Bowen is in the Whitsunday region, an hour north of Airlie Beach, Queensland. It is famous for its Bowen Mangoes and the filming location for a third of the movie Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.

Our family visited this town as part of our Queensland road trip. This travel guide shows you what to do in Bowen along with useful tips to plan your holiday, including weather, accommodation, and how to get there.

Where is Bowen?

Bowen is halfway between Mackay and Townsville, on the north-east coast of Queensland, Australia.

a sandy bay with surf lifesavers and people swimming in the ocean and relaxing on the beach

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How to get to Bowen

International visitors will need to fly via Brisbane or Sydney. From there, take a domestic flight to Mackay, Proserpine (near Airlie Beach), or Townsville. Find details about visas, prohibited items, currency, and safety on our Australia page.

If you haven’t booked your flight yet, look at our travel resources to find out how to get the best flight deals.

If you enjoy rail journeys, the Spirit of Queensland runs from Brisbane to Bowen. The Greyhound Australia bus stops in Bowen too.

Alternatively, you could make Bowen part of a Brisbane to Cairns road trip.

Car Hire – There are a few car hire companies available at the airport. I use Rentalcars.com to compare prices. I usually find that Europcar has the best deals for us. (we hired a Toyota Camry from them on this trip). My links will take you directly to the sites.

TIP: The earlier car hire is booked, the more options there are, and the lowest prices. Click on the above car rental links to get great deals.

Bowen 7 Day Forecast & Weather

Bowen has a tropical climate meaning the summers are generally hot and wet. Winter days are warm and sunny, although night temperatures can drop.

The wettest months are January and February, with September being the driest.

The daytime maximum temperatures are around 31 degrees during the summer (wet season) and 24-25 degrees during the winter (dry season).

Bowen’s cyclone season is from November through to April.

See the detailed 7-day forecast at the Bureau of Meteorology.

Brief History of Bowen

I would like to respectfully acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal People, the Traditional Owners, and First People of these lands. I would like to pay my respects to the Elders past, present, and future, for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture, and hopes of the Aboriginal People.

Captain Henry Daniel Sinclair discovered Port Denison in 1859 when a reward was offered to find a port north of Rockhampton.

Two years later, Sinclair led an expedition by sea, while George Elphinstone Dalrymple led another group by land from Rockhampton to Port Denison.

In 1865, the town was renamed after the Queensland colonial governor, Sir George Bowen, when Queensland had separated from New South Wales.

The primary industries in Bowen are agriculture, fishing, tourism, and coal mining.

What To Do in Bowen Qld

The Big Mango

The Big Mango was our first stop in Bowen. This giant 10-metre high mango cost $90,000 to create a tourist attraction in 2002.

The 7-tonne mango was stolen in 2014 but found the next day. It turned out to be a publicity stunt by Nandos.

It’s a good stop for a photo, but the best part is the mango sorbet sold inside the Tourist Information Centre.

As mentioned above, Bowen produces the Kensington Pride (or Bowen Mango) mango, which originated from India. This variety accounts for over 80% of Australia’s yearly commercial supply.

a big mango structure is what to do in bowen

Flagstaff Hill

Flagstaff Hill is a must when visiting Bowen for 360-degree views over the area. Look out to Gloucester Island, Cape Edgecumbe, Queens Bay, and Abbot Point.

It’s an easy walk from the car park, so no climbing is required.

If you are there around June to September, you may be lucky enough to see whales breaching just off the coast.

North Head Island and its historic lighthouse are viewable from here.

Binoculars are available to use for A$2 or bring your own.

We visited during the day, but it would be a great place at sunset.

What to do in Bowen in 1 brilliant day

Horseshoe Bay & Horseshoe Bay Lookout

We fell in love with the beautiful Horseshoe Bay. The sheltered sandy bay is so picturesque (as can be seen from the lookout). The calm crystal clear water and granite outcrops add to the beauty of this beach.

Horseshoe Bay is the most popular of all Bowen’s twelve beaches and includes a kiosk, an amenities block, and a shady picnic area. We found a lovely spot under a tree for our lunch.

The water is lovely and warm, making it perfect for snorkeling on the bay’s fringing reef. If you don’t have snorkeling equipment, it can be hired from the Horseshoe Bay Resort.

