“People who love food really are the best people.” – Julia Child
The Mistress of the Kitchen was really onto something with this fine observation, and with more visitors to this region scheduling their holidays around a destination’s foodie options on offer, paradise never looked so abundantly tasty. Full of astoundingly good restaurants, bars and paddock-to-plate produce, the Tropical North is literally a stock pot full of delicious adventure.
Port Douglas has been a popular spot for serious foodies for many years, showcasing weird and wonderful local produce at the hands of some of the country’s most talented (and hidden) chefs, but recent times have seen a breath of fresh, hipster-cool and hops-driven air with both new venues opening and classic venues raising the bar to take this sleepy little fishing village to dizzying new heights of gastronomic delight.
Gone are the days of shoulder-pad high prawn-and-mango stacks from the 80s – welcome to Tropical Dining V2, where eating out is no longer simply about fancy tablecloths and piped music; from street corners to beachfront cafes, waterfronts to bakeries, good food is in abundance in every direction.
With its clothless tables, Peroni & Campari posters adorning walls, flowing aperitivos and outdoor tropical greenery, this old-school diner is as Italian as you get outside of Italy (and Melbourne). Although casual in nature, don’t let that make you think the details have been forgotten. Owners Tony & Di Sassi, legendary in the Port Douglas restaurant scene, have put together a venue where service is disarmingly attentive, the aperetivo selection and the wine list is well thought out and the menu is the perfect reflection of an Italian mama’s kitchen with a locavore ethos in Tropical North Queensland.
If your dreams of an Italian getaway in a Tuscan mansion with a cellar and a pool boy are just a little out of reach, Sassi’s is most certainly the next best thing for a few hours. Settle in with your Negroni, let your cheese dreams transport you to places with a vineyard, and start referring to your tummy as Little Italy. And then despondently look for flights for Euro-summer next year. But in the meantime, there’s always Sassi’s.
Tapas is a funny thing. It’s a bastardised foodie term that seemingly covers everything from bowls of olives through to practically anything that can be shared. The need for an afternoon snack and a glass of wine hit you? Tapas. Restaurant booking a little later than usual? Tapas. Avoiding a full-blown carb overload? Tapas. Hunger be gone with tapas. Praise be to all the Spanish gods, if you fancy a little something Español while in Port Douglas, there’s no need to make do with a medley of mixed nuts. Hola, Seabean Tapas Bar & Restaurant.
Seabean offers a grazing delight in the most perfect open-air corner spot in Port Douglas. Catching the tropical afternoon vibe as the sun casts her final rays over the Coral Sea, Seabean is akin to what you'd actually get in downtown Barcelona. You’ll find a daily selection of pintxos (individual bites from Northern Spain), rolling specials and menu favourites of tapas dishes perfect for sharing (or not) and a selection of traditional paella. A good variety of sherries and Spanish and Australian wines expertly recommended by folk passionate about snacking round out the menu offerings. Tip: make sure you leave room for the coconut catalana. You’ll thank us later.
Hemingway’s Brewery is a bonafide microbrewery at Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina. Winning friends with stylish whitewashed floorboards, snappy staff outfits and strong game in the pub snacks department (you had us at the chili chicken bites), it’s clearly the brews here that are the stars of the show. Grab a pint of Prospector Pilsner (or a growler of Hard’s Yard for the truly committed), add in a tropical sunset over moored superyachts, and you can stick a fork in us – we’re done.
In the wise words of Captain Jack Sparrow, “Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate”. And what a treasure this little watering spot is. With island-style interiors so cool they hurt curated by owner Wendy McWilliam, this boardwalk bar overlooking Dickson’s Inlet at the Port Douglas Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina is tropical plantation heaven. Get in early to nab a daybed and settle in with a signature Tea For Two (spoiler: there’s no tea in it…) and watch the sun set magnificently over the mangroves and mountains.
It goes without saying that Salsa Bar and Grill in Port Douglas is a dining mecca for anyone living in or visiting the tropical north, not least for the view (not too shabby at all, overlooking Port Douglas’ Anzac Park and the Coral Sea) or of course the food (you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten their Linguini Pepperoncino). Quite a few Salsa visitors have recognisable names, their celebrity signatures on dining plates framed on the ceiling, fighting for space with numerous restaurant industry awards. However, most of all, it’s the Salsa Bar and Grill team that is the true driving force behind the success of this sassy, stylish, dining den in tropical Port Douglas.
A lot bit classy with a whole lotta sassy, Zinc Restaurant has become one of Port Douglas's iconic venues, a must do while visiting. Whether on holiday, celebrating that special occasion, or a casual catch up with family or friends, Zinc offers an elegant space to connect and create memories over good food, wine and tropical cocktails. Located on the vibrant Macrossan street only a stone’s throw away from the picturesque Four Mile Beach, Zinc takes full advantage of the warm sea breeze adding to a unique tropical dining experience.