Bowen is a relatively sleepy regional town which that the big tourist crowds have passed by. Its popular with grey nomads and backpackers working the mango orchards, but there aren’t too many city slickers around. The town is friendly and refreshingly quiet. The beaches and coastal scenery are extraordinarily photogenic.
Bowen is one of the few places on the Queensland coast where you can walk off the beach and see fringing coral reef. Horseshoe, Rose and Murray Bays are easy, relaxing and popular for diving from the mainland.
It also has the advantage of a dive shop, Aussie Reef Dive.
A discarded WWII barge wreck is located 3km off North Head and is known for attracting fish. It is well-known to local fishos. This may be the same barge which is noted as being off Rose Bay or Queens Beach.
The old town jetty is a fisho spot, but provides a shallow dive with some interest. There is some smaller critters on the pylons and the discarded rubbish on the bottom. Turtles and stingrays are also seen occasionally.
Horseshoe Bay is Bowen’s most iconic beach and has a Café & Beach Bar to finish off the dive. The beach is protected by two granite outcrops, which provide a haven for a range of small fish and coral just a short swim from the beach. Unfortunately the corals are marred by discarded fishing gear. It great for a kids snorkel dive as well as an easy paddle. Visibility can be poor after heavy weather.
Rose Bay beach offers rock pools at low tide for the kids, while family and friends can relax. Divers and snorkellers can enjoy the fringing reef that hugs the shoreline. It is said to have the best corals in the area and has won a best beach award.
Murray Bay lies between Horseshoe Bay and Rose Bay. The bay is protected from most winds and is one of the more secluded bays and beaches in Bowen. It is another spot for snorkellers and divers. Nice coral gardens can be found in deeper water. The visibility is variable and often 10m or less.
Wreck of the steamer “Wentworth”
The 956 tons iron steamship was built in Renfrew, Scotland in 1873. While being used in the coastal trade by the A.S.N.Company she struck rocks near North Head at Bowen, on 17 June 1887. There was no loss of life. The captain said he was 500 feet from the rocks when she stranded at low tide. No efforts were made to get her off until the arrival of the divers, but she was jammed into the rocks and couldn’t be refloated. It was simply careless navigation. The vessel slowly broke up. She is now described as on North Head just inshore from the green buoy. The broken remains provide some interest. The area is quite tidal and while it can be done as a shore dive, a boat is easier and safer.
WGS84 -20.008 148.352
This low flat and barren island in the harbour has more to offer underwater than above it. There is a nice coral bay on the seaward side of island.
Wreck of Catalina A24-24
This RAAF PBY-5 seaplane of 20 Squadron RAAF, took off from Bowen on 17 August 1943 on a gunnery training exercise. The aircraft was close to the wave tops over a choppy sea and it is assumed that the wing hit the water and the aircraft crashed into the sea and sank. The Catalina was taking some medical and dental personnel on board for a joy flight. Six crew members and 8 Army Medical Corps personnel were killed. The Army personnel had recently returned from Syria and were on their way north to Lae. Their unit was travelling on board the Zealandia, which was only stopping in Bowen for two days. The badly injured engineer and the blister gunner clung to the Cat’s wing, which hadn’t sunk, until help arrived just about midnight. A24-24 is also the last Catalina major relic of the WWII air base in Bowen. The general location of the Catalina was known to fishermen since the 1960s, when trawlers dredged up parts of an aircraft. In 2011, the wreck was discovered by local divers. A protected area has been proclaimed around its scattered remains and a permit is required to dive it.
This is most popular for spearing and cray fishing, but also has some nice corals and fishlife.
This is another popular spot for locals to go fishing and diving.
Another pretty area devoid of mass tourism is Dingo Beach and Hideaway Bay near Cape Gloucester’s national parks.
There are two holiday businesses to cater for the visitors that do come, Cape Gloucester Eco Resort and Montes Reef Resort. Both are better described as holiday bungalows than resorts. They are cheap, quiet, leafy, private and very relaxed. Both offer cocktails on or close to the beach with fabulous views of the Whitsunday coast. There are some small coral reefs to snorkel just off the beach at Dingo Beach, or you can hire a small boat on a calm day to put around Gloucester Island. This large island has abundant reef some of which is protected. It gets easily stirred up after heavy weather.