A Culinary Guide to Cairns

Largely recognised as the ‘gateway to the Great Barrier Reef’, Cairn’s culinary scene often takes a back seat to the iconic natural wonder. Yet it’s the reef itself that has helped shape and inspire a movement of high-end dining, seaside restaurants and quintessential cafes. Featuring every cuisine under the sun, Cairns’s culinary movement has evolved into one of the finest exponents of flavoursome cookery with a smorgasbord of menu options available all over town. Join us as we run you through some of the best places for top-quality tucker, right here in the heart of Cairns.


A budding café culture is on the rise in Cairns, with more and more visitors chasing the ultimate dream of a smooth-tasting coffee and delicious hearty breaky. Caffiend leads the way with its mouth-watering all-day menu a real hit with locals and tourists alike. Locally sourced and served with a smile, tuck into their iconic chilli eggs (infused with their famous chilli jam), miso scramble or build your own breaky from scratch. If it’s a light meal and a tasty coffee you are chasing, you can’t go past the Bang & Grind down on Spence Street. Don’t let the raunchy name fool you, the crew at the Bang & Grind mean serious business, as one of the few specialty cafés in Cairns offering boutique roasted coffee and scrumptious gourmet delights. If you’re on the hunt for something filling, The Lillipad Café is only a stone’s throw away from the old Rusty Markets. Its enormous servings and cheap as chips prices have struck a chord with the Cairns locals. Sink your teeth into their hearty big Turkish breakfast – large enough to feed a small army, or tackle a tasty brekkie burrito with numerous vegan and vegetarian options sure to suit any palette.


As the clock strikes 12 and the tummy rumbles start to settle in, it’s time to source some lunch – stat. Avoid any ‘hangry’ moments with a trip to the luxurious Ochre Restaurant nestled on the waterfront precinct of the Cairns Marlin Marina. Winning several awards as one of the best fine dining establishments in the city, you can be sure you are in safe hands at this prime-time Cairns restaurant. Wine and dine with Ochre’s fantastic daily lunch specials and succulent share platters with a choice of three combinations from their small and medium menu options. The Slow cooked lamb with feta is to die for, while the secret spiced calamari really packs a punch. For more seafood selections head over to the family-friendly Tha Fish, located in the centre of the Piers waterfront precinct. A relaxing style atmosphere and top-notch cookery are stables of this family-owned restaurant, marrying some of the most divine flavours with fresh locally sourced seafood. Pop in for a juicy serving of black lip mussels delicately smoked with garlic, or the heavenly seafood paella with a whole host of seafood goodness. If gourmet seafood is not quite your jam, then the Italian classics over at Vitalia’s are bound to have you singing ‘That’s Amore’. Made with love, passion and creativity, their delicious pizza and pasta menu is certain to be a winner with exquisite ocean views just the icing on the cake.


As the sun starts to set on a balmy Cairns evening, it’s time to indulge in some of the finer things in life at one of Cairns’s most prestigious dining hot spots. For a big juicy char-grilled steak cooked on a custom-built Argentinian wood-fired grill, you can’t go past the Salt House on Marlin Marina. With a variety of fresh seafood, locally sourced produce, premium steaks, and even a pizzeria in the front, the Salt House is the great allrounder and sure to get plenty of tails wagging. For some delicious Italian-style flavours featuring palm trees and beachfront views, L’Unico, set on the foreshore of the stunning Trinity Beach, is the place to be. Locally sourced seafood-inspired dishes are a highlight at this idyllic family-owned Italian restaurant, and the hardest part will be deciding what to order – one of everything please. The stars have aligned at Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen & Bar down on the pier of the Esplanade boardwalk. What they lack in Windex and plate smashing at this quintessential Greek restaurant, they more than makeup for with generous portions and wholesome cuisine passed down the line for generations. Bring a bib just to be safe, as their lip-smackingly tasty authentic Greek recipes are certain to leave you salivating all over your plate. If chilled vibes and Asian-inspired cooking is on the menu, you can’t go past Tamarind inside the Reef Hotel Casino. A touch of class and elegance set the scene at this lavish oceanside restaurant, which pairs skill and imagination to create beautifully handcrafted dishes that will melt in your mouth.

To discover the culinary delights of Cairns, hire a car from Cairns Airport today!

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