Great Barrier Reef Restaurants

Typically, restaurants on Barrier Reef islands are part of each island's main resort, so many resorts' rates include some or all meals. Some larger resorts have a range of restaurants, with formal dining rooms, outdoor barbecues, and seafood buffets; some have premium dining options for which you pay extra. Dress is generally "island casual." Some upscale restaurants—such as those on Hayman Island—require men to wear jackets for dinner and frown on flip-flop sandals. On the mainland you'll find plenty of casual, open-air restaurants, serving mainly Modern Australian–style meals that showcase seafood and regional produce. With a few notable exceptions, Cairns, Palm Cove, and Port Douglas are your best bets for upscale dining.

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  • 1. A Touch of Salt

    $$

    This Modern Australian eatery fits the bill: location (riverfront), service (impeccable), ambience (relaxed), food (exciting and flavorful), and wine (top-flight). The menu is a carefully curated collection of local meat, seafood, and vegetable creations, with something to suit every palate, including a comprehensive "plant-based" section to the menu.

    86 Ogden St.
    - 07 - 4724–4441

    Known For

    • Perfect pick for date night
    • Expansive waterfront deck
    • Excellent, largely Australian wine list

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: No lunch Sat.–Thurs.
  • 2. Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant

    $ | CBD

    Dining in this spacious, central restaurant, you can enjoy some of the most delicious, innovative cuisine in North Queensland. Choose from an expansive menu that combines traditional Balinese spices and recipes with native Australian ingredients, such as the crocodile satay and mouthwatering be celeng base manis (pork in sweet soy sauce).  Don't eat lunch if you're planning to order the rijstaffel at dinner—it's huge.

    227 Lake St.
    - 07 - 4047–7955

    Known For

    • Traditional rijsttafel feast for two
    • Award-winning wine list and long, tropically themed cocktail menu
    • Local favorite

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: No lunch Sat.–Mon., Reservations essential
  • 3. Cafe One 3

    $ | Coffee

    This cozy, friendly café makes a point of supporting local farmers, with a locavore breakfast menu featuring the best of Whitsunday produce. There are plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, plus high-quality coffee. And beanbags to sit on.

    13 Waterson Way
    - 0419 - 783--313

    Known For

    • Use of local produce
    • Vegan options
    • Friendly service

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed weekends
  • 4. CC's Bar & Grill

    $$$ | CBD

    In a city that loves a steak, this is probably the best of them. CC's Bar & Grill sources most of its beef from farms owned by its parent company, Crystalbrook, whose cattle station is about three hours from Cairns. Those cuts—as well as others sourced from around Australia—are either wet- or dry-aged, and grilled to perfection. The atmosphere here is upmarket and classy, and the wine list wouldn't look out of place in a Sydney or Melbourne fine-diner.

    163 Abbot St.
    - 07 - 4253--4010

    Known For

    • Excellent steaks
    • Great wine list
    • Fine-dining atmosphere

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun.--Wed., Reservations essential
  • 5. Harrisons

    $$

    A classic "Queenslander" with a lovely outdoor cocktails area shaded by century-old mango trees and fine dining inside, Harrisons impresses with deftly executed dishes that showcase fresh seafood and small-batch ingredients, sourced locally. There's a six-course tasting menu at A$95 per person, A$145 with matched wines, and on the wine list, you'll find plenty of good mid-priced antipodean drops and a smattering of French ones.

    22 Wharf St.
    - 07 - 4099--0802

    Known For

    • Has won multiple awards for its dining experience
    • North Queensland crayfish with truffled hollandaise
    • Modern Australian menu with a British twist

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Reservations essential
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  • 6. NuNu Restaurant

    $$$

    Sexy suede lounges, intimate banquettes, and unbroken views of the Coral Sea make lingering easy at this Palm Cove eatery with the region's best and freshest produce. Select from small plates or larger share portions, which include the likes of kimchi butter-poached reef fish, sugarcane-smoked duck, and Sichuan eggplant.

