For us, Airlie Beach is more than just a gateway to the reef, it is also a gateway to gorging on fantastic food. With sublime restaurants and upmarket cafes serving everything from the freshest seafood to incredible organic superfoods, Raffles and I suggest factoring in eating, right alongside snorkelling and swimming, when planning your Airlie Beach holiday itinerary.
Here are seven of the best Airlie Beach restaurants and cafes for families;
1. Treehouse Airlie Beach is a casual airy eatery tucked away off the main street of Airlie Beach. It’s also the spot for what has to be one of the best seafood platters in town. Stacked high with hot and cold seafood delights including prawns and moreton bay bugs, smoked salmon and oysters, the tower of awesomeness was a big hit with Raffles and I. And their kids’ menu, delightfully designed by actual kids, got the Sugarpuff seal of approval.
2. With an all day breakfast menu and creative café delights, we always make time for a visit to the Fat Frog Café, just opposite Cannonvale Beach. Famous for the big and bold all day breakfasts, I find it impossible to go past the mint and pea fritters with poached eggs, labne and grilled haloumi, Raffles is a fan of their whopping Eggs Benedict, and Sugarpuff is hopelessly devoted to eating their fat pancake stack topped with ice cream and a Freddo Frog whilst dressed as dramatically as possible from the collection of costumes in the kids corner.
3. Another Eats World brekky hotspot is the super cool Bohemian Raw Bar at Abell Point Marina. While the kids are mostly about the cafe’s hammock chairs and beanbags, I cant get enough of the menu of nourishing wraps, salads and epic superfood smoothies, not least because I can gorge guilt free.
4. Fish D’vine & the Rum Bar is an old favourite if the Eats World’s. You certainly can’t miss the huge rum wall featuring more than 450 rums which we obviously give a wide berth when we’re dining with the kids. But there’s plenty on the food menu to keep us all happy. Sugarpuff loves their beer battered fresh local fish and chips while Raffles and I go bonkers over their sublime mud crab, tossed in a spicy thai curry sauce and served with steamed jasmine rice.
5. La Tabella, located in Beach Plaza on the Esplanade, offers ambience, great service and damned good Italian. The pastas are as good as we’ve eaten but it is the tender veal scaloppini, crispy skin Salmon with house made gnocchi and epic pizzas that really win us over. The Seafood pizza is piled with fresh prawns and reef fish and the Ortolane, topped with onion, pumpkin, mushroom, roasted capsicum, spinach and artichoke are both wolfed down by the clan.
6. Tides Restaurant & Bar at Peppers is a chic special occasion restaurant we love. Luckily, we consider being hungry a special occasion and generally pop in for a meal whenever we visit Airlie Beach. Overlooking the Coral Sea, the family friednly restaurant serves up the best local produce and fresh QLD seafood. I recommend starting with Four Tastes of the Sea, a platter including a prawn cocktail, grilled half shell scallop with champagne mornay, fresh Queensland oysters and Tempura soft-shell crab. Raffles salivates over a Moreton Bay bug margarita tostada and Sugarpuff is giddy for a Mango Mess, a big glass of vanilla bean ice-cream, mango, passionfruit and crushed meringues.
7. At the top end of town, we can’t go past the new Hemmingway’s at Abell Marina. Inspired by the great author himself, this place is all about elegant white cane furniture, cool cocktails, airy sea views and impeccable Modern Australian fusion food. I could have eaten two dozen of the pink champagne and lychee oysters and the incredible cured King Salmon and reef fish with clams were also standouts. As were the impressive desserts, especially the pastry cigar, complete with edible ash, which is a thing of creative culinary beauty. Raffles also gives two thumbs up to the creative bartender who whipped him up a raspberry mocktail with white chocolate foam, and earned his undying devotion.