If you’re lucky enough to live by the sea, you’re lucky enough
The best beach project started in Bowen over three years ago. So riding back to Bowen was like getting to the end of a very long project.
As I ride down the Bruce Highway from Townsville, I’m reminded of the drudgery of riding long, hot distances on highways. It’s a relief to get to the Don River Bridge and to turn left and head for Queens Beach. For bikers the Don River has a special significance.
In 2020 local residents Michael Marson and Talbot Cox came up with the concept of the Don River Dash. Based on the famous Baja 1000 in Mexico. The”Dash” is both dirt bike and off road buggy racing. The concept is straight forward, start at one end of the river and race to the other. If you’re not good at riding sand fast, forget it. For more information on the “Dash” check out their web site at: Don River Dash (Bowen)
If you’re not familiar with Bowen you might just ride by on your way to Airlie Beach, if you do, you’re missing the best part of the Whitsundays. Bowen has one, if not two of the best beaches in Queensland (my opinion). I will reveal the best beaches in Queensland on my blog post “Top 10 Beaches in Queensland”.
Stop and breath the beach air
I’m riding from Townsville to Sarina on my KLR650 “Emu” we are on a quest to find the best beach in coastal Queensland. To day I’m exploring Bowen’s beaches. This is where my best beach project started. About three and a half years ago when I wrote one of my first digital swaggie blogs. I wanted to highlight the snorkelling and diving opportunities in and around Bowen. I mentioned that I thought Bowen had the best beaches in Queensland.
Of course, unless I had been to them all this was really just fake NEWS. An opinion with little facts dressed up as the truth. I’m a better writer than that, and I owed it to my readers to be more informed. So I hatched a plan to try and get to as many beaches along the coast of Queensland as I could. And the the best beach project was born. Opportunity and circumstance conspired to provide the means to do just that. If you have just landed here and want to know how this quest began check out my blog:Day one of twenty six on my motorcycle tour of Queensland
Don’t ride past
Bowen is one of the those places that has enormous tourism potential, but for some reason it seems to continually miss the boat (so to speak). It is situated at the top of the Whitsunday Island group, and is approximately halfway between Mackay and Townsville. It is a rural community with a big history, one that was fundamental to the economic growth of North Queensland. As a side note, most of the movie “Australia” was filmed here at the Town Beach.
As far as a beach community, Bowen has everything, great camp grounds, fishing, fringing coral reefs, protected bays and a variety of hotels, motels, pubs and restaurants. But best of all it has a mixture of tropical beaches.
Before the best beach project became a thing, I was planning a solo kayak trip down the Murray River. When COVID19 intervened, I had to change my plans. The borders were opening and closing like a fridge in a house of teenage. So instead I set about to follow another life long dream and I bought a motorbike. If you want to read about my adventure and the start of this quest, click on the following link:26 day motorcycle tour of Queensland
The northern most beach in Bowen is Queens Beach. It starts at the Don River Estuary and sweeps around to the golf club. It is part of the Queens Bay system, but is a residential community in its own right. The community includes a caravan park, houses and units, the Queens Beach Hotel, old time movie theatre, school, petrol station, bowls club, tennis courts and medical centre. There is a walking track that goes from the Queens Beach Park to the mouth of the Don River.
Queens Bay curves around the peninsula towards Innkamin Point, where it joins Gray’s Bay. The bay is quite shallow and when the tide is out you can walk a fair way across the sand. For this reason the bay acts as a nursery for baby sting rays and sharks. If you’re lucky during high tide you can sit on a coconut tree and look down into the crystal clear waters and see baby sting rays at the waters edge.
Gray’s Bay appears in many Queensland tourism brochures, the road is slightly raised from the beach and goes along the water’s edge at high tide. However, it is popular for kayakers, swimmers and boats. The eastern end is the Queen’s Bay boat ramp and at the western end is the Coral Cove Resort. Just off from the resort is a spectacular coral reef that consists of brain and branching coral (Diploria strigosa, Acropora florida).
