Although Bowen might be regarded as a synonym for mangoes and tomatoes throughout eastern Australia, this town sitting halfway between Mackay and Townsville has more to offer than the fruits of its rich soils.
It is, in fact, North Queensland’s oldest town and, at one time, was a rival to Townsville as the northern capital. The signposted Golden Arrow tourist loop gives the visitor a historical perspective of the development of the town since Captain Henry Sinclair sailed the Santa Barbara into Port Denison in 1859.
Bowen’s pride is the chain of eight, unsullied, safe bay beaches which attract swimmers, fishermen and beachcombers. The beaches are within a 5 kilometre radius of the Post Office and many are fringed with inshore reefs. In fact snorkellers can swim to these reefs from the beaches on Horseshoe, Murray, Greys and Rose Bays.
Mullers Lagoon is a vast sanctuary for both waterfowl and birdwatchers. Coral trout, red emperor, sweetlip and other reef varieties await anglers on the inshore reefs of Bowen's most popular and accessible bay beaches.
Enthusiastic fossickers may be rewarded with sapphires, amethyst crystals or opalised wood for a sortie into the hinterland outcrops and hills round Binbee and Collinsville.
If you prefer your history in living colour, Bowen’s extraordinary wall paintings are right up your alley. The works began appearing in the streets in 1988 when the Bowen Shire Festival of Murals Society commissioned artists to decorate the town with a series of paintings reflecting watershed episodes in the region’s history.
A map tracing the mural walk through Herbert, Powell and George Streets is available at the central information centre. The Bowen Historical Museum offers a more conventional journey into the past, while a drive to Flagstaff Hill opens up a panoramic view to the Whitsunday Islands.