East to west, north to south, Australian holiday-makers have been tucking into fried fish and golden chips for as long as they’ve been smearing zinc on their noses. And while even bad fish and chips are a little bit good, great fish and chips can be the defining moment of any trip – especially if the seafood is local. So if you’re hitting the road this summer, check out our hit list of the regional towns serving it best. BYO cold ones and wet wipes.
Port Albert Wharf Fish & Chips
A restaurant on the Port Albert wharf is a no-brainer and this one pays homage to the town’s history as one of Gippsland’s oldest operating ports. While some fish and chippers place their faith in frozen and imported product, all the stock here comes from the surrounding waters. The flathead, sand whiting and gummy shark are outstanding – and taste even better when enjoyed by the water with a small cooler of drinks.
40 Wharf Street, Port Albert; (03) 5183 2002
A stylish eatery in a surf club? Chef Matt Germanchis (ex-MoVida and new-school diner Pei Modern) and his partner, restaurant manager Gemma Gange, say it’s possible. The proof is in their dining room in the former clubhouse at Anglesea on the Great Ocean Road. While there’s plenty of pleasure to be had in the fried fish – the battered rockling with pickled veg, for instance – just as notable is the rest of the carte, from the octopus and tzatziki to Greek salads and other mementoes from Matt’s stint running a seaside Greek taverna.
100 Great Ocean Road, Anglesea; (03) 5263 2454
Image credit: Graham Denholm
The fish and chips at Stokehouse are the stuff of legend so when the upmarket St Kilda foreshore restaurant reopened earlier this year after a fire, the owners were kind enough to cater to the hoi polloi with a designated fish-and-chip kiosk. Expect sustainable seafood, salads and coconut prawn tacos, with a basic little booze list.
30 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda; (03) 8691 6830
New South Wales
Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf
Founded in 1974 as a boat-hire business, Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf is a Central Coast institution. Its appeal is clear; aside from the enviable location on the Brisbane Water estuary, it does great seafood and that remains its primary stock-in-trade. Opt for something from the fish-and-chip menu or select your own seafood from the market – mullet or teraglin, perhaps – and have it prepared your way. An elegant new dining room, complete with a well-stocked cellar and a modern, cosmopolitan menu (Singapore-style chilli crab, anyone?), suggests this landmark’s future is bright.
The Boulevarde, Woy Woy; (02) 4341 1171
Image credit: Nikki To
Pelican Rocks Cafe
It’s a family affair at Sam and Rebecca Cardow’s seafood café, which was People’s Choice winner at the 2018 Australian Fish and Chips Awards. Sam does the fishing and Rebecca turns the catch into satisfying, unfussy dishes for the happy clientele who flock to this South Coast village. While blue grenadier and blackfish – served battered or grilled – are among the favourites, the menu also includes bacon-and-egg rolls, hamburgers and other lunch staples.
115 Greenwell Point Road, Greenwell Point; (02) 4447 1471
Part fishmonger and part fish-and-chip shop, Scales Seafood is as important to the Tweed’s fisherfolk as it is to residents and holiday-makers in this North Coast region. As well as the usual crumbed, battered and grilled offerings, local shellfish is always available, along with cooked mud and spanner crabs when they’re in season. Grab one of the shaded tables on the footpath to get in some people-watching or you could follow the locals’ lead and head to the Tweed River directly opposite to enjoy your meal alfresco.
47 Kennedy Drive, Tweed Heads; (07) 5536 6937
This historic Fleurieu Peninsula hotel is closely connected to the seaside community, starting with the views of postcard-perfect Aldinga Bay. Publican Doug Govan maintains a little black book of fishermen’s names and numbers and frequently calls on this network for top-tier garfish, whiting and other local seafood, all name-checked on the menu by postcode (Myponga Beach squid, say). Come for the food but be sure to stay for a sunset beer and to explore the cellar, which is handsomely stocked with vintage Australian reds and French burgundies.
