Tropical gateway or emerging gourmet hotspot? From reef-fish ceviche to – yes – lit cocktails, there's plenty to tempt the tastebuds.
For breakfast: Caffiend
With Wishbone-style chairs and edgy artwork, Caffiend is a cool, contemporary place to start your day. Sip on smooth, locally roasted coffee and nosh on satisfying fare such as miso-infused scrambled eggs and pumpkin and goat’s cheese served on sourdough.
72 Grafton Street, Cairns
For all-day dining: Noa
Located in the cool Edge Hill neighbourhood, this casual-chic eatery has been a local favourite since it opened in 2014. The menu includes a rollcall of Mediterranean and Asian flavours (lime-cured reef-fish ceviche, Korean steamed buns and bruschetta with jamón serrano). Expect warm, personable service and a buzzy vibe, day or night. It’s wise to book – and ask for a table on the outdoor deck.
1 Pyne Street, Edge Hill
For lunch: Ochre Restaurant
A Cairns institution, Ochre “is all about the use of native and local produce”, says owner and chef Craig Squire. Here, you’ll find dishes such as chargrilled kangaroo sirloin, and salt and native pepper-leaf crocodile and prawns, with ingredients like lemon myrtle, wattleseed and pepperberry scattered throughout. The waterfront location, overlooking Trinity Inlet, is perfect for a long, lazy lunch.
6/1 Marlin Parade, Cairns
For Japanese: Ganbaranba
The queue of diners outside this hole-in-the-wall is a clear indicator of the quality of noodles and broth. There are three types of ramen to choose from: tonkotsu (pork bone broth), torigara (chicken broth) and the “house special”, a blend of torigara and gyokai (fish bone broth). Pick any – all are excellent.
8/14 Spence Street, Cairns; (07) 4031 2522
For beer: Hemingway’s Brewery
This brewpub is relatively new to Cairns but the brand is familiar to locals: the first Hemingway’s instalment is just up the coast in Port Douglas. The heritage-listed building features a 19-metre-long bar and an expansive deck. Tuck into a jaw-busting Double Hero Burger or harissa chicken with watermelon and mint salad.
4 Wharf Street, Cairns
For views: Rocco
On the 12th floor of the newly opened Riley hotel, Rocco is the city’s highest rooftop bar and restaurant – and the panorama
of Trinity Bay is sensational. The food has a Mediterranean focus, while the drinks list showcases
an assortment of champagne
and fizz – just the thing to toast those views and your holiday.
131-141 Esplanade, Cairns
For fresh produce: Rusty’s Markets
Operating since 1975, this three-day-a-week market is the place to pick up local produce, from dragon fruit and durians to avocados and pineapples. Fruit and veg dominate but you’ll find artisan breads, flaky pastries, cheeses, eggs, locally caught seafood and food trucks too.
57-89 Grafton Street, Cairns
For cocktails: Three Wolves
One of the first small bars to open in Cairns, this laneway haunt has serious whisky leanings, with more than 200 styles on pour. Plenty of other spirits, beers, wines and innovative cocktails are in the mix. If you like theatrics, order Smoke on the Water – flames are involved.
32 Abbott Street, Cairns
For light bites: Fusion Art Bar & Tapas
There are exposed brick walls and Edison lights at this art gallery/tapas bar hybrid but it’s no carbon copy of urban hipster styling. Instead, a quirky tropical aesthetic sets it apart. Snack on yucca and cheese croquettes, anchovies on croutons and grilled prawns with chermoula. The larger plates are ideal for sharing.
12 Spence Street, Cairns
For fine dining: Tamarind
With low lighting, plush armchairs and white tablecloths, this is arguably Cairns’ most upmarket offering. Service is slick and the South-East Asian fusion dishes include highlights such as whole crisp baby barramundi and organic Tablelands pork. The signature Penang duck curry is a must.
35-41 Wharf Street, Cairns