The best dining spots in Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays

Food offerings and experiences tell you so much about the heart of a destination, and while the East Coast of Australia is famous for crisp waters and coral reefs, it’s easy to turn your attention to a taste-tour of Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays. The heart of the Great Barrier Reef (not just the coral one) offers up a treat for all your senses and its proximity to fresh seafood, along with a booming nightlife, means you’ll never be lost for a culinary adventure.

Fuel up on Airlie Beach’s best coffee at Fat Frog Beach Café

44 Coral Esplanade, Airlie Beach

If your day can’t begin until you’ve enjoyed your morning coffee there’s no shortage of options in Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays. There’s a local favourite nestled into Cannonvale Beach that’s made itself quite the name for itself for being the best coffee in the area. The Fat Frog Beach Café has a host of homemade dishes, ready-to-go cabinet options, and sweet little bites for kids and even your fur-baby should you be travelling with one. There’s a sunny disposition about the place that will set the mood for your day in the tropics.

A little café with a big offering, there’s definitely something for everyone, and all at affordable prices. No dining discrimination to vegos and those with food allergies and intolerances, everyone is welcome and catered to at The Fat Frog. They’re waterfront to a quaint stretch of beach along Bicentennial Boardwalk, complete with stinger nets if you fancy a dip after your visit, and wheelchair accessible for those who need the option.

Explore the local flavours at Oar Bar & Restaurant

128 Gloucester Ave, Hydeaway Bay

Let your tastebuds do the walking and venture fifteen minutes north-east of Airlie Beach to well-kept secret, Oar Bar & Restaurant, one of the best restaurants in Airlie Beach and Whitsundays. A favourite among local holiday makers, this understated hideaway is too good not to share. You’ll find it huddled neatly into the Cape Gloucester Resort, part of the aptly named Hydeaway Bay.

The Cape Gloucester Resort has a humble stretch of coastline, spotted with huts and picnic benches, that will take you back to a simpler time, where clear waters, panoramic views and a fresh seafood platter were all you needed. Their onsite eatery, Oar Bar & Restaurant, is as popular as the resort itself and treats you to uninterrupted views of the Whitsunday waters. Taste the Coral Sea in any one of their seafood dishes, or enjoy an evening sharing drinks beneath the North Queensland sky in their open air bar.

Award winning views from Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill

116 Pringle Road, Airlie Beach

Eating your way around the coastline is a great way to check out nooks and burbs you wouldn’t otherwise happen across, and Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill offers no exception. Venture fifteen minutes north-east of Airlie Beach for a taste of the best restaurant dining at Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays – with an incredible view to boot.

Just like the destination itself, the menu and atmosphere at Northerlies is casual and family-friendly. People come for the views and stay for the food, with its seafood focused menu. A treat for the eyes and the tastebuds, you can soak in panoramic views of the Whitsundays while you enjoy a menu curated with the local environment in mind. The casual menu is seasonal and changes with what’s available in the area, meaning you’re guaranteed fresh produce straight from the local waters to your plate. While there’s plenty on the menu for pescatarians, they don’t go without a thought for diary free, gluten free and vegetarian dietaries, so no matter your choice of fare, Northerlies is able to cater to you.

Start your day right visiting The Deck Restaurant

277 Shute Harbour Rd, Airlie Beach

Line your stomach with one of the best breakfasts in Airlie Beach at The Deck Restaurant, a popular haunt among locals and tourists alike. A far cry from the regular hotel buffet you’ve come to know, this a la carte breakfast menu is brimming with fresh local produce, breakfast favourites, free-range eggs, and add-ons to satisfy any hunger level.

At the base of The Heart Hotel, The Deck offers a broad range of kids menu items as well, making it easy to dine out with the whole family before a day of adventuring on the Great Barrier Reef. The Deck makes dietaries a breeze with diary free, gluten free and vegetarian options aplenty. The prices are moderate for breakfast dining, with dishes from around $14-$22 – and they’ve thrown in waterfront views for free. What a treat.

Spoil your appetite at Elysian Retreat

Long Island, Whitsundays

Even those adventuring on a budget like to splurge on one or two landmark experiences, so if you’ve been saving your holiday appetite for a truly special occasion, we’d recommend cashing it in at Elysian Retreat, which has one of the best restaurants in the Whitsundays. There’s plenty of reasons to drop your pin on Long Island – but if the lure of having your own private haven isn’t enough, the food philosophy at Elysian will do all the convincing for you.

