Whitsundays Food and Drink
No self-respecting island holiday would be complete without lashings of superb seafood, and the Whitsundays are no exception. Highly-credentialed executive chefs are easily lured to these islands, particularly to fine dining establishments on Hayman Island and Hamilton Island. The area attracts chefs at the top of their game, thanks to an abundance of quality restaurants, access to fresh tropical produce or their own island gardens.
Come sunset you'll probably be looking for something to celebrate the end of an invigorating day or as an appetiser for a delicious dinner, of the liquid kind. Here's out list of the best restaurants and bars in the Whitsundays.
Fish D'Vine & Rum Bar
They got mostly it right with the name though seafood d'vine would actually be more appropriate. Naturally, lashings of fresh seafood done a gazillion ways feature heavily on the menu but herbivores and true carnivores are in for a treat too. Try their take on San Francisco seafood chowder served with crusty bread or salt & pepper tempura crocodile with lemon myrtle and sumac spiced aioli. In the Rum Bar, take your pick of 450 rums. Don't like rum? We're pretty sure you'll walk away a convert. At worst, you'll enjoy a mojito that rates as world class.
Sorrento Restaurant & Bar
Another marina-front restaurant tapping into the Mediterranean vibe, Sorrento occupies an enviable northern location overlooking Pioneer Bay. With little between diners and the Coral Sea thanks to a large outdoor deck, Sorrento is casual and cool for breakfast and lunch. Come evening the place morphs into a toe-tapping cocktail bar and sophisticated waterfront restaurant.
Little Vegas Burger Bar
Continuing Airlie Beach's global food tour, Little Vegas Burger Bar pays homage to American street food. Think crispy fries, burgers bigger than Ben Hur or go full Americana with southern fried chicken and waffles with maple bacon syrup. Only in America right? Wash it all down with craft beers on tap like Blue Moon or Yenda pale ale. Not surprisingly, Little Vegas is open late and caters to the party set.
Montes Reef Resort
One of those little known secrets thanks to its out of town location at the northern tip of Cape Gloucester, you'll need a car and a road map to find Montes. Trust us, it's worth the short road trip for the location alone. Lunch is not bad either. Order fish and chips with a cold Corona on the side, slip off your sandals and slide your toes into cool beach sand. Sigh.
Fat Frog Beach Cafe
For a breakfast of champions head away from the main downtown strip to Fat Frog Beach Cafe opposite Cannonvale Beach. Homemade and healthy, this is a good place for guilt-free wholesome food that will get your day started on an even keel. Kids, dogs, families, hipsters and geeks alike keep Fat Frog humming for breakfast or lunch. The coffee is very good.
Clipper Restaurant & Bar
If there is any such thing as a signature restaurant in Airlie Beach, multi-award winning Clippers should probably take a bow. Their six course degustation dinner is perfect for special occasions but the a la carte menu is equally special. Feeling the love? Book well in advance for a private oceanfront candlelit table in the gazebo.
One&Only Hayman Island
Exclusive to in-house guests, absolute beachfront Pacific Restaurant lays out arguably the finest breakfast spread north of Melbourne. To call it a buffet is to grossly undersell what amounts to a morning feast of the finest quality. Veuve Clicquot with espresso? Sure why not. Linger over breakfast then skip lunch in favour of private dining Under the Stars. Romance your loved one in an intimate setting beachside or amongst lush gardens as dusk turns to dark.
Bommie at Hamilton Island Yacht Club
With the opening of Hamilton Island Yacht Club on 2009, Bommie Restaurant added an element of sophistication to the islands' dining scene. The location takes spectacular advantage of its position perilously clinging to the sand overhanging Dent Passage. Opt for Chef Josep Espuga's 5 course tasting menu for tantalising temptations to satiate discerning palates.
One Tree Hill, Hamilton Island
On top of the hill looking north and west over ocean and islands, One Tree Hill has always been popular for impromptu sunset drinks. Now there is a casual bar doing a roaring trade with a $10 daily cocktail special. Share plates of antipasto, cheese or seafood make One Tree Hill an alluring pre-dinner appetiser.
A bar come restaurant on Airlie's waterfront strip, Breeze Bar does many things right. Like a wide variety of cocktail selections and creative food done well. Wine drinkers might be best to go elsewhere (see Denman's below). But if you're looking for a drink accompanied by a decent meal in a great spot for people watching Breeze won't disappoint.
Denman Cellars Beer Cafe
Dockside at Port of Airlie Marina, Denman Cellars Beer Cafe is the sort of place you call into for a late afternoon beer and end up staying all night. Beer, wine and cider from across the globe will quench parched throats after a day on the water but the food menu is what will likely entice you to settle in for the evening. Made for sharing kangaroo kebabs, duck pancakes and chilli salt calamari should keep hunger pangs at bay.
Whitsundays Sailing Club
Not just for salt-caked, wind-blown yachties, Whitusnday Sailing Club is one of the best spots in Airlie to quench your thirst. For starters, they've got a prime waterfront position. WSC is a local's hangout but is equally welcoming to visitors. It's just the sort of place where it's natural to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Drop in during Race Week (August) when things get very lively!
Dockside at Port of Airlie Marina, convivial Walters Lounge is an intimate atmospheric bar with a focus on inventive cocktails and boutique wines with heavy Italian and French influences. Expect a liberal dash of quirkiness with spirits that get your tastebuds dancing and cocktails to make your heart sing.
Bommie Deck at Hamilton Island Yacht Club
A tad more sophisticated than Airlie's yacht club offering, Bommie Deck at Hamilton Island Yacht Club makes the list on location alone. Styled along classic yacht lines, the deck cantilevers over Dent Passage. It's probably the only outdoor bar in Australia that comes with a fairly high chance of spotting a turtle (or humpback whale during migration season).
Sunset drinks on the deck of a yacht
There are few more rewarding places to savour a gin and tonic, a glass of bubbles or an ice cold beer than from the deck of a yacht gently bobbing on her anchor. The breeze dies down turning the sea into a glassy slick that reflects a scarlet sky. Mountainous islands meld into dark shadows broken by the occasional light. The first stars appear, twinkling overhead and on the water. Dusk on a yacht creates magical moments that will linger with you long after the holiday tan has faded.
Sunset drinks on a beach
If you can't get yourself on a yacht for sunset drinks, pack a picnic with wine, cheese and oversized beach towels and head down to your nearest beach. So long as the south east trades predictably cease at dusk, sunset drinks on a tropical beach are equally as magical as the yacht kind.