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The Best Restaurants in Cairns To Taste The Tropics

Can’t decide where to dine? Pore over our guide to the best restaurants in Cairns to eat your way around the tropics on your next vacay.

A neutral toned dining area with hanging plants and green walls
The Chambers

Whilst Cairns isn’t the obvious first choice for a foodie getaway, unbeknownst to many, this tropical city is home to many a hidden gem. With abundant fresh seafood, relaxed vibes and native seasonal fare, Cairns is a smorgasboard of rich, flavoursome delights. You’ll find everything here from bush tucker-inspired banquets and fresh out-of-the-ocean seafood, to fine dining degustations and even the casual curry. Every taste and cuisine is well and truly catered for.  As you explore everything Tropical North Queensland has to offer, you’ll start to get a true sense of the food, freshness and lifestyle on offer.

So, to help inspire your next dinner date, we’ve tasted our way around the city to bring you the best restaurants in Cairns. Here’s your exhaustive guide to one heck of a food coma…

Best Restaurants In Cairns: Waterfront Dining

Calypso Club

A vibrant and tropical rum bar and seafood kitchen has landed at Crystalbrook Riley. Inspired by the romantic notion of lounging by the coast with a pina colada in hands, Calypso Club seeks to blend elegance with playfulness at this gorgeous destination on the Esplanade. Their unique cocktails are inspired by the Far North sugar cane history, made with fresh and seasonal tropical fruit along with local and international rums. The vibes at Calypso Club are always just right, with a curated music program to set the mood, so there's no better place to head when you're hunting down the best restaurants in Cairns. 

Ground Floor, Tower, 131-141 Esplanade, Cairns

Salt House

Located idyllically on the marina, Salt House boasts the best of Cairns local offerings. With a focus on fresh and seasonal produce, Salt House brings fine dining to tropical Queensland. Opt for locally caught tiger prawns or a steak fresh from the custom wood-fired grill. Fancy something a touch more casual? Head to the cocktail lounge that boasts luxurious day beds and some dang fine bar food. Think crispy battered wild Barramundi or fried hot chicken wings.

It’s the perfect place to unwind after spending a day out on the water, you can even dip your toes in the pools to help you settle your sea legs.

6/2 Pierpoint Road, Cairns

A hand is drizzling sauce over an ornate dish on a brown table
Ochre

Ochre

Fine dining fiends, this one’s for you. Utterly unique, Ochre thrusts distinctively Aussie ingredients into the limelight and transforms them into works of art. Championing stunning local ingredients like wild limes, Kakadu plums and warrigal greens, diners can look forward to the likes of wattle seed damper and salt and pepper leaf crocodile, followed by Davidson Plum mousse to finish on a sweet note.

One for the bucket list, Ochre is more of an experience than a mere feed. It’s also located by the Marlin Marina, making it one of the best restaurants in Cairns for a truly memorable dining experience. Don’t forget to grab a jar of pineapple chilli jam on the way out.

1 Marlin Parade, Cairns

Dundee’s on the Waterfront

A waterfront dining hotspot, watch the reef boats come and go whilst you indulge in some of Australia’s best local beef and seafood at Dundee’s on the Waterfront. If the name hasn’t reeled you in, then the extensive offerings will. Boasting an oyster bar, a hot rock experience (you can grill your own) and an entire bush tucker menu, one night might not be enough. Oh, and did we mention the house-baked bread?

If you want to book in for a second experience at one of the best restaurants Cairns has on offer, you can mix it up by trying their Cairns Aquarium location for a truly Instagrammable dining experience. You’ll be seated by enormous aquariums as tropical fish frolic by your dinner table. Just don’t let them see you enjoying a seafood dish!

1 Marlin Parade, Cairns

Several people at a small brown table laughing and sharing a seafood platter of prawns, oysters, sashimi and bugs.
Prawn Star (Photo credit: Tourism Events Queensland)

Prawn Star

Technically this one isn’t quite a restaurant, but this list would be seriously lacking without mentioning Prawn Star. Freshly caught seafood sold straight off the trawler? Yes, please. This unique dining experience and casual yet comfortable dining experience make Prawn Star one of the best restaurants in Cairns and a definite must-do for any new travellers to the region.

Prawn Star’s no-fuss fare comes with friendly service and reasonably priced beverages. Fresh oysters, tiger prawns and salmon sashimi abound on this ocean-to-table vessel. Opt for a jumbo platter shared between two and three people to taste the best of the Coral Sea.

