Bowen beaches: The ULTIMATE guide

Crystal clear water, secluded sandy beaches, coral gardens just a short swim from shore and palm trees galore. If these are the kind of beaches you’re looking for then look no further than Bowen’s beautiful beaches in the Whitsundays, Queensland!

Located at the northern end of the Whitsundays, Bowen has all of the charm of the islands just off the coast but with the added benefit of being on the mainland and not needing a boat to access it. It’s also quite unique in that it has beaches facing north, south, east and west and all in close proximity. It’s a huge advantage for beach goers as it means that no matter the direction of the wind, you’ll be able to find a sheltered spot.

We’re very lucky to live just 2hours down the road from Bowen and having just returned from another amazing long weekend here I’ve put together my ultimate guide to Bowen’s beaches and the things to do here so you too can get the most out of this tropical slice of paradise.

Cape Edgecumbe

Cape Edgecumbe

The majority of Bowen’s beaches are located at Cape Edgecumbe, just a 5min drive from town. The huge round granite boulders here are quite iconic and it’s a remarkable landscape. Joining all the beaches and bays around Cape Edgecumbe is the Walking Trail that starts at Horseshoe Bay and includes stops at the Rotary Lookout, World War II Radar Site Lookout, Murrays Bay, Mother Beddock Lookout and Rose Bay. It’s a 2.5km track (one way) and one of the best coastal walks in Queensland.

Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay beach

The most well-known of Bowen’s beaches, Horseshoe Bay is popular, particularly on weekends, with something for everyone. If you’re looking for a swim, snorkel or dive, there’s fringing coral gardens with lots of fish and the Bywa underwater sculpture which is part of the Whitsundays Ngaro underwater marine sculpture trail. On weekends and school holidays the beach is also patrolled by lifeguards.

If you’d like to do some hiking, there’s a couple of choices. The Cape Edgecumbe Walking Trail starts here and is a 2.5km walk that takes you from Horseshoe Bay to Rose Bay. If you’d like something a little shorter, the Horseshoe Bay Rotary lookout is well worth checking out, it’s only about a 5min walk to the top and has stunning views.

Stand up paddle boarders and kayakers love Horseshoe Bay as well and it’s a top spot for a paddle. After all this swimming, hiking and paddling you’ll definitely work up an appetite so it’s good to know that you won’t need to go far to grab a bite to eat with the fantastic Horseshoe Bay Cafe open here 7 days a week.

If this all sounds like your ideal way to spend a few days in paradise, there’s a couple of great accommodation options at Horseshoe Bay that are perfect for a relaxing stay. There’s powered van sites, self-contained cabins and beach front units available at the Horseshoe Bay Resort and Caravan Park and the Whitsundays Sands Resort has 44 comfortable rooms varying in styles with access to both Horseshoe Bay and Grays Bay.

Grays Bay

Grays Bay

Right next door to Horseshoe Bay is my favourite of Bowen’s beaches, the idyllic Grays Bay. The beautiful blue waters of the Coral Sea lap right up alongside the road at high tide and it’s quite a memorable first impression when you arrive here. There’s lots of car parking options with spots available at Grays Bay boat ramp as well as along Horseshoe Bay Road.

Grays Bay is a well-protected spot with calm waters and is ideal for families, kayakers and stand up paddle boarders. It’s also the ultimate sunset spot and one of the few places on the east coast of Australia where you can watch the sun set over the sea. Our favourite sunset picnic vantage points are on top of the 2 huge granite boulders right out the front of the Coral Cove apartments or kicking back on the lush green lawns at the front of the Whitsunday Sands Resort.

If you’re staying at the Whitsundays Sands Resort you can also hire kayaks and it’s a great way to explore the bay, you might even spot a turtle or 2 cruising around!

Whitsundays Sands Resort is also home to the Spice and Pepper Authentic Indian Restaurant which does takeaways and deliveries. If you’re staying at Whitsundays Sands, they’ll also deliver right to your door. Each afternoon during our stay, we would walk out onto our balcony at around 5pm and be greeted by the amazing aromas coming from the restaurant, I highly recommend the Butter Chicken and Cheese & Garlic Naan!

Another great spot to eat at Grays Bay is the Cove Restaurant. They have a wide range of Asian cuisine and fantastic views from the restaurant overlooking Grays Bay. Their dinner service starts from 5pm so I’d recommend heading there then to make the most of the stunning sunset views and to grab a couple of cocktails before dinner!

Murrays Bay

Murrays Bay

A favourite hidden gem of the locals, Murrays is the most secluded of the bays and it’s not unusual to have it all to yourself. There’s a couple of ways to access it, you can drive here, park and take the track down to the beach or alternatively walk to the beach via the Cape Edgecumbe Walking Trail.

The huge granite boulders dotted along the mountainside paired with palm tree lined beach provides an impressive backdrop and lots of photo opportunities. You can also snorkel in the bay and explore the fringing reef.

