Seans Kitchen, North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia © Meaghan Coles
Where to find Australia’s best seafood
From freshly caught prawns to barbecued barramundi, there’s a world-class seafood feast to discover wherever you venture Down Under.
By Natascha Mirosch
Nature has provided Australia with a veritable seafood smorgasbord, from the reef fish of the tropical north to the spiny lobsters of the west coast. Whether you prefer your seafood precision-plated in a premium restaurant or boxed up for a beachside picnic, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy your catch of the day.
Barramundi near Darwin
Believed to derive from the Central Queensland Gangulu language term for “burramundi,” (meaning “large scale river fish”) barramundi are found in the northern waters of Australia (both salt and fresh).
Try the mild-tasting fish in a variety of ways to suit your mood; battered, grilled or with steamed bao buns at Darwin’s Snapper Rocks. Feeling fusion? Enjoy your barramundi flavoured with delicious Asian spices at Jimmy Shu’s Hanuman. Prepare for the Northern Territory capital city’s sunset show with a takeaway feast from Frying Nemo, or dine-in with a seafood dinner at the Darwin Sailing Club or Ski Club at Fannie Bay.
Fish near Sydney
The rich waters around Sydney are home to dozens of species of delicious fish; from snapper to yellowtail kingfish, bream to mulloway (also known as jewfish). Try tempura-battered local whiting fillets at Doyles at the Sydney Fish Market in Glebe, or experience the mouth-to-tail sustainability philosophy at Paddington’s Saint Peter, with pressed coral trout head or hapuka tripe with smoked onions.
Looking for something on the road less travelled? Take the scenic drive three hours south of Sydney to Mollymook and check out TV chef Rick Stein’s acclaimed fish-focused restaurant, Bannisters, for a premium seafood lunch. Or closer to the city, take your family on the stunning ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly for takeaway fish and chips from Fishmongers Manly to enjoy on the world-famous Manly beach.
Scallops near Hobart
Scooped from the sandy bottom of the island’s famously pristine waters, Tasmanian scallops are sweet and plump, with the season usually running from March or April to July.
For casual dining in Hobart, you’ll find them at waterfront eateries like Fish Frenzy on Elizabeth Street Pier, where they’re cooked in a crisp crumb, or try them in pastry at Smith’s Speciality Pies, as you wander Hobart’s Salamanca Market on a Saturday.
You’ll also find scallops on the menu of many of Tasmania’s top restaurants, such as Launceston’s Stillwater, and at local favourites like Richmond Bakery, in the quaint historic town of Richmond, north-east of Hobart. The coastal town of Bridport in the state’s north-east even hosts an annual scallop fiesta. A place for every scallop and every scallop in its place; the Hobart scallop offering has something for all seafood penchants and moods.
Abalone near Hobart
Small but mighty, Tasmania is one of the biggest abalone producers in the world. Hand-harvested from the deep cold waters around the island state, these large and tasty sea snails are a prized delicacy, their meaty flesh redolent of the sea. Try it at restaurants like Hobart’s Fico, where tasting menus showcase the best of fresh local produce. If Asian spice and flavour is more your palette, in the city’s south, contemporary Chinese restaurant Me Wah serves it slow-braised with shiitake mushrooms and steamed vegetables, or simply steamed with ginger and garlic.
For a unique experience with a ‘call of the wild’ factor, try it freshly plucked from the sea before your very eyes on a boat tour that includes “deep to dish” tastings of freshly harvested abalone. You can also visit an abalone producer to see how they’re grown and processed, as well as pick up some dried wild-caught abalone to take home.
Marron near Margaret River
Not to be confused with a lobster, the cooked flesh of a marron, endemic to south-western Western Australia, is tight and firm, sliced rather than pulled off in chunks. And unlike lobster, marron is found in freshwater. Discover how they’re grown on a tour at True Blue Marron in Jalbarragup, three hours south of Perth, or taste them split and grilled at Rockpool Bar & Grill without leaving the city. In wine country, marron will often be found on the menus of winery restaurants like Leeuwin Estate or Voyager Estate in Margaret River, perfect when paired with a glass of Western Australian chardonnay. An absolute must for the wine-afficionado sea-foodies.
