Following the devastation of Tropical Cyclone Debbie last year, the heart of Bowen is beating stronger than ever.

Story + Photos Madelin Tometly

Bowen was not spared when Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit the Whitsundays region with her full force in March last year. “It was pretty devastating,” says Bianca Burgess, floral designer at Le Sorelle Coffee House and Florist in Bowen. “We were really worried about how the building was going to go, and we were worried for our florist business, given that many of the Whitsunday Island resorts had just been destroyed and we had large contracts with them.” 

While Le Sorelle was closed for just a week, its major client, the luxury resort on Hayman Island, is not due to reopen until 2019. According to Alex Sinclair, who owns Le Sorelle with her husband, Scott, and runs it with her sisters Bianca and Viginnia Couch, everybody in Bowen had to make some sort of sacrifice to ensure their business would survive. “We have many friends in business who have taken months to open back up,” Alex says. 

Despite the blow to the town, the three sisters say that Bowen is now starting to thrive in a way that it hasn’t for a long time, thanks to the influx of builders and tradespeople who have arrived to fix the cyclone damage. “All of these extra people coming to town generate business for us as a cafe, so it’s having a really good knock-on effect for local businesses,” Bianca says. 

Perched at the top of the Whitsundays and surrounded on three sides by the Coral Sea, Bowen is halfway between the major centres of Mackay and Townsville. Established in 1861, it is the oldest town in north Queensland and was the original port for the burgeoning northern pastoral industry before Townsville took the crown in 1870. 

Bowen has a thriving agriculture sector and is the largest winter-growing vegetable region in Australia, with tomatoes, capsicum, beans, sweet corn, rockmelons and cucumber; and fruit, such as strawberries and Kensington Pride mangoes, known as the Bowen special’. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #118

Outback Magazine: April/May 2018