Marlin Marina, E Finger, Berth 31, Cairns City

Three people at a table full of plates, all reaching for various foods.
Little Sister

Little Sister

Take a stroll along the Esplanade and enjoy the water lapping quietly as you pass by locals and visitors taking their evening walk, or heading to their dining destination. A short walk from the centre of Cairns is Little Sister, who dishes up peace, love and good times. With a chic, modern and moody interior, Little Sister offers elevated yet lowkey dining amongst the casual eateries along the Esplanade.

It’s the perfect spot to book if you’re chasing quality wines, incredible cocktails and melt-in-your-mouth Asian street food inspired eats. If you can’t decide which plates to order, let Little Sister take control of your dining experience with the Feed Me banquet menu, which caters easily to vegan and vegetarian diets.

We can’t stop dreaming about the crispy rice, green pawpaw, ginger and hot mint betel leaf or the Yuzu Cute gin and Aperol cocktail, perfectly blended with sugar syrup and yuzu liqueur. Don’t miss your chance to visit one of the best restaurants on the Cairns Esplanade the next time you’re in town.

101 Esplanade, Cairns City

Best Restaurants In Cairns: Cairns Central

Four plates on a table, featuring fresh seafood, bread, burrata and vegetables.
Flynn’s Italian

Flynn’s Italian

Bringing a touch of Italy to the tropics, Flynn’s Italian is part of the luxurious Crystalbrook family, so you know that a reservation to dine here is a safe bet. Paying homage to the legacy and local history of Italian immigrants and blended perfectly with the abundant fresh local produce, a meal at this Cairns restaurant will satiate any craving for comfort food that you might encounter on your trip.

Sitchu Tip: For a perfectly paired meal, opt for Flynn’s three or four-course set menu with paired wines. You’ll enjoy signature dishes like their antipasto burrantina with 24-month-aged Tomewin Farm prosciutto, or their indulgent handmade gnocchi veal ragout.

Crystalbrook Flynn, Level 1/85 Esplanade, Cairns City

A crowded dinner table, with a grilled fish dish in the foreground served with a glass of red wine.
CC’s Bar & Grill (Photo credit: Tourism and Events Queensland)

CC’s Bar & Grill

Another venue from the Crystalbrook Collection family, you’ll find CC’s Bar & Grill on the ground floor of the Crystalbrook Bailey Hotel in the heart of Cairns City. CC’s draws inspiration from the rugged Australian outback and we truly believe they do it justice with their stellar menu of modern Australian fare. But don’t just take our word for it - CC’s has plenty of awards under their belt to back up their claims of the best steak in Cairns. You can also opt to dine outdoors in their casual alfresco setting, which capitalises on the stunning tropical weather.

Sitchu Tip: Did you know that Crystalbrook sources all of their beef from their very own local cattle farm, just three hours inland from Cairns?

Crystalbrook Bailey, Ground Floor A/163 Abbott Street, Cairns City

A pint of beer and plate of sashimi at Wawawa Izakaya, with a graffitied wall in the background.
Wawawa Izakaya

Wawawa Izakaya

Fancy a low-key vibe and a mammoth bowl of katsu curry? Look no further, dear readers, because Wawawa Izakaya is the best in the biz. Smack bang in the centre of Cairns, it’s been said this Japanese-inspired eatery serves up the best miso in town. Offering up a super relaxed atmosphere, the menu boasts fresh ingredients along with a whole host of vegan options, including agedashi tofu and vegan deluxe sushi rolls stuffed with shiitake mushroom, bean curd, pickled radish, avocado and wakame.

92 Lake Street, Cairns

A curry style dish with a quail leg served in a black bowl with a glass of red wine.
Tamarind

Tamarind

With a ton of awards under its belt, this Asian fusion restaurant serves up all kinds of Eastern-inspired flavours. From the outside, Tamarind displays a subtle charm that allows it to fly under the radar, but don’t be fooled. This is easily one of the best restaurants in Cairns when it comes to hospitality and incredible food that blends techniques from a variety of cuisines.

Adapting to the seasons, look forward to a range of seasonal dishes, from paperbark smoked salmon fillet to Daintree whole baby Barramundi. Boasting an extensive wine list and an array of decadent, handcrafted dishes, Tamarind ticks every box.

