Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and Tropical North Queensland, with an abundance of amazing attractions and things to do that make it the perfect choice for a holiday. There is an excellent range of places to stay in Cairns, partnered with a buzzing restaurant scene, Cairns is up there with the larger Australian cities. The tourist crowd and a local population that loves to get out and about has drawn top quality chefs to the far north for years, making Cairns not only a tropical paradise, but also a great place for culinary exploration. Try these top restaurants when you are in Cairns.
Ochre has become the epitome of Cairns dining, focusing on modern Australian cuisine that uses fresh local produce and incorporates native Australian ingredients to create an exciting, unique and local culinary dining experience. Ochre is located in a beautiful waterfront setting with an abundance of outdoor seating to merge with the warm tropical climate. Take a culinary journey through some exciting dishes such as ‘Twice Cooked Pork Belly & Seared Queensland Scallops with Davidson plum jam and cauliflower puree’ for starters; and then move on to main dishes such as ‘Lamb rump with saltbush ash, beetroot sweet and sour and potato and rosemary dauphinoise’.
Waterbar & Grill
The waterfront dining precinct at the pier is full of amazing restaurants and is a nice picturesque spot to head to at night. If you’re craving a steak, the Waterbar & Grill is the place to go. Their beef is sourced locally from the Atherton Tablelands and is aged and cooked to perfection. Splurge on a 400g rib eye or tackle their 500g rump or T-bone. Steak isn’t the only thing on the menu though, with amazing pork and lamb ribs, chicken, South African Sausage, seafood and even a few vegetarian options.
Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant
One restaurant that is constantly rated as one of Cairns’ best restaurants is Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant. Balinese cuisine seems to fit perfectly with Cairns’ similar tropical climate, and the restaurant’s open and airy set up really makes the most of this. The menu is full of amazing Balinese and Indonesian dishes that consistently get rave reviews. Start off with some satay with peanut sauce, and then move on to a simple dish of nasi goreng, or tuck into some prawns with chilli, lime, tomatoes and coconut milk. Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant is part of the Bayleaf Tropical Resort, located on Lake Street.
Another must try restaurant in Cairns if you’re after Asian cuisine, Tamarind, located in the revamped Reef Casino on Wharf Street. Tamarind is known for its Asian Australian fusion food, with exciting dishes that focus on merging Australian and Thai ingredients, creating a fun and experimental dining experience. Try their ‘Wild caught local reef fish, with puffed grains, asparagus veloute, paperbark smoked beetroot gel, fetta cream and finger lime dressing’; or their ‘Whole crispy barramundi with tamarind, chilli and garlic sauce’.
An excellent option if you can’t decide what to have is their set tasting menu, that provides a seven-course dining experience sampling Tamarind’s best dishes, which can also be matched with wine.
Fusion Art Bar & Tapas
You’ll find great tapas and a funky vibe at this place on Spence Street. Fusion Art Bar & Tapas is true to its name with a focus on fusing modern art with a fun tapas experience. This place has an industrial style interior with amazing art pieces on show, while the menu is good for brunch or a tapas style meal. Delightful tapas are on offer with nibbles like calamari, olives and chorizo, along with share plate options such as their ‘Braised beef with jalapeno and spring onion relish’.
Caffiend is one of the most popular café’s in Cairns and one that locals flock to for coffee, breakfast and lunch. Located on Grafton Street, Caffiend is a must try at least once for breakfast. All the breaky favourites are on offer but some unique dishes to try include their tasty ‘chilli eggs’, with homemade chilli jam; or their ‘Miso scramble’, consisting of ‘Miso infused free-range scrambled eggs, spring onion, black sesame, bonito and shichimi Japanese pepper’. On the lunch menu, you’ll find the adventurous ‘coffee beef taco’ dish that gets rave reviews, which uses ‘beef cheeks braised for 14 hours in coffee & cumin master-stock’.
Salthouse is another waterfront restaurant that seems to portray what Cairns is all about. Located in the Marina, Salthouse has beautiful waterfront views with outdoor seating to make the most of it. It is an all meals of the day place with a good range of dishes on offer, along with an impressive cocktail list that also makes Salthouse a good spot for afternoon drinks while the sun goes down. You’ll find a great value lunch here from their $20 lunch menu, giving you a choice of five options, each served with a glass of beer or wine. For dinner, you’ll find a comprehensive menu with options for everyone, but it’s hard to go past their seafood offerings to go with the waterfront setting. Try their local ‘Fitzroy Island garfish, basted in smoked paprika and basil, green vegetable, quinoa and hazelnut salad, lemon and cracked pepper dressing’; or their ‘Australasian seafood hot pot’, consisting of ‘Spencer Gulf black mussels, Gulf prawns and wild barramundi sautéed with Asian greens and a Penang style seafood coconut curry’.
When it comes to Italian food in Cairns, Bellocale tends to top the list and has been a popular spot for a long time. Located on Shields Street, you’ll always find this place busy. Traditional Italian food and seafood is cooked to perfection here, with delightful offerings such as their ‘Linquine Marinara’; or their ‘Risotto alla Piscatora’ with Moreton Bay Bugs, Gulf Prawns, calamari, fish and mussels finished with a rich Napoli style sauce.
Cairns has an exciting and thriving restaurant scene that will make your stay in the city even better. Whether you’re after a seafood feast, a quick brunch or a mouth-watering steak, Cairns has you covered. Check out these amazing restaurants and more when you visit the city.