It’s quite a safe beach as surf, currents, and rips are rare. Horseshoe Bay Beach is patrolled by the Queensland Surf Life Savers during the school holidays and on weekends in stinger season (between November and May.).

Unfortunately, the car park is relatively small, and it can be hard to get parked at peak times.

aerial view of a sandy bay

Bowen Beaches & Fishing

We only stopped in Bowen on our way from Airlie Beach to Townsville. Therefore, we didn’t have time to check out any other beaches.

If you are here for longer and looking for what to do in Bowen, some other beaches are:

Kings Beach (great views of Gloucester Island)
Queens Beach
Murrays Bay
Grays Bay
Rose Bay
Front Beach
Coral Bay (clothing optional)

The sea temperature ranges from a warm 29°C in summer to a mild 22°C in winter. We noticed how warm it was even compared to Airlie Beach.

Good places to fish are from the Bowen Jetty, at the rocky southern end of Kings Beach, and the rocky outcrops at Horseshoe, Grays, and Rose Bays.

Check the Bowen tide times before fishing.

a rocky bay with clear ocean

Visit Bird’s Fish Bar

If you want some fresh, tasty seafood, then head to Bird’s Fish Bar. It is part of the family-owned Bowen Fishermans Seafood and offers local fresh seafood unloaded from their boats daily.

The outdoor undercover seating area overlooks the beautiful Bowen Marina.

BYO a beer or wine, sit back and enjoy the delicious food and view.

What to do in Bowen in 1 brilliant day

Bowen Accommodation

Camping

While there isn’t any free camping in Bowen, there’s a choice of Bowen Holiday Park, Big 4 Bowen Coral Coast, Bowen Palms Caravan Park, Harbour Lights Caravan Park, Rose Bay Caravan Park, Tropical Beach Caravan Park, and Wangaratta Caravan Park.

Motels

Out of all the motels in Bowen, I would choose to stay at Rose Bay Resort, Port Denison Motor Inn, or Bluewater Harbour Motel.

Family Accommodation

Coral Cove Apartments, Golden Sands Beach House, and Whitsunday Sands Resort are lovely choices for family-friendly Bowen accommodation.

Flights

plane flying over a beach

I use different sites to try and get the best possible price for flights.

First I visit matrix.itasoftware.com to get an idea of the cheapest dates, but you can’t book through this site.

Next I compare the cost of flights with Trip.com and try different routes.

Accommodation

What to do in Bowen in 1 brilliant day

I mainly use Booking.com for accommodation as they consistently have the lowest rates with free cancellation on most properties.

Car Hire

black car

To compare rental car company prices, I use Rentalcars.com. They are the world’s biggest car rental site, comparing all main brands including Europcar, Budget, Ace, Hertz, Avis, and Alamo.

Travel Insurance

What to do in Bowen in 1 brilliant day

Don’t travel anywhere without travel insurance, it’s not worth the risk.

Travel insurance: simple & flexible

You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from over 130 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

Travel Information & Guides

This Australia Travel Guide, which includes all essential information and tips, will help with the planning of your holiday to this beautiful country.

For more things to do in Queensland, check out this Queensland Travel Guide.


FAQ

What is the population of Bowen?

The population of Bowen (State Suburbs) was 10,377 people, according to the 2016 Australian Census.

Are there crocodiles in Bowen?

Yes, Bowen is part of croc country, so crocodiles are present. The Queensland Government has an information sheet on being Crocwise.

Are there stingers in Bowen?

Yes, there are stingers in Bowen. Marine stingers can be present year-round but are more common from November to May. During this time, it is advised to wear stinger suits when entering the ocean.

Stinger nets protect from the deadly Box Jellyfish, but not the venomous Irukandji jellyfish. 

How far is Airlie Beach from Bowen?

Airlie Beach is 78.5 km from Bowen, along Bruce Highway/A1. It will take approximately one hour by car.

If you found our What to do in Bowen guide helpful, please consider booking through our links. It won’t cost you anything but will help towards the cost of running this site. Thank you.

big boulders on a sandy bay beach

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34 Comments

  1. John Quinn says:

    I’m sorry Wendy. I’m taking away from this blog that Nando’s stole a huge melon. Ok Horseshoe Bay is gorgeous. But I’m stuck on the melon.