Horseshoe Bay is one of the most popular beaches in Bowen, it has the iconic tropical feel with fringing coral reefs on both sides of the bay. Shaped like a horseshoe, the bay is monitored by life guards regularly. On the left side of the bay there is a extensive coral garden that is only one kick out from the beach. You can follow this around the point into slightly deeper water, as you do so the coral become more extensive. On the right side are small patches of coral on the rocky edges, about five metres out into the bay is a stainless steel art work. Some of the art is visible above the surface at low tide.
It is often difficult to find a car park at the end of the bay. This is due to the popularity of the area and the cafe that looks out over the carpark and the beach. Behind the cafe is the Horseshoe Bay Caravan park with plenty of well set up sites for both caravaners and those wishing to use tents. The park is popular during the winter months and has to be booked. In earlier blogs about the Gold Coast I have mentioned the difficulty in finding car parks. But to put this into perspective, I could park about two minutes walk away, not big deal really. This is the type of thing to consider in the best beach project.
Murray Bay is home to the long standing Murray Bay Resort. When I first arrived in Bowen this resort had been closed for some time. It was a throw back to the fifties and sat in one of the most tropical settings you could image. The tropical beach only 30 seconds away from your front door, where you could swim, fish, kayak and snorkel on an extensive coral reef. What better place for a secluded resort.
Finding Murray Bay could be difficult if you didn’t know where to look. From Horseshoe Bay ride back down the hill from Grays Bay and on your left is an old worn road. This is a single lane tar sealed track which has not been maintained for some time and is full of pot holes. The road crests a peak and then drops steeply towards the old resort before flattening out into a car park.
While fences have been put up around the resort to prevent access. The beach is crown land so there is the right of access for all people. The Murray Bay walking track goes from Rose Bay to Horseshoe bay. It passes the front of the resort as you walk along the beach to find the southern track access point to Horseshoe Bay.
Rose Bay is a small community facing south east, it is accessed from Horseshoe Bay road. If you are heading back into town take the first exit at the small round about. The bay is affected by the predominant south eastern wind and is often turbulent. At the northern end is a spectacular coral garden, with parts of this garden exposed during low tides. You can walk amongst the corals at this time.
I rode from Murray Bay back up the tar track and then turned left at the round about. Rose Bay was once considered the place to live in Bowen, but with the development of Whitsunday Shores it lost much of its prestige. There is a small caravan park at the bottom of the hill and a resort that sits on the beach. I stopped for lunch at the small park and bbq area in front of the resort. Taking the opportunity to cool off with the south East Sea breeze. Like all the beaches in Bowen, Rose Bay is a nesting habitat for endangered sea turtles.
Kings Beach is directly exposed to the south east winds which dominates Bowen’s weather pattern. For this reason it’s not considered as popular as the other more secluded beaches. However, Kings Beach is a an awesome beach during the north westerly winds that occur in Bowen during the summer time. The beach spans from Rose Bay to Dyrymple Point near the town centre. It can be accessed at three points, from Rose Bay, a dirt road near the town football club or from the road leading out from the boat harbour.
It’s a shame the best beach project isn’t looking for the best beach community. As Bowen would without question take the top spot. One of the advantages of Bowen over other beach side communities is the variety of beaches and their location in relation to prevailing winds. I have taken photos of the most turbulent sea during a cyclone, where three metre waves were breaking at Queens Bay. When on the other side of town at the Town Beach, the water was glassed out.
There is nowhere I have travelled up the coast of Queensland that is like Bowen. There are eight unique beach locations within five minutes drive from the town centre. The town has significant infrastructure including a hospital, medical centres, a movie theatre, schools, sports grounds, a PCYC and numerous hotels and restaurants.
One of the unique aspects of Bowen that no other beach side community has is that you can always find a beach out of the wind. However, there is still plenty of wind for sailing and Bowen has both a Sailing and a Yacht Club. Beaches such as King’s and Queen’s Beach are ideal for, wind and kite surfing. It is only 30 minutes by boat to islands that are suitable for camping or to the greater Whitsundays region.
After taking photos and picking up a bottle of red wine, I head 20 minutes south of Bowen to a mates place at Brisk Bay. Tomorrow I explore the Whitsundays before heading further south to complete my best beach project quest. I hope you enjoyed this look at Bowen beaches. Please make comments if you did. Cheers Swaggie:)