Where to eat and drink in Port Douglas
The scenic road to Port Douglas from Cairns curls around the coast from Palm Cove where the Coral Sea rolls into view. The town of Port Douglas is a sultry seaside outpost studded with excellent places to eat and drink.
From the local markets, to the character-filled pubs in the main street, here are some of the best Port Douglas restaurants and food experiences to be had.
EAT LIKE A LOCAL
Salsa Bar & Grill
In the winter, when temperatures hover in the mid 20s, travellers descend on Port Douglas in their droves. After wandering around the charming main street, you have a compelling reason to stay and play thanks to a clutch of remarkably good local restaurants. Salsa Bar & Grill is one of them. Order spicy school prawns with chilli and lime aioli and the line-caught fish of the day before walking down to the marina to ogle the mega yachts.
This popular steakhouse is great for people watching. Book a table on the footpath where you’ll sit alongside everyone from bearded bikers to photogenic backpackers who mob the pub for its much-loved Aussie burger layered with cheese, lettuce beetroot, bacon and secret sauce. Here quirky décor dominates: the bar is clad in rainforest timbers and corrugated iron, vintage sign posts double as art and daily specials are chalked up on a rustic blackboard.
Mocka’s Pies & Bakehouse
The smell of meaty baked goods wafts out of Mocka’s Pies and pervades the main street of Port Douglas. Follow your nose to the cheap and cheerful bakery tucked away in Grant Street, which has been going strong for 50 fabulous years. Exhausted from walking the length of Four Mile Beach? Refuel by scarfing down a chunky steak pie or other workaday fare such as ham sliders and cinnamon cruffins. Adventurous foodies might want to plump for the croc or ‘roo pie.
FINE DINING SPLURGES
Nautilus Restaurant is a local institution. Anyone who is anyone who visits Port Douglas dines here. Long known for drawing movie stars, millionaires and moguls, the restaurant, which has been in continuous operation for more than six decades, is also a magnet for lovers of good food and wine. Take a seat on the outdoor terrace lit by fairy lights under a sky pin-cushioned with stars to enjoy dishes such as sugar-cane-cured barramundi, sous-vide Moreton Bay bug tails followed by a tropical mango soufflé.
Harrisons by Spencer Patrick
Facetime your friends while digging into local line-caught coral trout poached and filled with crab mousse then served with leeks and a swirl of sea urchin butter. As the only restaurant awarded a Good Food Guide hat in Port Douglas, a table under the twinkling lights on the terrace at Harrisons by Spencer Patrick is where it’s at. Locals boast about this restaurant, located poolside at the Sheraton Grand Mirage Port Douglas, for a reason: it’s one of the most charming places to eat in town. Chef Spencer Patrick demonstrates his Michelin-starred training and love for the region with elegant dishes such as the barramundi, pickled onion puree, clams and scallop paper.
Silky Oaks Lodge
Dress to impress for dinner at Silky Oaks Lodge in the heart of the World-Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest. The Treehouse Restaurant is a dreamy bower that is wide open to the elements overlooking the sparkling Mossman River. Suspended high in the forest, it’s the beating heart of the lodge, a place for travellers to gather to swap stories and feel smug about their temporary escape from civilisation. This is seasonal eating at is most adventurous: try crocodile soufflé, kangaroo cooked with spiced red cabbage, burnt onion, sweet onion puree and pickled onion. If time permits, chill out in the Healing Waters Spa.
Port Douglas food tours
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 tap into more than 90 years of family farming knowledge. Touch cocoa pods, learn why cocoa and sugar work well with cane, and then taste one of the end products – chocolate from Daintree Estates. The farm is located on the edge of the Daintree and is open from Tuesday till Saturday 9.30am to 4pm.
Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures
Arrive hungry for this comprehensive tasting tour that departs from Port Douglas three times a week. Follow the road that snakes south along the coastline to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, which serves up Indigenous interpretations of jam, fruit and damper. The tour then connects the dots between Mt Uncle Distillery, Jacques Coffee Plantation, Gallo Dairyland, The Humpy and Golden Drop Winery, all located on the verdant hilltop plateau known as the Atherton Tablelands and included in Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures. The tour culminates in a sundowner at Platypus Hut on the edge of Hunter’s Creek. The tour operates Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Port Douglas Markets
Held every Saturday under the tangled limbs of a stand of raintrees next to St David’s Church, the markets are brimming with everything from artisanal wares to hand-crafted goods. But it’s the promise of fresh produce from local farms in the Douglas Shire that is most interesting to food lovers. Meet strawberry farmers, banana and avocado growers and taste a variety of foods using locally sourced ingredients. We recommend the poffertjes (Dutch profiteroles) from Little Amsterdam and the double beef cheese burger from the Avalon Farm shop.
Port Douglas bars
On the Inlet
As well as being a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Tropical North Queensland is known for sharing a similar climate to Asia. Don’t leave Port Douglas without sampling a bowl of Chef Mitchell Nisbet’s laksa, brimming with local seafood and fresh herbs from On the Inlet, which began selling local seafood from an old caravan in the 1990s.
While the restaurant is no longer ‘on the inlet’ – it moved to Wharf Street overlooking St Mary’s by the Sea a few years ago – it remains a top spot to sip on a glass of Chardonnay and eat a bucket-load of fresh prawns.
The Court House Hotel
Aaaah, the Courty. The pub, housed in a grand old heritage Queenslander is, quite possibly, the best place to signal the end of the day in Port Douglas. Built in 1879, it’s been plying its patrons with food and drink for more than a century.
Head to the open-air rooftop bar to enjoy a local brew while watching the sun tie-dye the sky pink, orange and lavender or pull up a stool on the pavement where the foot traffic becomes part of the entertainment. The go-to cocktail here is a Courty Sea Breeze comprising peach schnapps, Midori, pineapple and fresh lime.
This gastro brew pub located on the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina in Port Douglas is a bucolic paradise for boaties and beer-lovers. The most popular amber nectars on offer at Hemingway’s include the Prospector pilsener, the Hard Yards’ dark lager and Pitchfork Betty’s pale ale. Thirsty travellers should order a paddle of beers and pore over the menu, which tells the stories about the local ales and the characters they’re named after.