Sitting an hour’s drive of Cairns on the aptly named Coral Coast, Port Douglas is a much-loved winter holiday destination. For obvious reasons.
Port Douglas tourism describes this small, vibrant town as ‘Where rainforest meets reef’ and it’s absolutely true. From Crystalbrook Marina pleasure craft cruise the Great Barrier Reef daily, offering tourists a chance to marvel at the incredible aquatic wonderland lying a few miles off shore. Alternatively, you can drive inland and take in the verdant beauty of the stunning Daintree Forest with its unique flora and fauna.
And when you’re tired of day-tripping, the list of things to do in Port Douglas will keep you busy for the rest of your stay.
You can stroll and length of Four Mile Beach, do a bit of sunbathing or maybe even catch a wave or 2. Alternatively, bike hire is a popular activity and a great way to check out the town and its surrounds.
Perhaps you like a spot of holiday shopping? Then the boutiques along bustling Macrossan St should keep you happy. And if you’re in town on a Sunday, check out the Port Douglas Markets on Port Douglas Beach. You’ll find everything from locally made arts and crafts to snacks and entertainment.
Last, but not least, there are the many and varied Port Douglas restaurants.
Port Douglas Restaurants
The dining scene in Port Douglas is particularly rich for such a comparatively small place. Tourists come from all over Australia – and indeed the globe – to see the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Forest and their tastes, and wallets, are all catered for by the dining scene.
So if you wish to celebrate a special occasion with at a fine dining seafood restaurant, Port Douglas has a number of options. Or if you want to keep things cheap and cheerful, you can grab a bowl of noodles at an unpretentious Vietnamese joint or maybe some fish and chips to take away.
From kid-friendly ice cream and snack stops to healthy breakfast cafes. And from lively pubs screening the footy to chic bars where you can sip a sophisticated cocktail as you watch the sunset over the ocean – Port Douglas has it all.
With so much choice, your only problem is knowing where to try first.
Well, luckily, Eatability recently visited Port Douglas and ate at a range of establishments. Some budget-friendly, others at the top end of the market.
So here is our guide to the best restaurants in Port Douglas.
Location: Coconut Grove Complex, 9-11/56-64 Macrossan St, Port Douglas, QLD 4877 Ph: (07) 4099 5219
Light and bright with a beach-vibe aqua, turquoise and golden yellow colour palette, vibrant Wrasse and Roe opens onto the bustle of Macrossan Street.
As the name suggests, Wrasse and Roe is a seafood restaurant. So take a seat within view of envious passersby. Order a cheeky tropical cocktail or glass of wine. And sample beautifully fresh fish and crustaceans cooked with care by Chef Andy Gray and his team.
Calamari ($23) is always popular and here it comes with an Asian twist, spiked with Chilli Salt and with a Paw Paw Salad. The Seared Scallops ($24) were a real knock-out. Caramel-edged and glistening-centred, the accompanying Cauliflower & Truffle Oil Puree smooth and rich, with Crisp Pancetta adding saltiness and the Burnt Butter Sauce rounding out the dish.
For Mains, the Baked Moreton Bay Bugs ($49) were beautifully cooked and slid from their shells willingly. However, the Fragrant Coconut Laksa was only a dollop of sauce on the flesh. This was disappointing as it tasted divine. The Tamarind & Sticky Soy Glazed Beef Cheek ($44) were sweet, savoury and fell apart at the prod of a fork – perfect. The Steamed Black Mussels ($36) were plump and aromatic in a pool of aniseedy Pernod Garlic Butter. My companion mopped it all up with crusty Sourdough.
Clearly, Wrasse And Roe is a pescatarians dream. However, vegetarians also are catered to, but only just, with one Entree and a single Main on the menu.
For Sides, we ordered Green Beans & Broccolini with Pistachio ($12) which came rather light on nuts. The Thick Cut Chips with Roast Garlic Aioli lasted all of 5 minutes – they were that good.
As suckers for a Flourless Chocolate Cake, we shared the Chocolate Plate ($17). Paired with a delicious Orange Chocolate Mousse it lived up to expectations. Similarly yummy was the Coconut Pannacotta ($16), which wobbled enticingly and was complemented by Caramelised Pineapple and a delicately floral Lychee Ice Cream.
