The 16 best food experiences in Queensland
Holidays are about exploring the local culture and immersing yourself in all it has to offer. Food is one of the most visceral ways we do this, and can help you instantly appreciate your surrounds. So, if your stomach rules the roost when it comes to holiday decision-making, this is the list for you. We’ve tracked down the best food in Queensland worth travelling for.
Nose-to-tail dining at Howard Smith Wharves, CBD
The times are changing in Brisbane, with the city coming into its own, in particular when it comes to its burgeoning food scene. Perhaps the perfect expression of these new-found culinary heights is down at the new Howard Smith Wharves precinct, right under the Story Bridge.
With an unbeatable view of the Brisbane River, it’s the perfect way to experience Brisbane. And the impressive line-up of world-class restaurants that have opened their doors in the precinct over the last year provides even more incentive.
While there’s something for every food lover, the star of the show is undoubtedly Arc – a light and bright gem, whose floor-to-ceiling windows provide an unbeatable view of the river, serving up delicate Modern Australian food in a fine-dining-ish setting. Chef-of-the-moment, Alana Sepwell is at the helm expertly serves up refined but fun dishes, with a strong focus on the ethical treatment of animals.
A true nose-to-tail institution, Sepwell procures whole carcasses so that she can put every part to use. The Arc team even makes their own charcuterie, which is reason enough to visit. Throw in a smattering of native Australian ingredients and an excellent wine list championing local, minimal intervention drops, and you’ve got yourself a must visit.
10-course degustation at Joy, Fortitude Valley
Awarded “best new restaurant”, along with two chef’s hats, in the 2020 Good Food Guide Awards, Joy is the little pocket rocket that’s come in and shaken up the Brisbane food scene. Operating out of a tiny location down Bakery Lane in Fortitude Valley, with room for just 10 guests, Joy is pioneering a more personal approach to dining.
Run by husband and wife team (and first-time restaurant owners), Tim and Sarah Scott, who are the restaurant’s only staff, Joy serves food with a Japanese-Australian influence. The food is excellent but the focus on service and connecting with guests comes above all else. The pair greet guests by name on arrival, discuss drinks, cook and serve each of the 10 set courses, as well as doing everything in between to keep the kitchen running.
Bookings are hard to come by, so you’ll need to get organised and lock in a date a few months in advance. Perfect for those planning a holiday – jump ahead and secure your spot. You won’t regret it.
Whole crispy fish at Spirit House
A list of the best food in Queensland would not be complete without Spirit House. The award-winning restaurant in the Sunshine Coast’s Yandina, is housed in a jaw-dropping tropical-garden setting spanning five acres.
The food is incredible and guests are spoilt for choice when it comes to the menu, but it’s hard to go past the whole crispy fish. An iconic dish and menu staple that lives up to the hype.
The infamous cooking school on site is an excellent way to experience the team’s thoughtful, seasonal approach to food, but make sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment. A world-class experience not to be missed.
Fun pan-Asian food at Sum Yung Guys
Kitsch, pan-Asian holiday vibes abound at this Sunshine Beach restaurant celebrating food and fun.
Led by ex-Masterchef alum, and Queensland ambassador, Matt Sinclair, Sum Yung Guys’ inventive menu features delicious dishes from Japan to Indonesia. A focus on fresh, local produce and lots of flavour, this is the perfect spot to take a big group. Get some King prawn toasts to start (and finish if you like, they’re that good). Wash down the great food with any of the inventive, tasty cocktails on offer, or choose from the impressive wine list.
Southern Queensland country
Apple pie from Suttons
Located on a working apple orchard, Suttons produces a unique range of apple products, including juices, vinegars and preserves as well as their famous apple pie. The Shed Cafe focuses on apple products as well as fresh and regional produce.
Get a slice of the apple pie, made from just-picked apples and served with spiced cider-laced vanilla ice-cream – you won’t be sorry.
Market garden tours at Homage
Inside a historic barn on 12,000 acres of Australian bushland, with views of Queensland’s spectacular Scenic Rim, sits Homage. A commitment to sourcing and serving only the best local, seasonal produce makes Homage stand out. The menu includes vegetables from the on-site market garden, honey from their own bees, and animals raised free range and organically.
The food is fresh and delicious and the menu changes daily to reflect available produce. And if you’d like to see where your food is coming from, book in for one of their market garden tours, offered daily.
Peach blossoms from Merino Bakery in Longreach
In Longreach, the Merino Bakery is known for its beautiful fresh bread and baked goods. Beloved by locals, the bakery is the perfect spot for a morning coffee or snack.
You can’t go wrong with anything at Merino, but if you’re visiting you must try their famous Peach Blossoms – pink lamington halves sandwiched together with fresh cream.