Main South Road, Sellicks Hill; (08) 8556 3083
The Fresh Fish Place
In a past life, Craig McCathie earned his living by fishing around Australia. Today, the veteran fisherman runs this seafood distributor, where his workday involves getting product from the Eyre Peninsula to chefs around the country. His factory boasts a café serving a great selection of dishes. Nannygai, whiting and kingfish are among the varieties and preparation methods include the Paleo-friendly option of fish fried in coconut oil. The sashimi, mussel pot and abalone are also worth considering, as well as the South Australian wines.
20 Proper Bay Road, Port Lincoln; (08) 8682 2166
Tasmanian Coastal Seafoods at The Gulch
Local seafood is the name of the game here and a light, crunchy batter ensures every order is a winner. While recreational fishermen wet the line at the nearby pier, guests make short work of the flathead, bluethroat wrasse, ocean perch and other Tassie fish. Wait times can be long and the décor is best described as beach-shack rustic but this low-frills eatery on the east coast (rightfully) remains a pilgrimage site for diners. The worn outdoor tables overlooking the water only add to The Gulch’s coastal charm.
48 Waubs Esplanade, Bicheno; (03) 6375 2000
Dunalley Fish Market
There are seafood baskets and then there’s the Dunalley Fish Market seafood basket, starring golden Tasmanian fish and calamari. Factor in the modest prices and the scenic address and it’s no wonder fans make the one-hour trek from Hobart. Despite its cult status, this seaside shack isn’t for everyone – some may baulk at the lack of options (the basket contains only a selection of what’s in stock). Solo diners should bring either a friend or an appetite.
11 Fulham Road, Dunalley; (03) 6253 5428
While the name is worth the price of admission alone, this Darwin restaurant is about more than a snappy punchline. A locals-first policy ensures threadfin salmon, barramundi, Spanish mackerel and other wild-caught Northern Territory seafood enjoy star billing (varieties such as garfish and flathead make up the rest of the menu). The setting at Tipperary Waters Marina doesn’t hurt and a choice of edible Australiana – think crocodile and buffalo burgers – offers further tastes of the Top End.
10/90 Frances Bay Drive, Stuart Park; (08) 8981 2281
Image credit: Frying Nemo Darwin
Tobin Fish Tales
Fish catchers. Fish scientists. Polished cooks. When it comes to impeccably handled seafood, husband-and-wife duo Andy and Renae Tobin do it all. The takeaway menu at their Townsville business features plenty of seasonal fish, with the freshest stuff enjoying pride of place in the display fridge. Among the varieties you might find are Coral Sea swordfish, yellowfin tuna and coral trout, to either take away or be cooked to order.
2/1 Rose Street, North Ward; (07) 4772 4662
Mooloolaba Fish Market
Located at the end of Mooloolaba Spit, this market is the Sunshine Coast’s largest fish wholesaler, with seafood landing daily. Here’s your play: select your catch from the display (Mooloolaba king prawns are a specialty), ask staff to cook it, post on social media and gloat. While the industry wheels and deals at ground level, diners can enjoy views from the restaurant deck overlooking the river.
Lot 201, Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba; (07) 5452 4611
Hooked on Middleton Beach
Hooked by name, hooked by nature: this Albany restaurant (national winner at the 2018 Australian Fish and Chips Awards) champions local varieties. The menu includes cobbler, bronze whaler and King George whiting – depending on the day’s catch – and owners Shane, Janine and Hayley Vale treat every fish with care. The drinks list of Western Australian wine and beer reinforces Hooked’s reputation as a one-stop shop for all things Great Southern.
12/20 Adelaide Crescent, Middleton Beach; (08) 9842 2422
Peaceful Bay Fish & Chips
Caravan parks aren’t generally known for their dining options but this hamlet by the Southern Ocean, 100 kilometres west of Albany, is a notable exception. It helps, of course, that Peaceful Bay Caravan Park owners Ryan and Katrina Phillips catch all the fish used in the onsite fish-and-chip shop (their boats are moored at a nearby beach) and they serve sustainably caught species such as cod, snapper and nannygai.
10 East Avenue, Peaceful Bay; (08) 9840 8060