A truly tailored experience, with all the heart and romance the Whitsundays has on offer, Elysian Retreat makes sure it lands itself on your holiday highlight reel. Be met on arrival by the chef to discuss your preferences and dietary requirements, so each meal is customised to nourish you and your wellbeing. Whether you’re indulging in breakfast, lunch or dinner, you have a say in the curation, right down to what delights you’d like if you’re taking a hamper out by the water for the afternoon.

Steep yourself entirely in your surroundings and spend the day catching your own fish for chef to prepare for you, in what might be the ultimate sea to saucepan experience during your stay in the Whitsundays. There are few feelings grounding you to earth like hunting your own feed for the evening, knowing it will be skilfully skillet cooked right infront of you that evening. There are few greater satisfactions than dining on wild caught fish off the end of your own hook, we promise.

Find comfort at La Marina

1/33 Port Drive, Airlie Beach

Proving a culinary journey around Airlie Beach can take you further than salty seas, La Marine is the detour to Rome your ocean adventure is asking for. One of the best restaurants on the Whitsundays Coast to enjoy a wholesome Italian meal, this family-owned Italian restaurant makes everything fresh onsite, right down to the tiramisu and donuts, with recipes passed down through generations.

A charming little spot where you’ll find the owners working the floor, you can taste the genuine passion for their work in every dish on the menu. Italian is such a crowd pleaser for every occasion, and a little comfort food never went astray after a long day of exploring.

Tuck into a good pub feed at KC’s Bar and Grill

KC’s Bar and Grill

Photo by @kcsbarngrill

382 Shute Harbour Rd, Airlie Beach

While fine dining evokes its own set of delights entirely, nothing much beats a budget feed at a pub. A great way to have your incredible Whitsundays experiences and eat them too is checking out some of the pub greats of Airlie Beach like KC’s Bar and Grill.

On the main drag of Shute Harbour Road, KC’s is a Whitsunday institution, serving up all your pub favourites alongside live music. KC’s will always make you feel like you’ve rolled into your very own ‘local’, greeting you with a family friendly atmosphere, warm Airlie Beach personality and a host of welcoming faces. While they’re most famous for their premium steaks, they’ve got a handful of unique offerings you won’t find anywhere else, like their tasting plate of chargrilled croc, kangaroo, emu and buffalo – if you’re feeling game for a little taste of Australia. KC’s have proven time and time again that one-of-a-kind experiences in the Airlie region aren’t limited to island hopping and jet skiing, just pull up a chair at this well-known local.

Finish it off with at The Rocks Restaurant & Bar

Oceanview Avenue, Airlie

There are very few ways to enjoy a little of everything like the share menu at The Rocks, host to every Queensland flavour you could daydream about. Whet your appetite for the Whitsundays with the thought of a dozen share plates at one of the best restaurants in Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays – The Rocks Restaurant & Bar. It’s a recently refurbished section of the Coral Sea Resort, and ready for you to take it for a spin.

With dishes featuring Pacific oysters, prawn sliders, salted fish croquettes, pork scotch served with orange and cardamom gel, and salted caramel fig with buttermilk, it’s an unbeatable location for a special occasion in the Whitsundays.

While there’s plenty of intimacy between you and each dish, you can up the ante with poolside views of the Whitsunday Islands. It’s the perfect place to mull and reflect on everything you’ve experienced so far.

Land meets sea at Fish D’vine and Rum Bar

303 Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach (new location planned for 2020)

With the ocean brimming with possibilities on one side, and sugar cane for cities on the other, there’s no doubting how this pairing came about. Being the longest established restaurant in Airlie Beach, it’s sure to say that Fish D’vine and Rum Bar has got their offering down to a very fine art.

Food can really set the scene for a destination holiday. A visit to D’vine will have you ankle deep in the flavours of the ocean while sending your taste buds on a vacation of their own, with mojitos that the locals have affectionately dubbed ‘the best this side of Cuba’.

If that gets your tastebuds tingling, envision some of their menu highlights like tempura battered local tiger prawns, caught fresh from the Coral Sea, the chilli mud crab, or retro banana fritters with spiced rum maple syrup, vanilla bean ice-cream and a dark chocolate swirl. You can’t get much more ‘Airlie’ than that.