35-41 Wharf Street, Cairns

A bright, whitewashed interior featuring plants and green stools.
The Chambers

The Chambers

Housed in a former 1920s bank shrouded in lush greenery, The Chambers scores top points for style and ambience. The décor alone will reel you in; rattan-backed chairs and sage accents set the scene, but the food will ensure you return again and again. One bite of their steak on toast, layered over truffle cream, balsamic onions and blackened greens and you’ll vow to never make your own breakfast again.

Promising fresh, uncomplicated and seasonal fare with a buzzing atmosphere, The Chambers never disappoints. Now, please excuse us whilst we indulge in an affogato, with The Chambers espresso poured over house-made Snickers ice cream.

21 Spence Street, Cairns

Best Restaurants In Cairns: Palm Cove

A green tiled bar stacked with fruit, and dining tables in the foreground
Nu Nu Restaurant

Nu Nu Restaurant

A short drive from Cairns, explore Palm Cove’s finest dining destination: Nu Nu. Nestled among the palms, the beachfront location sets the tone for relaxed and comfortable dining, as the kitchen dishes up modern Australian cuisine. The culinary connoisseurs at the helm are passionate about showcasing the fresh produce from the rainforest, the reef and outback cattle stations.

Shifting their menu to suit the seasons, you can expect dishes such as kimchi butter poached reef fish with squid ink noodles in a corn and seaweed broth, or sugar cane smoked duck with bbq radicchio, rhubarb and pickles. Nu Nu has a strong reputation as one of the best restaurants in Cairns, we think it’s time you visit to discover it for yourself!

1 Veivers Road, Palm Cove

Vivo Palm Cove Bar and Grill

One of Cairn’s longstanding favourites amongst locals and visitors alike, is Vivo Bar and Grill. This landmark restaurant and bar is housed in a tropical white bungalow, instantly setting the tone for relaxed coastal dining. When it comes to the menu, the kitchen certainly isn’t relaxed, as they’ve been crafting some of the region’s most popular dishes.

Fusing fresh, local seasonal ingredients with Asian and Mediterranean flavours, Vivo serves up dishes like their popular spanner crab linguine. Not to be missed for your entrée, is the Tuna Tartare, which was once ordered by a customer thrice in one day. Take a short trip to Palm Cove on your visit to Tropical North Queensland to tick one of the best restaurants in Cairns off your list.

49 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove

Best Restaurants In Cairns: North Cairns

Three hands clinking wine glasses together in a cheers, the glasses are all branded with 'Palooka'
Palooka

Palooka

The newest addition to the Cairns dining team from the team behind NOA, Guerilla and Mama Coco is a fresh faced new modern Australian restaurant named Palooka. Stop by for a brekkie board spread and a breakfast cocktail (from 10am), because when you’re in sunny Cairns… you’re on holiday mode! Lunch can be a spread of small plates, fresh seafood or meats, and the afternoons are perfect for for winding down during their Sunset Sessions.

7 Kamerunga Road, Stratford

A chicken dish with sauce being poured on top
Guerilla

Guerilla

Modern Mexican with traditional methods? That’s Guerilla! The punchy and flavourful menu at this Cairns restaurant is unforgettable, with flavours that leap off the plate and hold fast in your memory. When you’re booking in at Guerilla you’re in for a full dining experience, from your entrées, mains, desserts and indulgent cocktails, not a single step should be missed along the way. If you can’t decide what’s best, opt for a banquet and let the chef decide.

1/120 Collins Avenue, Edge Hill

Five plates of food on a brown wooden table, bearing arancini, gyoza and more.
NOA

NOA

Relaxed yet refined, NOA is operated by Samuel Byrd, a local with three popular Cairns venues to his name. NOA runs under the same simple philosophy that has served Samuel so well thus far: “fresh, bold and exciting flavours!”. Visit NOA for elevated breakfast favourites, hearty lunches or a fresh and fun share-plate-style dinner. No matter what time of day you visit, you’ll be sure to find something to suit any palate on the diverse and inclusive menu that offers options for vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diets. We recommend the signature banquet experience if you’re visiting with a group, it’s one of the best ways to enjoy the local produce, prepared and plated to perfection at one the best Cairns restaurants.

1 Pyne Street, Edge Hill

Dining your way around the best restaurants in Cairns is thirsty work, so quench your cravings by visiting some of the best bars around Cairns to sip sparkling champagnes and tropical cocktails. While you’re tasting the cocktail menu, fill any gaps in your holiday itinerary by browsing our guide to things to do in Cairns.

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