Port Douglas is one of our favourite places for Queensland family holidays. There are so many things to do with kids in Port Douglas, and the tropical beaches and weather are all perfect ingredients for an amazing family vacation.
But what really blew me away the first time I visited this tropical haven, was the quality of the Port Douglas restaurants.
Port Douglas is ideally located from a chef’s point of view. Its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef guarantees the freshest fish and seafood are available, while just a short drive inland brings you to the Atherton Tablelands, a rich agricultural region often referred to as the region’s ‘food bowl’.
For this reason, many of the places to eat in Port Douglas have adopted a ‘paddock to plate’ approach to their cuisine, reaping the rewards of the abundant fresh local ingredients on their doorsteps.
And while there may not be a huge variation in the menus among the top restaurants in Port Douglas – the majority featuring either Modern Australian or Italian dishes – you can expect sensational fresh local produce on your plate.
Salsa Port Douglas
Salsa Bar & Grill is my personal favourite restaurant in Port Douglas. Set in a whitewashed ‘Queenslander’ (that’s a low-rise timber house to you and I), Salsa’s open louvered windows let in the sunshine and provide a pleasant breezy atmosphere to chow down on some awesome Aussie cuisine.
The Salsa Port Douglas menu focuses on fresh local produce as much as possible, providing Modern Australian cuisine, with its usual fusion influences.
Mouthwatering dishes include Panko Crumbed Soft Shell Mud Crab, Pulled Pork Filled Piquillo Peppers, Linguini Pepperincino with Tableland Red Claw and Yellowfin Tuna Tataki. And don’t forget to check out their fun and inventive cocktail menu, with concoctions including the Obama Mojito and the Brazilian Booty.
Salsa restaurant Port Douglas is also kid-friendly – they have high chairs and their kids’ menu doubles as an activity/colouring sheet. Plus, with the busy, buzzy atmosphere you don’t need to worry too much about how much noise your kids make.
Harrisons Port Douglas
Chef Spencer Patrick has been making waves in the Port Douglas dining scene since he opened Harrisons more than 10 years ago, and it has maintained its reputation as one of the best restaurants in Port Douglas.
Recently relocated to a beautiful colonial setting within the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, guests at this fine dining Port Douglas restaurant can now choose to be seated outside on the pool terrace, or indoors for air-conditioned comfort.
Having been awarded its 9thChefs Hat in September 2017, Harrisons Restaurant Port Douglas remains Port Douglas’ only hatted restaurant. With Spencer Patrick’s chef’s pedigree, you know you are in for a treat. The chef trained under Marco Pierre White and was the youngest head chef in the UK to hold a Michelin Star at the time he was awarded one at the Café Royal Grill Room in London.
Sourcing fresh local produce, Patrick dishes up innovative modern cuisine with treats such as Spiced Duck with mulled stone fruits, fennel, burnt peach, crisp livers and cocoa on the mains menu. Don’t miss starting your meal with the legendary sesame yabbie toasts and finishing it off with the scrumptious treacle tart.
Guests can also enjoy four- and six-course tasting menus, served with paired wines. If you are looking to enjoy a fancy Port Douglas lunch, Harrison’s offer a very reasonable two-course lunch ($49 including a glass of wine at the time of writing).
As you follow the hidden winding path through the topical foliage towards Nautilus, you know you are heading towards somewhere very special indeed.
Nautilus has long enjoyed the reputation as one of the best places to eat in Port Douglas, creating memorable dining experiences for its patrons for over 60 years. Its alfresco rainforest setting is perfect for a romantic evening under the stars – even Bill and Hilary Clinton chose Nautilus to celebrate their wedding anniversary in 1996, with an intimate dinner for two.
Nautilus is famed for its fine dining Port Douglas cuisine, although they prefer to use the term ‘elegant dining’ to describe their dishes. One thing is for sure – the Nautilus Port Douglas menu is a study in sensational modern Australian cuisine.
Choose from dishes such as the Citrus Risotto, laced with chargrilled tiger prawns; the Duck Duet, comprising seared duck breast and Vietnamese duck leg rolls, served with a salad of lychee, young coconut, palm hearts and Massaman curry sauce, or opt for the signature Whole Coral Trout, dusted with Asian spices before being shallow fried and served with green paw paw salad, Thai caramel sauce, chilli jam and nahm jim.
Five and seven degustation menus are also on offer, with wine pairing, if desired.
Note that Nautilus does not accommodate children under the age of 8, including babies. So book yourselves a babysitter (they have recommendations on their website) and enjoy a fabulous date night at this beautiful restaurant.
Watergate Port Douglas
Watergate restaurant Port Douglas may have been named TripAdvisor’s 4thbest fine dining restaurant in Australia, but it maintains the relaxed ambience befitting of its tropical setting.
The restaurant is reached via a flame-lit path, where diners can choose from outdoor seating on the decking surrounded by tropical foliage, or the indoor restaurant.
The Modern Australian cuisine on the Watergate Port Douglas menu makes the most of the fresh local produce on offer, with crab & snapper cannelloni, Boston Bay mussels and kangaroo loin all making an appearance. One of the restaurant’s most popular items is the simple pan-fried local reef fish with a coconut risotto cake and kaffir lime beurre blanc.
Vegetarians are not left out at Watergate, with a macadamia crusted eggplant stack and caramelized cauliflower and fennel risotto vying for position on the vegetarian menu.
The Watergate bar lounge bar is the perfect place for a pre-dinner cocktail (there is an extensive cocktail menu) or end-of-night coffee. Guests are also welcome to call in for a glass of wine and cheese platter.
