Where to eat and drink in Port Douglas
In Queensland’s tropical north, is the town of Port Douglas — not too far from Cairns. As a seaside outpost overlooking the Coral Sea, this township is ideally located for beautiful views and easy access to adventures in the Daintree Rainforest. It’s also home to a booming food scene.
The wide range of landscapes and micro-climates of the far north Queensland region has resulted in a diverse range of products. From the local markets, to the character-filled pubs in the main street, Port Douglas is packing some real treasures. If you’re wondering where to eat in Port Douglas, here are some of the best places:
EAT LIKE A LOCAL
Salsa Bar & Grill
Port Douglas’s main street is a natural first stop for wining and dining. It’s lined with plenty of popular eateries, and none better for an inaugural lunch than Salsa Bar & Grill. Its refreshing menu draws influence from the coastal culture around the world, from the French Riviera to Cancun. It’s perfect for a smart casual budget. Order the line-caught fish of the day and some spiced prawns with chilli and charred lime aioli. Take a walk down to the marina to finish.
Visitors to Port Douglas include everyone from bearded bikers to bright-eyed backpackers, but if there’s one thing everyone can agree on — it’s the IronBar Hotel. A pure representation of North Queensland hospitality, here is where you’ll find cane toad racing, pineapple on pizza, and a bar area panelled in rainforest timbers and corrugated iron. They certainly don’t take themselves too seriously, but yank out the stops when it comes to firing up the grill. You can rely on their cuts being sourced from the finest producers in the country including steaks from Cape Grim in Tasmania, home to the cleanest air on the planet.
Mocka’s Pies & Bakehouse
Exhausted from walking the length of Four Mile Beach? Follow your nose to Grant Street to find local institution Mocka’s Pies. The bakehouse has been going strong for 50 years, and they know how to help you refuel and are a great dinner for the family. What really puts Mocka’s on the map is their crocodile or kangaroo meat pies, ideal for an adventurous palate. If you feel like something classic, chase it up with a chunky steak pie, ham slider or cinnamon cruffin.
SPLURGE ON FINE DINING
Any serious foodie on their way to Port Douglas should set a course for Nautilus. Considered a peak dining experience by gourmets, the restaurant has been in continuous operation for more than six decades. It has even managed to stay on the cutting edge of fine dining the entire time.
Nautilus takes full advantage of their location in Island Point Hill, seating diners on an outdoor terrace surrounded by palm trees. Head chef Jared Wandel has designed a menu to reflect the tropical surrounds, showcasing the best Queensland produce from Moreton Bay Bugs and mud crab caught from the Gulf, to a tropical coconut and mango souffle.
Harrisons by Spencer Patrick
Locals boast about this restaurant for a reason: it’s one of the finest places to eat in Port Douglas. Located poolside at the Sheraton Grand Mirage Port Douglas, a table on the terrace at Harrisons by Spencer Patrick is where you’ll find some of the finest dining in town.
Head Chef Spencer Patrick puts his Michelin-starred training to good use in service of the region’s freshest and most seasonal produce with elegant dishes like the citrus-cured cobia with coconut and finger lime showcasing local native ingredients.
Silky Oaks Lodge
Dine with the cassowaries at Silky Oaks Lodge, right in the heart of the World-Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest. This luxury eco-lodge overlooks the Mossman River and offers a complete retreat from modern living. Their Treehouse Restaurant provides a place for travellers to gather and swap stories while suspended high in the forest canopy.
With a kitchen heavily inspired by local produce, this is seasonal eating at its most adventurous. Expect crocodile and kangaroo proteins complemented with natives for a real taste of everything the Outback has to offer. If you’ve come for lunch, and time permits, take a moment to rejuvenate in the Healing Waters Spa.
On the Inlet
As well as being a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, North Queensland has a tropical monsoon climate, similar to Asia. So, don’t leave Port Douglas without sampling a bowl of Chef Mitchell Nisbet’s laksa brimming with local seafood. This can be found at On the Inlet which began its journey selling local seafood from an old caravan in the 1990s.
While the restaurant is no longer ‘on the inlet’ (it moved to Wharf Street a few years ago), it remains the top spot to dine on the freshest local seafood the region has to offer. Across the lunch and dinner menus, there is both a French and Asian influence in how the seafood is prepared, from barramundi with Thai caramel to mussels with garlic and white wine. Make sure you enjoy it with a bottle of Australian wine from their list.
EMBARK ON A FOOD TOUR
Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures
Breaking tradition with winery tours, Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures will take you on a multi-sensory exploration of the produce hiding in the Atherton Tablelands. This region is known for the diversity of its landscape, from lush rainforest to savannah plains, and the fertility of the volcanic soil that helps cultivate an extraordinary range of produce. Bananas, coffee, sugar, avocados, and mangoes are just some of the crops that thrive here.
Follow the road that snakes south along the coastline to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. This park serves up Indigenous interpretations of jam, fruit and damper, and it’s where you can immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture. The tour then roams between Mt Uncle Distillery, Jacques Coffee Plantation, Gallo Dairyland, The Humpy, and the Golden Drop Winery before culminating in a sundowner at Platypus Hut on the edge of Hunter’s Creek.
Sweet Farm Tours
Gerard Puglisi of Sweet Farm Tours is a fourth-generation farmer who will tell you everything you want to know about life on a Queensland cane farm. Spend an hour with Puglisi and his 1800 cocoa trees and you’ll tap into more than 90 years of family farming knowledge.
Learn how sugar cane and cocoa beans are grown and processed and then taste the end product — chocolate from Daintree Estates. If that wasn’t sweet enough, Sweet Farm Tours are eco-certified. The farm is located on the edge of the Daintree and offers tours from Tuesday till Saturday 9.30am to 4pm.
Held every Saturday under the canopy of rain trees next to St David’s Church, the Mossman Markets are brimming. Here, you’ll find everything from farm-fresh produce to artisanal wares. Meet strawberry farmers, banana and avocado growers and taste a variety of foods using locally sourced ingredients. Roam around the vendors to taste the local flavour with a hearty market breakfast from one of their regular stalls. Bring extra bags for a grocery shop if you’re staying in self-contained accommodation.
KNOCK BACK A COLD ONE
The Court House Hotel
Housed in an old heritage Queenslander, this hotel is the ideal place to wind down your day in Port Douglas. Built in 1879, “the Courty” has been feeding and watering patrons for more than a century.
They’ve come a long way since then, with a bistro serving gastro-pub fare and a main bar mixing drinks. You’ll even find a sports bar to catch the live-action. Head upstairs to watch the sunset over a local brew and a bucket of prawns. Or, pull up a stool on the pavement for a front row to people-watching with a few mango daiquiris.
The Port Douglas branch of this independent brewery is the perfect finish a long day of exploring Queensland’s north. As a gastro-pub, Hemingway’s offers uncomplicated grub to go with their selection of beers.
Each brew has a unique story about a local character who inspired its creation. From the Prospector pilsner, to the Hard Yards’ dark lager, every drop pays homage to the people of Port Douglas.