You don’t have to be naked on the beaches of Bowen, but you can be.
Indeed, Bowen has the best-signed nude beach I’ve ever seen.
They even write about this clothing-optional beach — technically called Coral Bay (located just up the cape from Grays Bay toward Horseshoe Bay, if you’re going on a quest) — in the town marketing materials. It’s impossible to lose your way, though this particular sign pointed me straight out into the ocean:
There’s no missing it once you’re finally there, either — the naturalists here really like their spray paint.
To call this a “beach” is pretty generous…
… because it’s more like a giant pile of rocks:
But what rocks these are! There are long, flat rocks for to lie out on in the warm sun, and person-sized rocks to clamber over, and tall, wide rocks to slip underneath for shade. I am enamored of the rocks of Bowen.
These are wonderful boulders, filled with nooks and crannies, balancing majestically as they tumble over one another and on out into the ocean.
I have no idea how long the clothing-optional area runs, but I walked out along the bay as far as I could. The view from the end of the cape is stunning:
You can see a lot more rocks if you take the five kilometer circuit walking track that starts out just a block behind my hotel at Rose Bay and goes up, up up …
… past Murray Bay and all the way over to Horsehoe Bay (they have a lot of bays in Bowen), and then back through the brush to your starting point. This hike first takes you up a whole lot of stairs to Mother Beddock, a giant balancing rock that appears to be the highest point in this low-lying region:
The views from the top are lovely on a sunny morning (though it’s worth noting that this hike is incredibly exposed, so if you plan to do all hilly 5 kilometers, go early in the morning and bring water):
Once you’ve passed the great mother rock, you hike down to a very pretty little bay …
… with more rocks!
I really loved this big round-ish one…
… and this one, which I thought looked like a modern art sculpture:
If you keep walking, you get to remote, quiet Murray Bay …
… and then to this beautiful but very rocky bay (unnamed, on my maps) …
… and then to postcard-perfect Horseshoe Bay:
Horseshoe Bay has a wide ring of soft sand:
.. but if you want more rocks, there are plenty to be found on either side!
I had really been hoping to snorkel in Horseshoe Bay, but by the time I arrived at the beach with my mask and fins, word on the street was that a girl had gone to the hospital the day before with serious jellyfish stings.
There was also a Nor’easter blowing in, which (1) makes it wavy and (2) increases the likelihood of more jellyfish coming in (both of which count in my book as lousy snorkeling conditions). So I just dipped my toes in and watched the water from the safety of shore.