8 of the best family restaurants and cafes in Cairns and Port Douglas
The highlight reel from your family trip to the tropical end of Queensland may resemble a Disney box-office hit as you find Nemo on the Great Barrier Reef and swing through ancient rainforests like mini-Tarzans.
But you’ll need a separate foodie wish list (or your own genie in a lamp) to keep the family fueled in between all the fun.
Muddy’s Cafe, Cairns
In between all the splashing at Cairns’ free lagoon, grab your famished mermaids and mermen and dry off at Muddy’s Cafe (right next door to the baby water play area and fenced playground).
You won’t need to whip out King Triton’s staff to encourage the kids to finish their meals at this local fave. Kids can choose from pancakes topped with sprinkles, crumbed calamari or cheeseburgers and chips. They’ve thrown in an ‘Under da sea’-inspired mini-seafood basket for good measure, too.
Muddy’s liquid refreshments cover everything from coffee to milk and thickshakes to juices and smoothies. Keep up the tropical vibes with a strawberry, watermelon, rockmelon and pineapple juice or a mango, berry, sorbet and pineapple juice smoothie.
And if you just need a cooldown, leave your dinglehoppers (aka Ariel’s fork) at home and grab an ice-cream!
Open: 7 days from 7am till 8pm.
Where: 174 Esplanade, Cairns.
Hot tip: While you’re at it, make a splash at these other swimming spots.
Wharf One, Cairns
You’ll get a lot more than the bare necessities for you and your jungle cubs at Wharf One.
Mornings are best started with Wharf One’s dirty monkey; a banana smoothie with a sneaky shot of coffee. (Baloos won’t want to miss the drizzle of the good stuff, aka honey, either.)
Mini Mowglis will scourage the little people’s brekkie menu for boiled eggs and soldiers, poached eggs and beans on toast, organic banana and Nutella toastie or French toast with banana and natural honey.
Before heading back to the jungle, try a fancy babyccino with chocolate powder, sprinkles, marshmallow and a cookie.
Open: 7 days from 7am till 6pm.
Where: Wharf Street, Cairns.
Hot tip: Once you’ve had your fill, meet up with Mowgli, Baloo and Bagheera at the Fig Tree playground less than a one-minute walk away.
Prawn Star, Cairns
Unlike the Lost Boys, there’s no need to imagine your food when you board the Prawn Star! Take in the salty air as you chow down on the freshest prawns, mud crabs, cooked bugs, oysters and sashimi in the comfort of your own floating restaurant at the Cairns Marina.
If your Lost Boys (and girls) are still developing their sea legs, avoid the plank and make your order a takeaway. You’ll find loads of tables and grassed areas nearby to set-up a picnic (and possibly a food fight).
Open: 7 days from 10am till 10pm.
Where: Marlin Marina, E Finger, Berth 31, Pier Point Road, Cairns.
Hot tip: If your seafood feast isn’t complete without hot chips, the team at Cafe Supremo will sprinkle some of Tink’s fairy dust and deliver chips to the trawler.
Ellis Bar and Grill, Ellis Beach
The menu items at Ellis Beach Bar and Grill don’t need an ‘EAT ME’ stamp on them. Big Alices start the day with a kale and kimchi brekkie bowl or a BBQ breakfast with pork from the smoker on jalapeno and cheddar cornbread with sauerkraut, poached eggs, pickled fennel, aioli and smoky Tabasco sauce.
Little Alices order onesies (a poached egg, bacon and toast), mini-pancakes or classic ham and cheese toasties.
Lunch and dinner highlights include tacos or prawn, crab or calamari burgers. Kids will be left with a cheeky Cheshire cat-sized grin after gulping down calamari, fish, nuggets, cheeseburgers or sausages and salad with chips, too.
Even if you’re late for a very important date, make sure you leave enough time to wander through the palm trees along Ellis Beach. Alice would recommend it.
Open: 7 days from 8am till 8pm.
Where: Lot 13 Captain Cook Highway, Ellis Beach.
Hot tip: Kids eat free on Friday nights so it’s a good idea to book ahead.
Paradise Palms, Kewarra Beach
Even the grumpy old Mr Fredrickson from Up would be happy (okay, maybe not happy, but he might avoid his usual frown) if his balloon travelling house made it to Paradise Palms rather than Paradise Falls.
If you want your breakfast to taste like your surroundings, go for the coconut pancakes served with mango passionfruit salsa. Little fun seekers will love the bacon, egg and hash brown, mini-pancakes or ham and cheese toastie goodness.
Lunch and dinner merge in an all-day menu, featuring family faves like burgers, salads, pasta, fish and chips and pizza. Don’t mind Kevin (the bird) lingering around the dessert menu.
Eager Wilderness Explorers can wander around the play village complete with super-slippery slide and climbing frame, play on the mini soccer field, or discuss recent badge wins in the Queenslander-style cubby. There’s even a fenced mini-adventure playground for under fives right near the restaurant terrace. If your kids want even more fun, there’s an adventure playground, swimming pool and mini-golf (though these come with an extra cost).
