Choose between eight beaches and dozens of island getaways at this coastal paradise.
Palm-fringed beaches, tropical islands, and coral reefs line the shores of Bowen, a beach town all about getting on the water. Swim and snorkel Horseshoe Bay, zip around Gray’s Bay on a jet ski, or enjoy a seaside barbecue at Queen’s Beach. Tear yourself away from the beach long enough to snap a selfie by Bowen’s giant mango and grab a mango sorbet (Bowen is famous for the fruit), then take in the views from Flagstaff Hill. Camping options include beachside holiday parks and tranquil farmstays, and there are often fewer crowds here than in neighboring Airlie Beach.
Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays
Just south of Bowen, Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsundays islands. Catch the ferry to Hamilton Island or take an island-hopping cruise, jumping off to stroll along Whitehaven Beach, snorkel at the Heart Reef lagoon, or swim at Cedar Creek Falls. Whitsunday Islands National Park has 10 campsites to choose from, either by the beach or in the heart of the bush.
Further south, the Mackay region has both white-sand beaches and rainforest-blanketed hinterlands. Hike, camp, and spot platypus in Eungella National Park, swim beneath natural waterfalls in Finch Hatton Gorge, or enjoy beachside camping far from the crowds in the Cape Hillsborough National Park.
North of Bowen, coves and sleepy beach towns dot one of the less-visited stretches of Queensland coast. Townsville is the region’s primary hub, where you’ll find beaches, palm-lined promenades, and a selection of seaside camping. Take a road trip to Wallaman Falls, cruise out to enjoy wildlife walks on Magnetic Island, or set sail for the Great Barrier Reef islands to snorkel or scuba dive.
Bowen’s tropical climate means it’s warm enough to swim and enjoy water sports year-round, but each season has its pros and cons. Summers (December through February) can be hot, humid, and wet, with temperatures climbing upwards of 30°C, while the dryer, cooler months of autumn and winter are ideal for outdoor activities. May through November is whale-watching season along the coast, while October through May is “stinger season,” when protective clothing is recommended when swimming.