On the Inlet Port Douglas
As its name suggests, On the Inlet once boasted one of the best locations in Port Douglas, sitting right on the waterfront of Dickson Inlet. Picture yourself sitting on the decking over the water, tucking into a bucket of prawns and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc as you watch the yachts cruise by on their way out to the Great Barrier Reef… that was On the Inlet.
Unfortunately the restaurant was forced to relocate in December 2017 due to the redevelopment of the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina, and now has a new home on Wharf Street.
While George the famous Port Douglas groper, who used to beg for scraps in the waters below the decking, is no longer a feature at this seafood restaurant in Port Douglas, the menu is still bursting with fresh seafood, from Beer Battered Line Caught Fish and Chips, to Prawn and Chorizo Spaghetti, Mud Crab, Black Lipped Mussels and Seared Scallops.
Go large and treat yourselves to the OTI Famed Chilled Seafood Platter for Two, which comes piled high with oysters, prawns, mussels, sashimi, bugs, yabbies and a whole mud crab.
The kids On the Inlet Port Douglas menu doubles as a colouring sheet and includes all the typical children’s favourites, including fish and chips, chicken nuggets, pasta and calamari – all finished off with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
2 Fish Port Douglas
Another place for amazing fresh seafood in Port Douglas is 2fish restaurant. Choose to sit alfresco on the terrace and watch Port Douglas life go by or opt for the air-conditioned interior where you can dine beneath contemporary artworks that adorn the walls.
Scottish head chef Adam Ion uses local fresh Australian produce to create exciting Asian European fusion dishes on the 2Fish Port Douglas menu, such as Malaysian butter prawns, Coral Trout with pickled watermelon and cucumber salad, and Bug Tails in Panang curry sauce.
There is also a 2 Fish seafood tasting menu with paired wines, and you can also enjoy a 2-course lunch for just $39 (at the time of writing).
Whatever you opt for, be sure to save room for the scrumptious sounding desserts: Irish Chocolate truffle with raspberry gelato and baileys mousse, or the incredible Banoffee: butterscotch pannacotta with Italian meringue, banana caramel and salted caramel ice cream.
But for me the winners are the dessert cocktails – a simple espresso martini, or perhaps the “Just So Naughty”: peanut butter, baileys, butterscotch, chocolate and cream. Died and gone to heaven? Perhaps!
Another restaurant vying for the title of ‘best Italian restaurant in Port Douglas’ is Bel Cibo, also located on Macrossan Street, on the mezzanine level of the Saltwater Building.
Bel Cibo is under the helm of chef and owner Andy Gray, who worked as sous chef for celebrity chef Matt Moran at acclaimed Sydney restaurant Aria, and also ran the kitchen at 2-Fish in Port Douglas before branching out on his own to open Bel Cibo.
The menu is classic Italian, including delicious pizzas, fresh homemade pasta and classic mains such as Veal Scaloppini, with room for local favourties such as Local Reef Fish & Chips, Ceviche of White Reef Fish and Pan Seared Barramundi. If you fancy trying their signature Chilli Mud Crabs – call ahead the day before to pre-order.
Other suggestions of where to eat in Port Douglas
Zinc Port Douglas
Zinc is a relaxed family friendly restaurant in Port Douglas. With the restaurant open from 5pm and with a kids menu and free WiFi, it is one of the best places to eat in Port Douglas with kids, especially when they are running their kids-eat-free special.
The menu here is an eclectic mix of Mediterranean and Asian cuisine, with the odd pasta and local dish thrown in.
Note: at the time of writing Zinc restaurant Port Douglas was undergoing refurbishment due to new ownership. The menus are therefore subject to change.
Sassi Port Douglas
This Italian restaurant in Port Douglas dishes up a wide selection of classic Italian dishes, including pastas, seafood, risottos and meat dishes. The kids menu goes beyond the usual chicken nuggets and spag bol to include cutlets and chipolata sausages. We also love that you can order pasta dishes in smaller sizes to allow sharing of a few choices.
Sassi restaurant Port Douglas has both indoor and outdoor seating. Don’t miss the gorgeous after-dinner dessert cocktails!
Beach Shack Port Douglas
If you want to do Port Douglas eating with your toes in the sand, you need to head to the Beach Shack. This super laidback restaurant has a chill out bar, pizza bar and a restaurant serving up a mixture of pasta, salads, pizza and local seafood.
The Beach Shack serves tapas from 4pm and main food from 5.30pm. The ideal place to bring the kids after a day at 4 mile beach. The Beach Shack does takeaway pizza too and offers home delivery.
The Little Larder Port Douglas
The Little Larder enjoys the reputation of serving some of the best breakfast in Port Douglas. Eggs Benedict, Smoke Salmon Bagels, waffles, coconut bowl, sweet potato fritters, crab omelette… there’s a great choice at this Port Douglas cafe.
The Little Larder also serves some of the best coffee in Port Douglas.
Takeaway Port Douglas
Sometimes you just want a takeaway – especially when you are traveling with kids and have had an active day of sightseeing, swimming and snorkeling. In addition to the Beach Shack pizzas above, the following places also offer takeaway food in Port Douglas.
Chilly’s Port Douglas
Chilly’s pizza in Port Douglas has long been a favourite restaurant for locals and visitors for pizza – either eat-in or takeaway. There are plenty of outdoor tables for dining in wood-fired pizza and pasta, or you can opt for takeaway or home delivery.
4 Mile Seafood
If you’re looking for good fish and chips in Port Douglas, look no further. People love these Port Douglas fish and chips for their fresh local fish and crispy batter. A great choice if you want to enjoy fish and chips on the beach.
For more inspiration for your family holiday in Northern Queensland, check out our articles Things to Do with Kids in Port Douglas and Things to Do in Cairns with Kids and what to do on a day trip to Kuranda.
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