No Dougs (or dogs) allowed.
Open: 7 days from 8am till 8pm.
Where: Paradise Palms Drive, Kewarra Beach.
Hot tip: Ca-ching! There’s two-for-one dinner on Wednesday and Thursday nights for adults. If you’re bringing the grandparents (grumpy or not), there’s a special seniors menu on offer from Monday to Friday, too.
The Beach Shack, Kewarra Beach
The heart of Te Fiti might be in Kewarra Beach, so there shouldn’t be any need to leave this island (we mean, beach) for a long time, especially when the crew at The Beach Shack stock their menus with new pizza, seafood and tapas ideas for the whole family.
And just like Maui, the shapeshifting demigod, your little voyagers can get up to mischief in the sand while you sip cocktails and take in the beach vibes or hit the D-floor with live music on Fridays and Sundays.
Wednesday’s menu is rammed with tapas, fresh seafood and slurpy oysters, so get ready to say, “I’m going to love you in my belly!”
On Fridays and Sunday, you’ll get a whiff of the wood-fired pizza oven as you make your way towards the beach.
Open: Wednesday 5pm till 8:30pm, Friday 5pm till 9:30pm and Sunday 3pm till 8:30pm.
Where: 80 Kewarra Street, Kewarra Beach Resort and Spa, Kewarra Beach.
Hot tip: The Beach Shack is open from May until New Year’s Eve when everything is so shiny. Like the rest of us, they don’t like their pizza getting soggy, so the Beach Shack is closed during the wet season from January until April.
2Fish, Port Douglas
Forget a spoonful of sugar and grab a bucket of tasty prawns at 2Fish, the practically perfect seafood restaurant.
2Fish’s menu is spot on with underwater delights like Malaysian butter prawns, and chowder featuring spanner crab, barramundi, coral trout and yellowfin tuna.
Fishy kids’ taste buds will be high fiving over the calamari rings, battered reef or pan-fried fish all served with salad, chips and tomato sauce.
Before their grub arrives, the kids can test their crafty skills and draw on the paper tablecloth or get amongst the activity bag fun (note: no need to raid your Mary Poppins’ sized bag for dinner distractions this time!).
Open: 7 days, lunch from midday and dinner from 6pm.
Where: Shop 11, Coconut Grove Complex, 56 Macrossan St, Port Douglas.
Hot tip: Mary’s spoonful of sugar serving suggestion may not be enough. Sweet-toothed friends may drool over their dessert menu, too.
P.S. “Close your mouth please, Michael. We are not codfish.”
Port Douglas Surf Club, Port Douglas
The chefs at the Port Douglas Surf Club may have had a little advice from our French furry friend and extraordinary chef, Remy. They’ve kept some surf club old faithfuls on the menu, but they’ve also mixed it up with coral trout tacos, charro chip nachos, steamed pork buns and tempura prawn sushi.
Book a table on the big open deck and take in the Four Mile Beach views. Ahhhhh. The kids won’t need any encouragement to finish their meals as there’s an epic enclosed playground right next door to the restaurant.
Open: 7 days from 11am till 9pm.
Where: Corner of Mowbray and the Esplanade, Port Douglas.
Hot tip: Walk off your meals along Four Mile Beach and grab some family holiday snaps along the palm tree-lined strip.
Want more ideas for kid-friendly food and babyccino options? Here’s a few to keep up your sleeve:
- Waffle On, 64A Shields Street, Cairns | Pretty sure they’ll smell even better than Shrek’s mate Donkey’s waffles.
- Gelocchio, 9/93 The Esplanade, Cairns | Just like Mr Geppetto remembers it.
- Jaffle Head, 39 Lake Street, Cairns | The waft of melted cheese and precisely cooked toasty goodness would be enough to wake Sleeping Beauty herself.
- Rusty’s Market, 57-89 Grafton Street, Cairns | Better known for their fresh fruit and veg and good value market cafe, Aladdin and Abu wouldn’t need to employ their 5-finger discount ways at Rusty’s.
- Brewhaha Espresso Bar, 141 Barnard Drive, Mount Sheridan | The perfect spot for some hard-working dwarfs to caffeinate before a long day of work.
- Apex Milk Bar, 24 Hoare Street, Manunda | One bite and you’ll be taken back to Radiator Springs where burgers and shakes are served with Flo-level smile and sass.
- Mondo’s on the Waterfront, 34 The Esplanade, Cairns | You’ll be able to let it go with Mondo’s good vibes and marina locale.
- Palm Cove Surf Club, 135 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove | Eat your chips before the seagulls from Nemo start swooping and squawking, “Mine! Mine! Mine!”
Before you cut loose in the tropics, ask the locals for their tips. Adventure Mumma is all over the best things to do with kids in Cairns.
And just in case you need more inspiration, here’s a round-up of the 20 best things to do with kids in Tropical North Queensland.