The World War II radar site lookout on the Cape Edgecumbe Walking Trail looks directly out over Murrays Bay and is my favourite lookout in Bowen. If you’re walking from Horseshoe Bay, it’s about a 20min walk and well worth it, especially on a clear day as you have incredible views over the bay and islands. If you’ve driven to Murrays and would like to head up to the lookout, head to the northern end of the beach where you will find the staircase that is part of the Cape Edgecumbe Walking Trail and then follow the track to the top.

Rose Bay

Rose Bay

The best beach for sunrises in Bowen, Rose Bay faces east and also has a resort which is great if you want to shoot sunrises here. You can sleep in a little longer without having to worry about driving to your sunrise location and just walk straight out of your room and down to the beach each morning.

If you are beach-hopping your way around Cape Edgecumbe and want to visit Rose Bay, there are carparks here for the general public or alternatively you can access it as part of the Cape Edgecumbe Walking Trail.

The Mother Beddock lookout is directly above Rose Bay and is definitely worth the short hike. It’s about a 1km walk from Rose Bay to the top, I’d recommend doing it in the early morning or late afternoon. At the very top is the giant balancing boulder known as Mother Beddock and it’s quite an impressive sight perched up there.

Kings Beach

Kings Beach

The next beach around from Rose Bay is Kings Beach and it’s quite a long beach that stretches down to Flagstaff Hill. There’s several access points to this beach, the first is via Rose Bay Road at its northern end.

The second access point is a dirt track off Queens Road. This track is called Kings Beach Road. It’s suitable for 2WD vehicles when it’s dry, if there’s been a bit of rain around then you may need a 4WD.

The third access point is also known as Kings Beach Road but this one is a sealed road off Peter Wyche Drive next to Flagstaff Hill. There’s a large carpark here in front of the huge cliffs of Flagstaff Hill and the stunning blue waters are a popular fishing spot.

Queens Beach

The longest beach in Bowen measuring in at 5km, Queens Beach is where you’ll find the Sunday markets, golf course, playgrounds and several caravan parks.

We’ve stayed at a couple of these and are big fans of the NRMA Bowen Beachfront Holiday Park. The beach front cabins are fantastic and you’re literally just a couple of meters from the water. It’s a nice central location as well, it’s just a short drive to Cape Edgecumbe to check out the beaches and it’s only a couple of minutes-drive into town for shopping.

Bowen Foreshore

Bowen Foreshore

A sensational spot to relax with the family, the Bowen Foreshore is right in town and popular place for fish and chips on a Friday night. There’s a water park here that’s great for the kids along with a playground area and a huge jetty to walk out on and spot turtles swimming past.

Just around the corner is the marina where you can get some of the freshest and tastiest seafood in North Queensland and only a minute walk from the jetty is the Grand View Hotel, famous for appearing in the movie “Australia” which featured Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.

If you’re into sailing, the Port Denison sailing club is situated next to the jetty along with the Catalina Flying Boat Memorial Wall that commemorates the Catalinas and the service personnel that served in Bowen during the Second World War.

North Head Island - Walk to the Lighthouse

Something beach lovers will definitely be interested in is the annual Bowen Walk to the Lighthouse. Each year during winter at the lowest tides of the year, it is possible to walk from the mainland to North Head Island. A low tide of less than 0.2m is suggested for this and it’s a good idea to start the walk over there about an hour before low tide so that you can walk back at the low tide point.

If you’ve got some old runners or reef shoes they are very handy to wear for the crossing. Once you’re on North Head Island you can then check out the lighthouse, it’s one of Queensland’s oldest and was built in 1866.

To find out more about this year’s Walk to the Lighthouse, visit Tourism Bowen’s website here.

Common questions:

A quick google search shows that the most common question asked about Bowen beaches is “Can you swim at Bowen beaches?” The answer is yes. During the warmer months (between November and May) it is a good idea to bring a stinger suit as there can be jellyfish in the waters. I’d recommend heading to Horseshoe Bay and speaking with the lifeguards there about jellyfish sightings if you are worried, they patrol the beach on weekends and school holidays and can give you the best advice.

What are the best places for sunrise and sunset?

Rose Bay is my pick for sunrise and Grays Bay for sunset. Bowen is one of the few places on the east coast of Australia where you can watch the sunrise and sunset over the water.

Are there dog friendly beaches?

Yes, dogs are welcome at Queens Beach and at Kings Beach as well as the Cape Edgecumbe Walking Trail on a leash. Many accommodation providers are also dog friendly including Rose Bay Resort, NRMA Bowen Beachfront Holiday Park, Ocean View Motel and the Bowen Arrow Motel.

Where are the best places to eat?

There’s no shortage of great cafes and restaurants. Our favourites include the Grand View Hotel, Spice and Pepper Authentic Indian, The Cove Restaurant, the Horseshoe Bay Café, Birds Fish Bar, Le Sorelle Coffee House and Jochheims Pies.

Can you hire kayaks here?

Yes, if you’re staying at the Whitsunday Sands Resort they have kayaks available to hire.

Are there boat ramps?

Yes, there are several public boat ramps. They are at Bowen Harbour, Grays Bay and Queens Beach at the mouth of the Don River.

What's your favourite beach in Bowen?

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