    1 Veivers Rd.
    - 07 - 4059–1880

    Known For

    • Butter-poached reef fish
    • Asian fusion cuisine
    • Duck rice

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Reservations essential
  • 7. Ochre Restaurant

    $$ | CBD

    Local seafood and native and seasonal ingredients take top billing at this upscale yet relaxed Cairns institution that specializes in bush dining. Expect to find the likes of kangaroo, crocodile, and even green ants, with fine antipodean wines to match.

    6/1 Marlin Parade
    - 07 - 4051–0100

    Known For

    • Australian game
    • Gluten-free and vegetarian options
    • Signature dessert—wattle-seed pavlova with Davidson plum sorbet and macadamia biscotti

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun., Reservations essential
  • 8. On The Inlet Seafood Restaurant

    $

    At this much-lauded seafood restaurant, modern Australian dishes put the focus on fresh North Queensland produce and seafood, which is delivered direct from local fishing boats. You can choose your own live mud crab from holding tanks, or down the sunset special---a generous bucket of prawns and a choice of Aussie beer or wine.

    18–20 Wharf St
    - 07 - 4099–5255

    Known For

    • <PRO>dining on the deck</PRO>
    • <PRO>terrific wine and cocktail list</PRO>
    • <PRO>family-friendly atmosphere and kids menu</PRO>

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Credit cards accepted
  • 9. Salsa Bar & Grill

    $$

    Rub shoulders with local foodies and enjoy intimate dining after sunset on the large wooden deck of this lively waterside institution that serves tropical Modern Australian fare. The dinner menu offers something for everyone, from kingfish ceviche to herb-crusted wild barramundi, to a seafood laksa that utilizes plenty of the local produce.

    26 Wharf St.
    - 07 - 4099–4922

    Known For

    • Great waterfront location
    • Creative cocktail menu
    • Linguine pepperincino with local red claw crayfish

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Tues. and Wed., Reservations essential
  • 10. Whet Cafe, Bar and Restaurant

    $ | Coffee

    Stylish and hip yet comfortable, Whet Cafe, Bar and Restaurant draws visitors and locals with its outdoor deck, perfect for long lunches, sunset cocktails, and romantic dinners. It has Modern Australian food using regional and seasonal ingredients and friendly service, and is a fully self-sustained, off-grid operation.

    Cape Tribulation Rd.
    - 07 - 4098–0007

    Known For

    • Jungle dining
    • Local seafood with Mediterranean influences
    • Melt-in-your-mouth steaks and local-caught barramundi
  • 11. 27 Degrees

    $

    Ah, 27 degrees. It's pretty much the perfect temperature, isn't it? (When we're talking Celsius.) And it's also pretty much the perfect café when you're in Palm Cove and need a coffee and a decent breakfast. 27 Degrees is a classic, with friendly service, city-quality coffee, and a menu of health-conscious Aussie brunch favorites such as acai bowls, granola, smoothies, and more.

    1 French St.
    - 0401 - 391--698

    Known For

    • Brunch favorites
    • High-quality coffee
    • Health-conscious snacks

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon. and Tues.
  • 12. Bang and Grind

    $ | CBD | Coffee

    Get immersed in north Queensland coffee culture at Bang and Grind, a lively café in the CBD. The venue is known for its house-blended coffee, which goes perfectly with classic Australian breakfast fare such as avocado toast, eggs Benedict, and pancakes.

    8/14 Spence St.
    - 07 - 4051--7770

    Known For

    • Excellent coffee
    • Good brunches
    • Lively atmosphere

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun.
  • 13. Beach Almond

    $$

    This low-key eatery's simple beach-shack setting on Palm Cove's seafront underplays the freshness and flavor of its modern Asian food. The small but satisfying menu is full of fresh spins on favorite dishes from around Southeast Asia, and seafood is the specialty here.

