On 11 June, a set of seasoned athletes from around the world will compete in a gruelling test of endurance, racing from reef to rainforest, while most of us will likely be enjoying a blissful Sunday sleep-in. This lot definitely deserves a breakfast of champions, but whether you choose to start the day with your own swim, bike, and run, or not, everyone deserves a nourishing feed when it comes to meal time, right?
Following the course of the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Cairns, from the idyllic seaside locales of Palm Cove and Port Douglas to the Esplanade in the heart of Cairns, we’ve pulled together a carefully curated list of healthy nosh spots where you can feed your inner Ironman.
If you’re planning to visit any of these eating venues on race day, please note road closures will be in effect from Cairns to Port Douglas, so be sure to check this helpful link first.
Where: 1 Veivers Road, Palm Cove
This award-winning restaurant prides itself on delivering a unique experience depending on the time of day you choose to dine. Breakfast, brunch and lunch are casual affairs with dinner being a more sophisticated experience. And with celebrity chef Nick Holloway at the helm you know you’re in for a culinary indulgence. As the only absolute beach front restaurant in Palm Cove, perhaps grab a table early on race day. That way you can get in on the action, even if it is as a spectator while you feast on coconut and banana hotcakes. However, be sure to check the road closures prior to setting your heart on breaky here on race day.
Waterbar & Grill Steakhouse
Where: Pier Shopping Centre, Pier Point Road
For upping the iron in the Ironman, there’s Waterbar & Grill Steakhouse. Vegetarians best move on from this recommendation because it’s all about the cut of meat at this joint, but there is always the vegetable platter, and the mushroom salad is another tasty option. Think prime rib eye grilled to perfection, New York sirloin, rump, or T-bone served with sides of creamy garlic mash, chips, or perhaps steamed greens, for the more virtuous. Seafood options include prawn linguine, wild barramundi, or Atlantic salmon with crispy skin.
The Little Larder
Where: 40 Macrossan Street, Port Douglas
One of Port Douglas’ most popular breakfast, brunch, and lunch hangouts, you’re bound to find something here to satisfy your inner Ironman. Aside from the fresh, tropical fruit juices, kombucha, and the coconut smoothie bowl, there are plenty of options that’ll cater for your specific training needs. The Shakshuka is a baked dish of harissa-spiced tomato, red peppers, cannellini beans, Bangalow ham hock, and Persian feta, topped with a zaatar-dusted poached egg. Served with toasted sourdough – perfect for mopping up the remains – it’s a hearty brunch option, as are the pulled pork tacos. And for lunch, the gourmet sandwiches are fit for a triathlete. The Reuben comes with rye, wagyu corned beef, swiss cheese, dill pickles, and sauerkraut so you’ll be well and truly carb-loaded for a race run-through. Or, perhaps the Buddha Bowl or Brown Rice Raw Bowl, brimming with nutrients and plenty of healthy goodness, is more your bag.
Where: 11 Macrossan Street, Port Douglas
Relatively new to the Port Douglas foodie scene this is a welcomed addition. While freshly-made Asian-inspired salads are its staple offering, Lotus Leaf is much more than just a salad bar. Since opening, it has expanded its menu to include the likes of a paleo green smoothie bowl and dragonfruit bowl – highly Instagrammable – and it regularly offers specials, including a warming tom yum soup and vegan specials such as an Asian vegetable soup with spinach gyozas. And for those looking to pack a protein punch minus the carbs, you can order your dishes without the noodles. We also love the pork lettuce cups.
Where: 21 – 23 Warner Street, Port Douglas
Chowing down on a burger probably isn’t what you’d classify as clean eating but we once heard you should give in to cravings because it could be a sign you’re deficient in a nutrient – and we stick by that mantra because, well, we want to. So when Origin announced a hiatus from its burger-flipping ways, boy were we feeling that craving…bad. Now the burger menu is back why not work your way through the selection? The Whole Lotta Love – with its double patties, double bacon, and double cheese – takes commitment, but we know you can do it. And the coffees here are regarded by some as the best in Port (as the locals call it), with the kombucha a popular beverage among the yogis and health nuts.
Where: 177 Martyn St, Manunda, Cairns
Alright, this isn’t strictly on the Ironman race course but it’s only a 10-minute, mostly flat bike ride away – a far cry from the undulating course along the scenic Great Barrier Reef Drive – so we reckon you can deal. And the Breakfast Salad is something else. A balance of the three primary macronutrients, you’ve got carbs sorted with the sourdough, protein checked with the poached egg, and fat spoken for with the feta, pesto, and lashings of butter with the garlic herb mushrooms. And with the spinach, rocket and tomato taking care of the greens side of thing, you have a satisfying, wholesome feed that’ll keep you going for a good few hours of training.
Little Loco Café Kitchen
Where: Shop 1 53/57 Esplanade, Cairns
This café was born out of a desire to not only cater for those wanting to eat cleaner and healthier but to educate others that nourishing, wholesome food can taste delicious too. Judging by the bustling vibe of this inner-city health hub we’d say the owner has succeeded in this goal, especially with offerings like acai bowls and plenty of gluten-free and vegan treats, such as Cocowhip, a soft serve made from coconut water and probiotics – perfect for the climate of this tropical city.
Vivo Palm Cove
Where: 49 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove
Only a short sprint away is the ever-reliable stalwart of Palm Cove. Vivo has a reputation for plating up deliciously fresh meals made with local produce, and with the Coral Sea views and relaxed atmosphere, you could easily while away the hours here. We love the all-day breakfast option on the weekends. The selection extends beyond your run-of-the-mill eggs benny – although Vivo does a mighty fine job of the classics – to Asian-fusion dishes such as crab omelette with herb salad, crispy shallots, and nam jim dressing. The Big Breakfast, with Yamagishi eggs, bacon, spinach, minute steak, and hash brown, lives up to its name. Pair your meal with the All Hail the Kale juice for that extra vitamin kick.
Jack & Shanan’s
Where: Shop 4B/41 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove
With a dedicated health-filled corner, aka the Jooce Bar, this laid-back little café is a no-brainer for those set on treating their bodies like a temple. Whether you’re looking for breakfast bowls chock-full of chia seeds or packed with protein, Jack & Shanan’s is your go-to in Palm Cove. And with smoothies sporting names such as Mango Muscles, plus a selection of cold-pressed juices, and organic coffee, you know you’re on to a winner. Even the gelato is made from locally-produced bio-dynamic milk and all natural ingredients.