Lobster near Perth
Also known as the ‘spiny lobster’, the Western Australian rock lobster fishery was the first in the world to be certified as ecologically sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. These highly prized lobsters are available all year round and are caught using baited pots.
Help pull them in and have a well-earned lobster lunch with the catch on board a tour boat, buy your own to cook at home, or have it cooked for you at Brolos, right where the trawlers moor at Fishermen’s Wharf in Geraldton (approximately four hours’ drive north of Perth). At Lobster Shack in Cervantes (two hours north of Perth), you can have it barbecued with garlic, as a classic mornay or a lobster roll. Alternatively, indulge in a whole one at the renowned Japanese restaurant Nobu, in Perth, to discover a new lobster flavour palette. North of Geraldton, Kalbarri also hosts an annual lobster festival that is not to be missed.
Spanner crab in Noosa
With a bright red, frog-shaped carapace and spanner-like claws, it won’t win any beauty contests, but the spanner crab is justifiably celebrated for its delicious sweet meat. Often a bycatch of the prawn industry, it’s a quintessential Queensland favourite – the spanner crab spaghetti at Ricky’s River Bar and Restaurant at Noosa Heads, on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane, has been a menu fixture for more than a decade. At another Noosa institution, Sails, you can literally dig your feet into the sand and your fork into a plate of spanner crab linguine for the ultimate sensory connection to Australia’s natural surrounds. Board Noosa Boathouse on Noosa River for a different view but equally delicious food. Chef Shane Bailey serves spanner crab in a myriad of ways; with summery accompaniments of green mango, coconut, chilli, lime and ginger.
Prawns on the Sunshine coast
Home to the biggest prawn fishing fleet on the east coast, Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is the perfect place to enjoy wild-caught prawns. Local favourites include the black-striped tiger and the eastern king (or Mooloolaba) prawn. Try them Greek-style with a prawn saganaki (dishes prepared in a small frying pan) at Spero at The Wharf Mooloolaba, old-school and cooked in garlic at Pier 33, also in Mooloolaba, or with tom yum spices, prawn butter and fresh coconut in the lush tropical pavilions at Spirit House in Yandina.
For one of Queensland’s most iconic and wallet-friendly dining experiences, order a bucket of prawns and a cold beer at Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club – the beach views (and lifelong memories) are free.
Moreton Bay bug near the Gold Coast
Neither an insect, nor found solely in Queensland’s Moreton Bay, this delicious shellfish inhabits subtropical waters of Australia from northern New South Wales to Shark Bay in Western Australia. Flat and lobster-like, all of its flesh is in its iconic fan-shaped tail.
“Bugs” are usually cooked and split for easy access and can be eaten hot or cold. At Omeros Bros at Main Beach on the Gold Coast, they come four ways: barbecued, crumbed, and poached in either mornay or a light curry sauce. The simple bug roll with a smear of sriracha at Burleigh Heads’ beachfront restaurant Rick Shores, meanwhile, has achieved cult-status. At the Japanese Kiyomi at The Star Gold Coast casino, bug tails come in a light tempura batter, elegantly partnered with a grapefruit salad and punchy sambal aioli.
Mud crab near Cairns
Found in estuaries and coastal mangrove areas, the mud crab is highly prized for its size, including hefty weightlifter claws. The sweet flesh can be picked straight from the shell after cooking, but it pairs well with many other flavours. Try it cooked spicy Singaporean style at the Raw Prawn in Cairns or in an Asian omelette with a side of postcard Coral Sea views at Nu Nu in nearby Palm Cove. Get out on the water and have a crab lunch with a Catcha Crab cruise or even learn how to spear (and cook) it the traditional way with Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours. A must-try for flavour-chasers and adventure-seekers alike.
Oysters near Adelaide
Some of Australia’s best oysters are cultured in the waters of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, west of Adelaide. Pacific oysters have a sweet, briny flavour and vary from light to creamy in texture, depending on the time of year.
Want to play with your food? Take a tour of the world-famous Coffin Bay to learn how the bivalves are grown and harvested, or stay in the city and buy some shucked-to-order from seafood providores Samtass Bros at Adelaide Central Market, family-run Metro Oyster Bar or pair an au natural half dozen with a crisp Clare Valley riesling at Sean’s Kitchen for a touch of luxe.