The unique combination of geography in the region has made Bowen a rich and bountiful district. The climate is sub-tropical and dry thanks to protection from the strong east winds by Gloucester Island.
The Don River Valley and the hills of the hinterland to the west of Bowen are full of deep mineral reefs and alluvial soils. As a result the soils are perfect for large scale horticultural production. Many varieties of fruits and vegetables are grown commercially in the area including tomatoes, green capsicums, cucumbers, chilli, sweet corn, rockmelons and of course the famous Bowen mango.
Tomatoes are the primary vegetable grown here with an annual harvest of 80,000 tonnes in 2002. They are distributed to markets and supermarkets across Australia and overseas. The livestock and horticultural industries are also major employers in the region.
In the 1960's a 'Kensington Pride' mango tree was planted by an unknown person, possibly an international trader. This variety of mango grows extremely well in the region and in 2002 the industry produced over 5,000 tonnes of the delicious fruit. Today, due to the dominance of mangos from Bowen in markets across Australia they are now simply known as 'Bowen' mangos. The ‘Big Mango’ outside the Bowen Tourist Information Centre pays homage to the contribution of the mango industry to the local and state economy.
To the south west of the town centre is the Bowen Saltworks. This expansive operation was established in 1925. Spread out over 154 hectares are a series of interconnected ponds receiving seawater pumped from a nearby tidal creek.
Salt crystals are extracted from the water as it evaporates using a very intricate process which takes about a year. The harvested salt is a key ingredient for feeding stock in rural areas and it also used in meat products and swimming pools. At least 15,000 tonnes of salt are harvested here each year.
With so many bays, rivers, creeks and lakes in the region is it any wonder that aquaculture is also a vital part of the local economy?
Coral trout, cod, prawns, lobsters, crabs and many other sea creatures are farmed or fished commercially around Bowen. Within the harbour there are dedicated trawler berthing facilities and seafood processing enterprises. The high quality of the regional seafood is very competitive in export markets.
While you are in Bowen, be sure to go out and treat your tastebuds to as much of this deliciously fresh produce as you can.