Great Barrier Reef Restaurants
Tel: 61 74 946 8580
Husband-and-wife chef team Danny Chapman and Lisa Mackay took over The Beach House kitchen in July 2006, fresh from Melbourne's sophisticated dining scene. Ever since, they've been getting raves for their beachy, light cuisine; the flash-fried whole baby barramundi on rice noodles with an Asian herb salad is fast becoming the restaurant's signature dish. An extensive wine list includes top Australian labels in all price brackets, plus acclaimed special-occasion vintages—all housed in an impressive climate-controlled cellar. The resort at Hamilton Island is an easy day trip from Airlie Beach on the mainland, but since the ferries only run until 6 p.m., lunch is the better choice if you're just stopping by.
Port Douglas Marina
Tel: 61 74 098 5279
Some of the Barrier Reef's best, albeit priciest, cuisine can be consumed afloat. On the luxury 56-foot yacht Enterprise, which can be day-chartered for up to ten people, you can lounge on deck-top leather couches and feast on freshly shucked oysters with Atlantic salmon caviar, coral trout ceviche, or Moreton Bay bugs (like small lobsters) with green mango salad—and those are just the appetizers. Entrées might include pan-fried barramundi, barbecued loin of lamb, whole marinated spatchcock with mint yogurt dressing, or a mixed seafood platter. The food is prepared by Port Douglas Catering, cooked by the Enterprise's onboard chef, and served by meticulously attentive hostesses as you cruise around and enjoy the tropical scenery. Every menu is tailored to guests' tastes and matched with top regional wines.
Angsana Spa Resort
Tel: 61 74 055 3000
Angsana Spa Resort's signature restaurant dishes up wonderful Asian-inspired seafood; our favorite choice is the macadamia-crusted soft shell crab with banana blossom, pomelo, and water chestnuts. If you're all fished out, there are also meat dishes, like the consummately local smoked trio of crocodile, kangaroo, and emu with wattle-seed damper (an Australian bush bread) and mango-mint salsa. The wine list is extensive, and the setting romantic: Candlelit tables sit just feet from the shore, flanked by flaming torches and coconut palms.
Tel: 61 74 940 1234
With its opulent Louis XVI furnishings, Waterford crystal chandelier, original artwork, and cascading limestone fountain, La Fontaine is the culinary showpiece of Hayman Island's resort, an easy day-trip destination from the coastal town of Airlie Beach. The restaurant is open just two or three nights a week, and serves both à la carte and degustation dinners (reserve a table several days in advance). Chef Andrew Morrow's decadent mod-Euro cuisine combines classic French culinary techniques with premium local ingredients. Start with parfait of duck liver, Crystal Bay prawns with celeriac and saffron horseradish foam, or Iberica ham with fresh figs. Move on to Black Angus fillet with truffle gnocchi, or pan-seared fillet of ocean trout, and finish up with a dessert of perfect tarte tatin. While diners tuck in, a pianist plays and attentive white-clad waiters keep everyone's glass full. Uncork a special bottle: Hayman has 750 fine vintages to choose from.
Tel: 61 74 940 1234
Surrounded by Asian art and artifacts (including a beatific Buddha statue and 18th-century screens), diners here enjoy high-end fusion cuisine and views over Japanese gardens. The eclectic menu includes dishes from China, Malaysia, Thailand, and Japan: wok-fried tiger prawns, mud crab or Australian rock lobster with chiles, ginger, and shallots; delicately roasted duck in plum sauce with Asian greens; and barramundi with aromatic spices. The discreet waitstaff blends into the Zen environs—except when you need something.
Dinner only; call ahead for reservations.
Thala Beach Lodge
Private Beach Road, Oak Beach
Tel: 61 74 098 5700
Osprey's is used to discerning diners: Celebrities and power brokers, including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, are among Thala Beach Lodge's well-heeled guests. A suitably elevated circular dining space looks out over the rain forest canopy to the Coral Sea; diners can feast on the spectacular views along with dishes like green curry of crocodile and prawns, free-range chicken with a macadamia crust and red-pepper coulis, and wild barramundi in Asian spices. You might as well go all out and get the lime mousse with raspberry compote for dessert—and one of the Australian boutique winery vintages, too.
Hamilton Island Resort
Tel: 61 74 946 8019
This place is serious about its meat—so serious that the chefs have grade-A beef flown in twice-weekly from around Australia. Your choice of sirloin, T-bone, rib filet, or rump roast arrives sizzling, with one of four classic sauces and a baked potato stuffed with sour cream and bacon. Big eaters who hate to choose between cuts should opt for the Steakhouse's signature dish: a macho-sized mixed grill. There's also schnitzel, salmon steak, sausages, lamb, and ribs. Needless to say, vegetarians should head elsewhere.