    145 Williams Esplanade
    - 07 - 4059–1908

    Known For

    • Two-person seafood platter
    • Butter prawns
    • Asian-fusion menu
  • 14. Bommie Restaurant

    $$$

    With sail-shaped tables, chic Eames chairs, and marina views, Bommie has a sophisticated, upmarket ambience perfect for a special celebration. It's the ideal setting for fine Modern Australian cuisine, and the chef's daily tasting menus dazzle the tastebuds.

    Front St.
    - 07 - 4948–9433

    Known For

    • <PRO>high-end fine dining</PRO>
    • <PRO>great location</PRO>
    • <PRO>dining on the deck (book well ahead)</PRO>

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: No lunch. Closed Sun. and Mon.
  • 15. Cairns Night Markets Food Court

    $ | CBD | Fast Food

    The food court in these lively, night owl–friendly markets offers something for every palate, from Korean BBQ to sweet-and-sour chicken, sushi, Thai, and Italian. You can also max out on desserts, with outlets offering crepes, waffles, churros, gelato, ice cream, and Italian-style coffee. The food court's open daily from 10 am to 11 pm; the night markets, 5 to 11 pm.

    71–75 The Esplanade, between Shield and Spence Sts., Cairns, Queensland, 4870, Australia
    07-4051–7666

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Most food stalls accept credit cards but bring cash in case
  • 16. coca chu

    $$

    Offering hawker-style street food dining, coca chu appeals to all with its relaxed vibe, Catseye Beach views, and a varied dinner menu that showcases regional produce and Southeast Asian flavors. The twice-cooked Sichuan duck with chili, coriander, ginger, and soy black vinegar sauce is a worthy signature dish.

    Catseye Beach
    - 07 - 4946–9999

    Known For

    • Casual Asian family-style dining perfect for groups
    • Part of the Kids Stay & Eat Free offering on the island
    • Sichuan duck with aromatics

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: No lunch
  • 17. Fish D'Vine and Rum Bar

    $$

    The menu here showcases seafood in all its forms—from beer-battered fish-and-chips to seafood chowder and wild-caught barramundi (the chef will even cook your catch). The bar is stocked with 500-plus rums and has a mean cocktail list.

    12 Airlie Esplanade
    - 07 - 4948–0088

    Known For

    • Signature seafood indulgence, loaded with mud crab, and reef fish
    • Mojitos
    • Beachy flavor

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Reservations essential
  • 18. JAM Corner

    $$

    This fine-dining restaurant sources terrific organic and tropical produce for its Modern Australian menus, which change seasonally, but always feature fresh seafood and premium Australian meats in artful, beautifully balanced dishes, with fine antipodean wines to complement them. For special occasions, there's a luxurious, chandelier-lighted private dining room.  Reservations aren't essential, but it's a smart idea to book ahead.

    1 Palmer St.
    - 07 - 4721–4900

    Known For

    • One of the fancier restaurants in town
    • Affordable, pared-back lunch menu
    • Great wine list

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun. and Mon.
  • 19. M Yogo

    $

    Offering refined dining in relaxed environs, Chef Masa puts a deft, modern-Japanese spin on classic French dishes at this restaurant that occupies a prime pier-front position. The food is as inspiring as the marina, inlet, and mountain views, and the waitstaff can help you select the perfect match from a well-chosen Antipodean wine list.

    Shop G9 Pierpoint Rd.
    - 07 - 4051–0522

    Known For

    • <PRO>set-price lunch specials are a good value</PRO>
    • <PRO>fresh seafood platter</PRO>
    • <PRO>award-winning</PRO>

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Credit cards accepted, Reservations essential
  • 20. Manta Ray

    $ | Coffee

    This could be the island's best all-round dining establishment. It's great for breezy alfresco lunches, sunset drinks on the deck, and relaxed dinners. Dine right by the marina on salads and pasta, enjoy a curry, or try one of the daily specials. There's plenty on Manta Ray's menu to suit all tastes, even the kids.

    Front St.
    - 07 - 4946–9999 - resort restaurant reservations

    Known For

    • Children (up to 12) with adults can eat free
    • Great burgers
    • Well-priced menu to suit the whole family

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