Bug roll, Rick Shores
To make an appearance at Rick Shores, even if only for a cocktail in the absolute waterfront location, and not stay for an infamous bug roll, would be to miss out on a bona fide Queensland food icon.
For the uninitiated, here’s the breakdown. A fresh little brioche bun. Juicy chunks of Moreton Bay bug meat encased in a delicate tempura batter. Crisp gem lettuce, kaffir-lime-laced mayo and just the right kick of chilli to top it off. The perfect bite-sized morsel for any seafood lover.
Taking out Queensland’s coveted number one spot in the Delicious 100 list in 2017 and making the Top 100 list in the Gourmet Traveller Australian Restaurant Guide, this hot spot in Burleigh Heads has recently re-opened after some minor renovations, with even more expansive views over the ocean than before.
Southern Great Barrier Reef
Macadamia ice cream from Mammino’s in Childers
Located in a humble farmhouse in the Queensland country town of Childers, is Mammino’s.
In 1996, Anthony & Teena Mammino were selling macadamias in a roadside stall when they had the idea to take Teena’a grandma’s ice-cream recipe and add madacamias. The ice cream was a hit and before long their side project turned into a full-time business.
Today, the traditional recipes are still made in the commercial kitchen and shop attached to the farmhouse, using all-natural high-quality products. Eating a hand-made ice cream while sitting overlooking the paddocks and beautiful countryside is undoubtedly one of the best food experiences in Queensland. Not to be missed.
Mango sorbet from the Big Mango in Bowen
You don’t get much more Queensland than the delicious mango sorbet, churned fresh on the premises. Made exclusively from mangoes collected from the town, it’s healthy, refreshing and very delicious.
Jochheims Pies, Bowen
If they’re good enough for Hugh Jackman, they’re good enough for us! One of the best pit-stops in Bowen, north of Airlie Beach, Jochheims’ line-up of tasty pastries attracted the star while the cast of Australia were based in Bowen for filming back in 2007.
Operating since 1963, Jochheims is a Bowen institution, known for its quality ingredients and perfect crusts. Order a Hunky Jackman Beef Pie if you’re into the classics, or try the creamy prawn pie made with locally-caught seafood.
Hervey Bay scallops at Coast, Hervey Bay
There’s nothing better than eating seafood that’s been freshly caught around the corner from where you’re sitting.
We love the perfectly cooked Hervey Bay scallops at COAST restaurant for this reason. Confit garlic butter and pancetta take it to another level, but the gorgeous meaty scallops are the real hero. If scallops aren’t your thing, Coast has plenty of other options, made with local produce, that will do the trick.
Tropical North Queensland
Crocodile cheesecake at Silky Oaks Lodge
Silky Oaks Lodge, hovering above the Mossman River and neighbouring the World Heritage-listed wilderness of the Daintree National Park, is a stylish rainforest escape like no other.
The beauty of the rainforest provides a stunning backdrop to the magnificent open-air restaurant, Treehouse.
Enjoy contemporary Australian meals made from vibrant tropical produce, with a native twist. The crocodile and tarragon cheesecake with smoked barramundi, pickled papaya and chutney and herb salad is a once-in-a-lifetime meal, worth travelling for.
Experience Aboriginal culture with Mungalla Tours
Just an hour from Townsville, Mungalla is an idyllic rural homestead where visitors can join tours to learn about Aboriginal culture. Each tour covers the history of the Mungalla Station and the Nywaigi people, the Aboriginal traditional owners of the lands around Ingham in North Queensland.
In the evening, you’ll listen to traditional Aboriginal live music while your dinner is cooked on hot embers in an underground oven. Then it’s time to enjoy your meal under the stars as you listen to Nywaigi stories.
Treetop dining at Osprey’s, Thala Beach Nature Reserve
Osprey’s restaurant is housed in the Thala Beach Nature Reserve, just 10 minutes south of Port Douglas.
While enjoying a seasonal menu made from local ingredients, guests dine in the treetops. The outlook is as spectacular as the food – enjoy panoramic views of Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef.
Produce is sourced daily from local markets and producers. The team takes great care to support the local community by ethically sourcing ingredients directly from the neighbouring Atherton Tablelands and the Coral Sea to ensure one of the best food experiences in Queensland.
Cultural experience at Flames of the Forest
A secret rainforest location underneath a canopy of fairy lights and crystal curtains is home to Flames of the Forest – Australia’s only rainforest dining experience. Nestled in a prime spot overlooking the lake and mountains at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, guests can learn about Australia’s Indigenous people.
Led by two local Indigenous brothers and set in the traditional grounds of the Kuku Yalanji people, guests will connect with our country’s ancient people through storytelling, under the magnificent rainforest canopy.
This soulful experience includes a locally sourced banquet inspired by the Aboriginal people, with a selection of beautiful wines to accompany the meal.