A healthy eating guide to Townsville and Tropical North Queensland
Unlike some destinations that call to mind flaky, buttery pastries or cornucopias of French fries, you can keep your healthy eating plans in check when travelling in the Tropics. Blessed with an abundance of fresh tropical fruit, vibrant veggies and health-conscious locals, you’ll find organic, gluten-free, superfood, vegan and paleo options are easier to hunt down than the elusive cassowary.
From charcoal acai bowls to tropical fruit and a kombucha bar, here are some of the best places for healthy eating foodies in Tropical North Queensland.
Cotters Market – Townsville
If you’re craving fresh fruit to stock your holiday villa or simply devour at lunchtime, there is no better place to stop in Townsville than Cotters Market. Held along Flinders Street every Sunday, the market (8:30am-1pm) is small but popular.
One of the biggest stalls sells rows of watermelons, dragonfruit, pineapples and rockmelons, so take your reusable shopping bags and stock up. At the next stall along, shout yourself a refreshing electrolyte-rich coconut water. You don’t have to go to Fiji to get the real deal, either. Pick a coconut from the pavement and watch it be sliced open in front of you and then enjoy as you potter around the rest of the market.
The Beet Bar
While you’re checking out trendy Flinders Street, be sure to pop into The Beet Bar and order from the extensive range of superfood bowls. The choice is overwhelming, with acai combinations of dragonfruit, mango, vanilla protein and banana.
If you’re keen to sample something new, try the charcoal acai bowl for fun. It’s delicious, refreshing and surprisingly filling, but make sure you check your teeth for black smudges afterwards. The bowls are all refined sugar-free, as well as dairy- and gluten-free, and vegan. The bar also whizzes up fresh juices and smoothies, making this spot health-food heaven.
It’s made the list of 100 things to do in Townsville. Check out the others here.
Lafew Café & Kombucha Bar – Cairns
Dragonfruit makes a regular appearance in Tropical North Queensland, so it’s no surprise to see it as a flavour of the in-vogue probiotic fizzy drink kombucha. Lafew Café & Kombucha Bar, in Cairns, also has a turmeric and chamomile kombucha combination, as well as vanilla, chai, and lime and ginger.
This place isn’t somewhere to quickly grab a small 330ml takeaway bottle but rather somewhere to sit at the vintage furniture with friends and enjoy the kombucha on tap.
Make an afternoon of it and sample the tempting selection of raw desserts, such as beetroot cupcakes and chocolate mint slice, that are free from dairy, cane sugar, wheat, egg and soy. If you want something more filling, call in for a lunch of pad Thai with zucchini noodles, falafel ‘fingers’ or an Earth Bowl with a bean and veggie patty and ‘kraut ‘slaw.
While you’re in the city, it’s also worth spending a morning at Rusty’s Market, known for its amazing fresh produce. Held on Friday, Saturday (5am-6pm) and Sunday (5am-3pm), the CBD is buzzing with foodies keen to pick up exotic fruit, vegetables, fresh bread and seafood.
There are more than 180 stalls at this iconic Cairns attraction so be prepared to while away a few hours enjoying them all. And you never know, you may just bump into local celebrity chefs such as Nick Holloway, who regularly calls in to stock his award-winning Palm Cove restaurant, Nu Nu.
Chill Café – Palm Cove
If you crave a hearty salad, look no further than Chill Café in the upmarket resort village of Palm Cove, 30 minutes’ north of Cairns. The “kick-ass salads” are large, more-ish and will have vegetarians singing “hallelujah”. The Woodford Salad is a top choice and comes with hemp and sunflower seeds, sweet potato, and popping pomegranate.
If you love breakfast (served until 3pm), you can expect a generous serving of local fresh fruit, a “tree hugger” platter of poached eggs, mushrooms and avocado, and even turmeric-infused poached eggs with kale. How’s that for trendy?
Chill Café is also open for dinner until late. Grab a chair at the timber bar and soak in views of the sea through the towering foreshore palms that give the place its name.
If you’ve been guilty of ‘gramming your food, here’s a list of other insta-worthy spots in Palm Cove.
Up the street in pretty Palm Cove, you’ll find 27 Degrees, which immediately grabs your attention with its rainbow colours and al fresco bean bags. This tiny place has a stellar “bowl” inspired menu – think poke, acai and granola. You can even enjoy more substantial lunch options such as the chicken whole bowl with quinoa, avocado and hummus, and The Sunny Bowl with falafel balls, dukkah and turmeric dressing.
Add a cold-pressed juice, kombucha on tap or dairy-free smoothie to your order and you’ll leave feeling revitalised and satisfied.
Betty’s Bohemian Beach Café – Port Douglas
This place oozes feminine ‘60s chic with white wicker cane chairs, colourful cushions, dream catchers and pressed tin details. In a resort town bursting with cool bars, restaurants and cafes, Betty’s stands apart due to the stylish décor and tasty menu.
Expect to find vegetarian baked beans, poached eggs with smoked salmon, and, of course, smashed avocado on the menu. Betty’s also ticks the smoothie-bowl box and offers freshly squeezed juice. Located on busy Macrossan Street, this cafe is a top spot to enjoy breakfast before spending a morning scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef or swimming at popular Four Mile Beach.
If you’re heading further north after Port Douglas, keep your eyes open for a fruit stall on the side of Mulligan Highway in Lakeland. Look out for the organic produce sign and bunting. You’ll be thankful you stopped to pick up a bunch of cheap passionfruit and bananas for the next day’s breakfast.
Driftwood Café – Cooktown
It’s the go-to place for health-conscious travellers and locals in Cooktown, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does Driftwood Café have lovely views across Endeavour Park to Endeavour River, but the menu also caters to diners in search of gluten- and dairy-free choices.
The blueberry, coconut seeded loaf is a great option for parents in search of a healthy treat for their kids (or themselves), and the raw blueberry cheesecake with almond crust makes for a delicious breakfast-on-the-go choice. You can also pick up a jar of beetroot sauerkraut to keep your gut health in check, too, and if you love a true Indian chai tea, you’ll be happy to find it here.