Story and photos by Carolyn Parker
Arriving at Lighthouse Beach Café recently, a gush of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ had just rippled through the cafe as diners caught sight of resident dolphins in full frolic mode. The cafe sits in a commanding position overlooking a stunning panorama of sand, sea, and surf at Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach. Here diners can enjoy nature’s antics and prime whale watching from their window seats.
The balcony section has been transformed to an enclosed dining space, where you’re protected from coastal elements and that makes it a safe haven for parties and weddings. Even though I visited on a stormy afternoon, the mesmerising vista of crashing waves was enjoyed without a hint of wind in my hair.
Despite its impressive location the prices are down to earth and there’s a relaxed vibe among the clientele.
The family-friendly menu has toasties, modern salads, tacos, and big burgers (named after local beaches), along with elegant seafood mains and desserts. The burgers’ popularity was evident with a constant stream being delivered to neighbouring tables. Korina Alexander (from the management team) told us, ‘Our first thirteen orders today were for Boulders Burgers’ – a mountainous structure starring a juicy scotch fillet steak.
The dramatic oceanfront location made the seafood selection irresistible. My Oysters Kilpatrick sported slices of smoky bacon and plump oysters bobbing in a generous well of intriguing sauce, worthy of picking up and devouring every last drop. Executive chef Scott Bennett has been continually perfecting his scrumptious sauces over his several years at Lighthouse Beach Café.
The Seafood Platter (for one) boasted a skewer of scallops which topped a silky sliver of beer-battered barramundi, and layered with long tendrils of tender salt-and-pepper squid, oysters natural, brilliant king prawns, and an abundance of chunky chips, garden salad, and chef’s special sauces.
A frosty blue margarita was a perfect companion to seafood. Thanks to Hpnotiq liqueur this delicate cocktail echoed the surf’s seafoam colours. Hpnotiq is a gracious blend of vodka, cognac and fruit juice discovered by the owners while on holidays.
Owners Karen and Peter Sinclair are true-blue Ballina locals. Both honed their hospitality skills during their careers in the wine industry and as former owners of The Pass Café. While Karen is busy running a thriving cafe, monitoring function preparations and schmoozing with clientele, she seems equally adept at spotting whales, as ‘there’s one’ peppers our conversation.
Lovers of nature, whale watching, and fabulous Aussie food – it’s time to book a table at Lighthouse Beach Cafe.
Open for breakfast and lunch seven days. Ph 6686 4380 / www.lighthousebeachcafe.com.au / 65 Lighthouse Parade, Ballina