  2. I really liked Horseshoe Bay! And the giant mango, although I have to admit I missed out on the mango sorbet, dammit! We took a wander around town and there were some really cool murals of the history… but apart from that there wasn’t much to do. It was a pleasant place to stop – I think I had just been expecting more as we’d met a few people who did farm work there and raved about how nice it is!

    1. We didn’t spend long in the town either but loved Horseshoe Bay. It was a perfect beach to spend some time at on our road trip.

  3. That coastline is gorgeous, what a lovely way to spend a day!

    1. Horseshoe Bay was beautiful and the water was so warm. Definitely a great place to relax on the way up or down the coast of Queensland.

  4. Hi Wendy, You always make us jealous with your beautiful beach destinations and Bowen is no different. Fresh seafood straight from the boats would be fantastic!

    1. We love fresh seafood as well. You can’t get much fresher than just off the boat in Bowen!

  5. Great info! My friend is in Mackay and they usually hang out in Arlie beach. The fresh seafood is so mouthwatering!

    1. Mackay’s not far from Airlie Beach at all. We loved it there and stopped in Bowen on our way up the coast.

  6. A perfect location for me Wendy, sun, sea, seafood and a giant mango!! Bowen looks spectacular; I could see myself relaxing on Horseshoe Bay right now….

    1. I wouldn’t mind being back on Horseshoe Bay now too and swimming in the warm ocean.

  7. Vanessa Shields says:

    What a gorgeous destination! I’ve never seen the movie Australia and totally want to see it now! I’m curious how someone stole the mango? It’s not like you can throw it in your car. Lol. I’d devour the mango sorbet for sure. Snorkeling in Horseshoe Bay looks amazing!

    1. I’m not sure how they managed to steal the big mango without anyone witnessing it.

  8. That seafood looks amazing! I’d be up for that and the beaches!

  9. I’m loving Bowen – those beaches, views and that food! Curious how one steals a giant mango?

  10. Fun post! Happy to learn about Bowen. Since there’s a Big Mango, I can’t see why I wouldn’t visit. Tell me there’s a giant mango industry there? Or why a mango 🙂 Mango sorbet though… delish.
    I feel weird for discussing only food items in this post, but Bird’s Fish Bar. LOOKS AMAZING. ok, so does horseshoe bay and the beaches 🙂 but you know how much I love a good meal 🙂

    1. Yes Bowen produces the KP mango. The Kensington Pride (KP) accounts for 80% of Australia’s commercial mango supply.

  11. The Whitsundays were already on our bucketlist and you just put Bowen on our radar. The Horseshoe Bay looks super pretty and the sea food looks delicious!

    1. You won’t regret visiting the Whitsunday Islands. I would recommend just stopping in Bowen on your way up the coast.

  12. That seafood looks amazing! As do the beaches. Haven’t heard of the rail journey so being a train buff I’m definitely going to check that one out 🙂

    1. I love seafood and always try to find the best places. I’ve been looking at rail journeys across Australia. The Indian Pacific and Ghan but sound amazing.

  13. Love this thoughtful and helpful post. The elders hold the memories and hopes. Beautiful. Thank you for this!

    1. Thank you so much Jen. I think we need to be aware of the true history and the give acknowledgement to the original landowners.

  14. Horseshoe Bay Looks Lovely! Like that sea temps are nice & warm. I have not been to Western Australia but my son traveled to Perth last summer & he absolutely loved Western Australia & from everything you have photographed & written, we will definitely have to go! Seafood looks delicious 😋

    1. Thanks Cindi. Bowen is actually in Queensland, but still worth a visit if touring Australia

  15. Bowen’s nice, but there’s not a lot to it is there? The Horseshoe Bay walk is definitely the stand out – and who doesn’t like Queensland’s obsession with oversized tourist attractions 😀

    1. I agree there isn’t much to do there. We only went for a day on our way up to Townsville. Horseshoe Bay was beautiful though and loved that the water was so warm.

      1. Love the post Wendy. Can you believe i lived in Queensland for nearly 12 years and never went to the Whitsundays.
        Bowen looks beautiful spot and would certainly dive into that seafood platter all by myself

        1. I think you need to rectify this and return to visit the Whitsundays. It’s such a beautiful part of Australia. You can stop off in Bowen as part of your Queensland road trip.

  16. No wonder why Horseshoe Bay is so popular… it’s gorgeous! Thanks for sharing, I still can’t wait to go to Australia!

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