Less a romantic date for 2 than a bubbly celebration kind of venue, Wrasse and Roe is all about the fruits of the sea. Just make sure you try those scallops.
Location: Primewest Port Village Shopping Centre, Shop 25/11-17 Macrossan St, Port Douglas, QLD 4877 Ph: 0404 644 013
You’ve got to love a place that boldly proclaims its passion for toast and sandwiches. However, this buzzing cafe offers much more than sliced white and limp fillings.
From 7.30am until midday, the tables outside Toast in the mall are packed with couples and families tucking into breakfast. Toast – in one form or another – is, unsurprisingly, a common feature. Fancy something sweet? Then try the Raisin Toast ($7) or French Toast with Bacon, Mascarpone, Fresh Fruit & Caramelised Pecans ($19). Is savoury more to your taste? Then perhaps the Avo Toast with Persian Feta, Chilli, Cherry Tomatoes, Pepitas & Balsamic Glaze ($18) appeals?
Alternatively, you could order the very pretty Granola Bowl with Vanilla Pannacotta & Seasonal Fruits ($18) or the Pulled Pork, Scrambled Eggs and other goodies-filled Breakfast Burrito ($21).
But it’s the all day menu that really shows what the heart of Toast Sandwich Bar holds dear.
Bagels, Jaffles/Toasties (including the student fav Baked Beans & Cheese) and a selection of Signature and Classic sandwich combos are all made with the freshest ingredients and obvious care.
The Reuben sandwich we ordered was sublime. The perfect ratios of rich Slow Cooked Corn Beef and Swiss Cheese mellowed by punchy Sauerkraut and Pickles. The toasted Ciabatta Pulled Pork was juicy with BBQ’d meat, Crisp Apple Slaw and Spinach. Yum!
Vegetarians needn’t go hungry with the Rocket Man – Roasted Pumpkin, Babaganoush, Rocket & Feta Pesto on Ciabatta – sounding particularly mouth-watering.
Happily, the gluten intolerant are also considered as the Jaffles can be made with gluten-free bread for $2 more.
Add in friendly service and a dash of Port Douglas sunshine and you have a delightful spot to grab breakfast or lunch. Toasted, of course.
Location: 26 Wharf St, Port Douglas, QLD 4877 Ph: (07) 4099 4922
For many regular visitors, no stay in Port Douglas is complete without a meal at Salsa Bar and Grill. And undoubtedly, there is a quintessential FNQ holiday vibe about Salsa Port Douglas that many other restaurants have tried to capture, but failed.
Sat amongst a handful of bars and eateries on Wharf St, this is the perfect place to meet for a late lunch and end up staying for lazy sundowners. As the sun bloodies the sky and glints off of the ocean, few spots are more appealing than the deck of Salsa with a cocktail in hand. What do we recommend? Well, the Drunken Sailor ($21) – Maker’s Mark & Southern Comfort w/ Limes, Kaffir Lime Leaves & Pineapple Juice – went down extremely easily last time we checked.
The Lunch and Dinner Menus feature dishes plucked from far and wide, all united by that chilled summer feel. So the Sticky Berkshire Pork Belly Entree ($26.9)- Jaggery & Galangal Caramel, Green Paw Paw Sambal – is light and zingy rather than overly rich and heavy. Similarly, the Chermoula Roasted Chicken Supreme Main ($38.5) – Sweet Potato Salad, Mint Labna, Pomegranate – bursts with life and contrasting flavours.
Not surprisingly, seafood, as in many of the best restaurants in Port Douglas, dots the menu. The Entree of Saganaki Local Tiger Prawns ($27.5) – Whipped Feta, Spicy Sausage & Pepper Spetsofai was a definite winner. The sweet prawn flesh working perfectly with salty feta and the Greek sausage and pepper stew. Yum!
So book at table within sight of the sunset, order some dishes and maybe a drink or 2, and discover why of all of Port Douglas’ restaurants, Salsa Bar and Grill is recommended to first time visitors.
Editor’s Note: We are revising our list of Port Douglas eateries and restaurants to reflect our recent visit (July 2022). Please come back to this page soon for the updated version with a number of additional recommendations.