensed restaurant. Add to this Austar in all the rooms, ample parking and friendly, helpful staff and you have the ultimate place to base yourself on your holiday to Bowen!
A fresh attraction in Bowen is the movie set of the new Baz Luhrmann epic, 'Australia'. Luhrmann chose Bowen as the set for the film because of its old world appeal and its typically Australian feel, and for a few weeks in 2007 the town was awash with A-list celebrities, film crews and of courses hordes of tourists trying to get in on the action. 'Bowenwood' became the talk of the country for a while, so be sure to pop in and experience the set for yourself!
With the Whitsundays on its doorstep, a shoreline of pristine beaches and bays and a lush hinterland, you would be hard pressed to think of a reason not to come to Bowen for your next holiday. Its a 200 kilometre drive south from Townsville into Bowen, or a 1160 kilometre drive north from Brisbane, so if you are driving those distances you need a reliable and comfortable car. Discovery Rentals will provide you with just that, so be sure to include us in your travel arrangements!
Gavin Wyatt is a journalist with a passion for travel. originally from Zambia he has traveled around the world to end up on the sunny shores of Australia. For more of his articles visit Queensland Car Hire