Part small country town, part nautical village and part high-end tourist resort, Port – as it’s known to locals – appeals to a surprisingly broad demographic that includes everyone from young families and amorous 20-something couples to girls’ weekenders and reef-seeking international tourists. And it has options aplenty for food-fancying travellers of all ages, budgets and hipness levels too.
Thanks to the town’s proximity to the nearby Atherton Tablelands, a fertile region known as the “food bowl of the tropics”, Port Douglas chefs have first dibs at some incredible local produce. Everything from organic pork to strawberries, macadamias to coffee, plus exceptional dairy produce, is brought down from the hills and into Port’s kitchens and markets each day.
Now, with the likes of Michelin-trained local chef, Spencer Patrick and the annual Taste Port Douglas food festival (held in August) drawing big names and adding extra pull, Port is stamping its name on the map as a food destination worthy of the trek.
Having worked alongside the likes of Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc in his native Britain, Patrick brings considerable culinary clout to his two venues, elegant fine diner Harrison’s and relaxed alfresco Italian, Bucci – both of which you’ll likely need bookings for. Seafood-focused Sassi Cucina e Bar brings yet more lively Italian flavour to the table, while long-time local favourite, Salsa Bar and Grill offers fresh, creative cuisine and great views of the waterfront in uniquely FNQ-style surrounds. Think airy, whitewashed interiors and fresh sea breezes floating through open window shutters.
For satisfying brekkies, healthy lunches, fresh juices and solid coffee, The Little Larder is a great pick – but don’t be surprised if there’s a wait on tables. Quirky newcomer Betty’s Bohemian Beach Cafe brings a nice splash of colour to the Macrossan Street strip and the quinoa salad is a winner with locals. Die-hard espresso fiends can source their daily hit from Origin Espresso, which roasts its own beans locally and offers filter coffee and pour-overs as well as sparkling cold-drip coffee and delicious sparkling local sugar cane juice on tap. Set inside a funky homewares store, hole-in-the-wall Sparrow Coffee pulls a great Allpress brew and offers a small selection of flaky pastries. Go local and try one of their macadamia milk cappuccinos.
Harrison’s, 22 Wharf Street, 07 4099 4011
Bucci Ristorante, 41 Macrossan Street, 07 4099 6364
Salsa Bar and Grill, 26 Wharf Street, 07 4099 4922
Sassi Cucina e Bar, 4 Macrossan Street, 07 4099 6744
The Little Larder, Shop 2, 40 Macrossan Street, 07 4099 6450
Betty’s Bohemian Beach Cafe 2/56-64 Macrossan Street, 07 4099 6995
Origin Espresso, 21-23 Warner Street, 07 4099 4586
Sparrow Coffee, 1/39 Macrossan Street (no phone)
Tropical climes naturally call for a spot of alfresco cocktail action and one of the best spots to get your daiquiri on is on the deck or in the leafy courtyard at Watergate – a smart restaurant-cum-bar with a good wine list and some of the best cocktails in town. If your idea of taming a thirst involves ice-cold draught beer and a bucket of chilled prawns then Port Douglas’ oldest pub, the character-filled Court House Hotel will suit you down to the ground. Reclining with an Aperol spritz as you watch the sun set over the sea more your style? Head for waterfront bar On The Inlet, where you’ll find cocktails, decent wines, James Squires beers on tap and unbeatable views.
Watergate, 5/31 Macrossan Street, 07 4099 5544, watergateportdouglas.com.au
Court House Hotel, 18-20 Wharf Street, 07 4099 5181, courthousehotelportdouglas.com.au
On the Inlet, 3 Inlet Street, 07 4099 5255, ontheinlet.com.au
With such a huge variety of produce growing year-round in the Atherton Tablelands, the farmers’ markets are always brimming with plenty of tasty purchases. Drop into the popular weekly Sunday Market at Anzac Park, or for a more relaxed country vibe head up to the nearby Mossman Market on Saturday morning. Be sure to keep an eye out for Kate from Julatten Earth Food who grows an impressive range of rare and Indigenous produce just out of town.
Bean lovers of both the coffee and chocolate variety should pencil in a visit to Coffee Works, where a range of local and imported coffee beans sit alongside locally-made chocolates paired with ingredients like lemon myrtle and Queensland banana and mango. Cafe-cum-deli, Taste on Macrossan is the place to stock up on packaged local items such as Daintree tea, coffee beans, macadamias, jams and vanilla beans.
Port Douglas Sunday Market, marketscentral.com.au/market/portdouglassundaymarkets
Mossman Community Market, pddt.com.au/event/mossman-markets
Julatten Earth Food, julattenearthfood.com.au
Coffee Works, Shop 5, 32 Macrossan Street, 07 4092 4101, coffeeworks.com.au
Taste on Macrossan, Shop 21, Port Village Shopping Centre, 11-17 Macrossan Street, 07 4099 5999, facebook.com/TasteOnMacrossan
There’s an abundance of accommodation options, so you’ll easily find something to suit any mood or budget. With its Palm Springs-meets-beach aesthetic, the lively QT Resort offers a splash of retro colour and fun. The sprawling Rydges-owned resort features a lagoon-style pool plus gym, bar and rooms to suit families, groups and couples.
For those seeking something a little more intimate, Artist’s Houses offers three wonderfully bohemian beachside properties that exude serious character and charm, including a beautifully decked-out five-bedroom beach house and a smaller one-bedroom cottage suitable for couples.
QT Resort, qtportdouglas.com.au
Artists Houses (various locations, Port Douglas), artistshouses.com
Port Douglas is a 65-kilometre drive from Cairns airport. Several airlines offer daily flights to Cairns from most capital cities.
The writer was a guest of Tourism Port Douglas Daintree.