Bowen is a town surrounded by scenic beaches. The town sits on a square peninsula so there are beaches to the north, east and south. The Don River flows just west of the town centre and reaches the ocean a little to the north. It also has easy access to countless coral reefs. This makes it an ideal playground for those who love to venture on or near the water at any time of year.
Located half way between Mackay and Townsville on Queensland’s north coast Bowen sits right on the 20th parallel south of the equator. Bowen is at the northern end of the Whitsunday region and it is around 1,100 kms north of Brisbane on the Bruce Highway. The population in 2011 was 10,260.
Due to the rain shadow effect produced by nearby Gloucester Island, Bowen enjoys a lovely dry tropical climate. Average temperatures range from around 25 degrees in winter to 31 degrees in summer. Along with the fertile alluvial soils along the Don River estuary, this makes the region perfect for a wide range of horticulture and agriculture. The area is nicknamed the ‘Salad Bowl of Australia’ and also the ‘Climate Capital of Australia’.
The Great Dividing Range wanders right up the east coast of Australia ending in North Queensland. Around Bowen, the nearby hills of the hinterland provide rich soils and deep forests. The lovely towns are home to a wide variety of cottage industries and the roads through the state forests and bushland create many opportunities for hiking, camping and driving.
In 1770, Captain James Cook sailed north along the east coast of Australia. He named Cape Gloucester but mistook it for the head of a peninsula not realising it was actually an island with a large harbour behind it.
In the late 1850’s the Governor of New South Wales issued a reward for the discovery of a deep water port north of Rockhampton. In 1859 Captain Henry Daniel Sinclair discovered the bay behind Gloucester Island and noted that it would make an ideal port. He named it Port Dennison.
Sinclair returned to Port Dennison by boat in April 1861 and met up with George Elphinstone who travelled south overland from Rockhampton. Together they founded the town of Bowen named for the first Governor of the newly formed Colony of Queensland, Sir George Ferguson Bowen.
In 1863 it was discovered that Sinclair and Elphinstone were not the first white men in the area. James Morril was a sailor from a boat that had been shipwrecked on a nearby reef 17 years earlier. He had been living with the local aborigines all that time but then moved to the developing town.
During World War 2, Bowen was used as an air force base and regular patrols of PBY Catalina flying boats were sent out to search for enemy ships and submarines. The site of that base still exists and is now home to the Aerodrome Museum run by the Bowen Historical Society.
Near the centre of town is the Bowen Saltworks. Opened in 1923, this large operation harvests the salt from the sea water and refines it for use in farm feeding stock, salting hides, swimming pools and meat products. It is one of the major employers of the area.
The tourism, fishing, mining and agriculture/horticulture industries also help to support the prosperous economy of the region. Bowen is famous for its mangoes and the ‘Big Mango’ is a popular local tourist attraction. The Bowen region is also the largest tomato growing region in the state and growers supply produce to the local markets, supermarket chains and also for export.
Many locals got their ’15 minutes of fame’ in 2007 when acclaimed director Baz Lurhmann brought his spectacular production of the movie ‘Australia’ to town. The movie starred Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman and received funding from the Queensland government. Bowen was used as the location for the outdoor ‘Darwin’ scenes in the movie. As you travel into Bowen from the north you may spot the old water tank that features in the film.
With such a diverse history and environment, Bowen is a great place to enjoy a holiday. Stop over for a few days or use the town as a base to explore the whole Whitsunday region. Whatever your interests, you are sure to find plenty of exciting things to do in Bowen