Fish for dinner….anyone?

North of Cooktown at remote Connies Beach, a strip of silky white sand fringed by pandanus and coconut palms arcs around Cape Flattery’s shimmering blue bay.

Attracting only a handful of adventurous 4WD campers at a time, this peaceful spot where big tuna get airborne and sea eagles soar, promises great fishing, whether you’re trolling for Spanish mackerel from a tinny or casting lures off the oyster-encrusted rocks for mangrove jacks and barramundi.

There are no facilities, no camping fees and no time limits, just long, lazy days to fill with fishing trips, beachcombing adventures and hikes up the headland for views of distant Lizard Island. Named by Captain James Cook, Cape Flattery is a source of rich mineral sands that rate as the world’s purest.

It was the ultimate faraway creation,….. spiced with a simple marinade, pan-fried over hot coals and teamed with a zesty lime and mango salad

It’s a perfect getaway destination for self-sufficient travellers keen to escape the crowds and enjoy some of the best fishing around, ending every day around the campfire, cooking up the day’s catch as the sun goes down.

This is where Dave wrangled a huge, 122cm-long Spanish mackerel, caught on a hardy hand line while trolling off the point one morning. Over the following days we ate it a dozen different ways: encrusted with Indian spices and pan-fried, marinaded in honey and soy and rolled into sushi, and poached in a simmering pan of tomatoes, feta cheese and olives.

But our favourite was a Thai-inspired creation that will forever be known as Cape Flattery Spanish Mackerel, infused with a simple marinade, pan-fried over hot coals and teamed with a zesty lime and mango salad.

It was the ultimate faraway creation, all thanks to that delicious catch of fresh fish, my micro garden of fresh rocket, kale, lettuce and coriander, and a sneaky tin of mango that worked a charm.


Connies Beach is found 120km north of Cooktown, Australia, on the northern side of Cape Flattery, via Battle Camp Road, Starcke Homestead and the Cape Flattery Silica Mine. It’s accessible only to 4WD vehicles at low tide, and because this is traditional land of the Guugu Yimithirr people, you’ll need to obtain permission to camp by phoning the Hope Vale Community Ranger (07 40609130).

No fees are charged, no facilities are provided and 4WD vehicles need to be well equipped and carry ample supplies, including drinking water and recovery gear (there is mobile phone coverage). The presence of estuarine crocodiles means no swimming.


Cape Flattery Spanish Mackerel Serves 4

  • 4 fillets Spanish mackerel (about 200g each)
  • juice of a lime (40ml/2 tbsp)
  • 3 tsp fish sauce
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried crushed (or sliced fresh) chillies
  • 2 tsp Gourmet Garden fresh Thai paste
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • salt & pepper
  • peanut oil for frying
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
  • fresh coriander sprigs to serve


Mango Salad

  • 2 firm, ripe mangoes (or 425g tin, well drained)
  • ½ small onion, thinly sliced
  • 227g tin water chestnuts, drained
  • 100g salad greens
  • 1/4 cup coriander sprigs


Lime Dressing

  • juice of a lime (40ml/2 tbsp)
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 tsp dried crushed chillies

For the fish marinade, squeeze the lime into a mixing bowl and add the fish sauce, sugar, chopped garlic, crushed (or fresh) chillies and Thai herb paste. Combine with a whisk or fork. Add the fish fillets, coat in the marinade and refrigerate for an hour.

For the lime dressing, place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Refrigerate until needed. Slice the mangoes, onion and water chestnuts, combine in a salad bowl and refrigerate.

When ready to eat, place a cup of flour in a shallow dish and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1-2 tbsp of peanut oil in a frying pan, coat the fish lightly in the seasoned flour and place straight into the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes a side (for thick fillets), less time for thinner ones.

Add the salad greens and coriander sprigs to the mango salad, pour over the dressing and toss well. Serve alongside the fish, topped with crushed roasted peanuts and extra coriander sprigs.

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