I had to laugh on our holiday to Port Douglas. The holiday town in Far North Queensland was packed with Melburnians escaping the cold Winter weather. Don’t visit to get away from it all! Of course I had exactly the same motives but I was also keen to visit Port Douglas because of its reputation as a top dining destination.
Proximity to the abundant Atherton Tablelands means there’s fantastic local produce in Port Douglas and some talented chefs have made the town their home. Here are my favourite places to eat and drink:
1. Betty’s Bohemian Beach Cafe
If you’re going to have a special dinner out at one place in Port Douglas, Harrisons is the place to do it. Set in an old Queenslander the fine dining restaurant has a relaxed tropical feel to it. We sat on the verandah looking out over the restaurant’s garden lit by torches. You can’t get much more romantic than that! Chef Spencer Patrick makes the most of local produce and indigenous ingredients. Smoked coral trout served on betel leaves ($8) is light and zesty while lean kangaroo fillet is cooked until it is blush pink and served with bush plums for a uniquely Australian dish. The tart(ish), Harrisons’ take on a tarte tartin is a must order for dessert. We ordered a la carte rather than from the tasting menu and still felt we were well fed.
Details: Harrisons, 22 Wharf street, Port Douglas (Ph 07 4099 4011)
Damage: Budget breaking. We paid $243 for two.
Kids: This is a special occasion place so we left our kids with a babysitter but there are high chairs available if you want to bring your children along.
3. Little Larder
This popular spot serves up eggs with the works for brunch and a variety of hefty sandwiches for lunch. Just beware of the annoying serving times. Brunch only goes until 11 and then there is a half an hour gap until the lunch menu comes on. On our first visit we unfortunately hit the no service time which wasn’t great. We did go back though and breakfast of folds of smoked salmon with smashed avocado was fresh and light although the abundance of rocket was a bit retro.
4. Bucci Ristorante
Chef Spencer Patrick’s second Port Douglas restaurant is the excellent Italian offering Bucci. On the main street Bucci opens out onto the footpath for some good people watching. It’s hard to go past the pasta dishes and I rated the spanner crab linguine ($28) which featured a generous amount of sweet crab meat spiced up with a kick of chilli. Bucci is a lot more casual than Harrisons but the quality of the food is still excellent and there’s a really convivial atmosphere.
Details: Bucci Ristorante, 41 Macrossan street, Port Douglas (Ph 07 4099 6364)
Damage: Reasonable. Our bill for two came to $80.
Kids: There’s a kids menu and high chairs.
5. The Port Douglas Surf Club
A few friends had told me the food at the Surf Club was really good but I’d taken the recommendations with a grain of salt. How good could a parma be? It turns out there’s a great chef in the kitchen at the Surf Club and the menu extends far beyond what you’d expect. There’s Fijian style tuna ceviche, pork belly buns and pressed lamb shoulder. Not your typical Surf Club at all. The Surf Club has an outdoor setting with basic plastic chairs and concrete floors but the focus is on the food. The Mexican style grilled corn ($4.50) is smoky and charred and teamed with a tangy lime mayo while the coral trout tacos ($17.50) feature fish cooked in a crunchy batter teamed with a colourful chipotle slaw. It’s a must do in Port Douglas.
Details: Port Douglas Surf Club, Mowbray Street, Port Douglas (Ph 07 4099 4335)
Kids: This is a kids paradise. Plenty of high chairs, lots of space to run around, nothing fancy they can wreck, an adjoining playground and a kids menu.
Of course coffee is crucial at all times even on holidays. We rated the coffee at Origin Espresso which roasts its own beans and the tiny Sparrow Coffee. If you’re visiting Port Douglas with kids it’s worth noting that Whileaway Bookshop and Cafe is the only place in town which serves marshmallows with its babychinos.
Gourmet Travel Details
- We flew to Cairns with Virgin from Melbourne and then hired a car to get to Port Douglas. We didn’t use the car at all during our stay so we would have been better off getting a transfer from the airport.
- We stayed at Peppers Beach Club which I’d really recommend especially if you have little ones. Full review here.
- We spent our time lazing by the pool and walking along Port Douglas’ beautiful 4 mile beach. On previous visits to Port Douglas I’ve also headed to Mossman Gorge and into the Daintree rainforest for day trips.