Bait to Plate

Kev Collins

Well known Restauranter and co-owner of Fish D'vine & The Rum Bar in Airlie Beach. When Kev's not working he's out fishing in the amazing food bowl of the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park or in his tinnie in the estuaries crabbing! His blog imparts wisdom, tales and info on all things fishing and food.

Whitsunday's Oyster Bar

As a general “rule of thumb” oysters are best from colder waters. With 3 types of oysters grown commercially in Australia the Sydney rock and Angasi or “Australian flat” oyster are native and the more well know and common now being a Japanese import called a Pacific Oyster, which are marketed heavily in Australia as a Coffin Bay Oyster, more to do with where they are grown and a marketing name. Coffin Bay Oysters are actually Pacific Oysters and grown in South Australia and Tasmania.

In warmer climate along the reef coast the rocks are often covered in masses of tiny oyster, commonly called milkies ,which will edible are just not worth the trouble, usually being no larger than a 5 cent piece and hard to open in any case. We do however, in a few spots, have one of the best of all oysters called the “black Lip” oyster. These grow to very large size and if you know where to look are relatively common in the Whitsundays. They grow in a relatively narrow area of the tide band, below the large clumps of little oysters and often in small groups and often on the under edges of the rocks. Best places to look are along rock ledges with good strong tidal current and fairly clean water and also on very low tides. The Black Lip beds often stay submerged unless it is on the lower of the tides around full and new moon.

Black Lips are a strongly flavoured oyster which never gets the milkiness of Pacific’s or Sydney Rocks and are great straight off the rocks or made into Kilpatrick or mornay and make an amazing steak sauce.

One of my favourite overnight anchorages has a rock bar we just know as the oyster bar and to a degree it is so far up an inlet that you need to be stuck in there at low tide and wait till the tide comes back in to get out. This keeps it pretty well protected. A few locals who read this blog might know the spot, others will just have to guess, but anyone coming on a Whitsunday boating holiday should pack an oyster knife and a good pair of sturdy reef walking shoes……and a can of bushman’s insect spray.