After a night in Charters Towers it was off to the coast the following morning, destination Bowen about three hours away. It involves 100km down the Flinders Hwy, then taking a shortcut to avoid Townsville via the Woodstock-Giru Rd and on through Ayr. Bowen is a town I’ve often travelled through but have never stayed there. Getting there before lunchtime I went down to the seafront and was confronted by this giant mango (though this apparently was the Mini Mango not the Big Mango). The Bowen Mango or ‘Kensington Pride’ is the leading commercial mango cultivar in Queensland, thought to have been introduced by traders in Bowen who were shipping horses for military use in India.
Category 4 Cyclone Debbie had smashed through the east coast barely six weeks earlier, the area south of Bowen directly in its firing line. Much of the debris was cleared away by the time I came though but the evidence was everywhere, including in these trees bent backwards by the force of the winds.
Bowen was the first port established in North Queensland, officially proclaimed in 1861 and named for Queensland’s first Governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen. The town quickly grew to support the northern pastoral industry as a strategically placed supply centre but was eclipsed by Townsville in the 1870s. Bowen needed a jetty to function effectively as a port. Passengers and cargo initially had to be transferred from vessels to shore by punts and then carted across tidal flats so in 1865-67 they constructed a long jetty extending past the mud flats and shallow water. The port traded in meat, sugar and coal.
Just out of Bowen’s bay lies Gloucester Island National Park. Access is by private or commercial boat from Airlie Beach or Dingo Beach. The island is home to a colony of endangered Proserpine rock-wallabies. The islands and surrounding waters are protected by the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
After checking in to my motel I decided on a long walk around the beaches directly north of town. My destination was Mother Beddock rock something I had never heard of until a few weeks ago but now was fascinated by. One reviewer on Trip Advisor calls it a “a big rock sitting on another rock looking as though it should just tumble down” and it’s hard to disagree with that assessment. This large balancing rock was the star attraction of the Mother Beddock track. This view was from Rose Bay.
After Murray Bay it was a climb to view Mother Beddock at close hand. From what I could gather the rock derived its name from a Bowen lady with a large pimple on her nose.
Looking east past Mother Beddock towards the town of Bowen. The town’s prosperous economy is based on agriculture, fishing, tourism, and mining. Its rainfall is low for a tropical coastal town and the weather is sunny and warm most of the year making Bowen a candidate for the best climate in Australia, cyclones notwithstanding.
After the climb up to the rock it was back down again to Murray Bay. This was a beautiful deserted spot where I took the time to get wet in the Coral Sea.
Then I was climbing again towards another lookout. Like many places in this part of Queensland Bowen has a proud association with the Second World War. Up here authorities installed the first radar and anti-aircraft battery installed in North Queensland. The guns are gone but the mounting points are still there and the view remains superb.
Including the view down to Horseshoe Bay at the northern tip of the cape. Not hard to work out how it got its name.
After going down to Horseshoe Bay I continued the walk west along to Queens Bay where I parked my car for what must have been an 8-10km round trip. A delightful walk basking in late afternoon sunshine.
Then it was time for a libation in Bowen’s most famous pub, the Grand View Hotel. The hotel was been owned by the same family since 1918 and featured in Baz Luhrman’s film Australia. The hotel may have been the best thing about that turkey of a film. After a cleansing ale it was time for dinner at the motel and a nightcap ahead of a short trip further south to Airlie Beach the following morning.