Travel

11 Underwater Restaurants to Channel Your Inner Mermaid

Darling, it's better down where it's wetter, take it from me.

Hurawalhi Maldives
Hurawalhi Maldives
Hurawalhi Maldives

Coming off the heels (err, tails) of The Little Mermaid‘s global success, we have the sudden desire to experience what it’s like to live-or at least to dine-under the sea. Taking dining beyond al fresco, these meals are served underwater, whether inside a literal aquarium or the actual ocean.

From the Maldives to Dubai to the USA, you’ll find the abundance of the ocean on a platter, ranging from raw tartare to high end caviar to casual shrimp and grits. And while it may seem a bit morbid to nosh on the same creatures that swim around you (it’s called seafood, after all… you see the food and then you eat it), these 11 experiences are certified musts for anyone who enjoys dinner with a spectacular undersea view.

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

Ithaa Undersea Restuarant

Maldives

It only makes sense to lead with the world’s first underwater restaurant, located 16 feet below sea level. The ocean views from this Maldives beauty go beyond “panoramic” when you’re literally submerged in said view. All around you, the Indian Ocean teems with colorful coral gardens and an impressive variety of active marine life. Just know that the King-Triton-level dining room comes at the cost of a royal paycheck: Dinners start at just under $400 per person, which doesn’t, unfortunately, include a complimentary, gold-plated dinglehopper.

Under
Under
Under

Under

Lindesnes, Norway

Looking like a stunning shipwreck, the world’s largest underwater restaurant made a splash with its eye-catching architecture. Imagine a sleek shipping-container type of rectangle that’s tilted into the ocean and half sunken under the water. The best part is that the building will eventually take on a second role as an active artificial reef. Inside, a dramatic, floor-to-ceiling window lights the restaurants with a moody underwater glow and looks into the vast, somewhat ominous ocean at the country’s southernmost tip. Patrons are treated to a menu with locally foraged, seasonal ingredients, often including crab, limpets, and seaweed.

Aquarium Restaurant - Nashville
Aquarium Restaurant – Nashville
Aquarium Restaurant – Nashville

Aquarium Restaurant

Nashville, Tennessee

If you’re not looking to leave the States, head to Nashville for an underwater adventure at the appropriately-titled Aquarium Restaurant. Divers perform live feedings for the fish twice a day and the menu for humans is predominantly (and unsurprisingly) seafood, to hit the theme right on the nose. The venue also puts on mermaid shows every couple months, where fin-flipping divers perform and educate audiences on sustainability. Other locations can be found in Houston, Denver, and Kemah, Texas.

Hurawalhi Maldives
Hurawalhi Maldives
Hurawalhi Maldives

5.8 Undersea Restaurant

Maldives

The world’s largest *all-glass* undersea restaurant places just as much of an emphasis on the food as it does its atmosphere. There are only 10 tables submerged 19 feet (5.8 meters, hence the name) under the ocean’s surface to form an enclave of inspired dishes featuring-you guessed it-only the freshest of locally sourced seafood. The dishes showcase fish that often shines on a bed of candied seaweed and oceanic foam. Guests are encouraged to book a reservation during dinnertime so that you can see the light transform as the sun sets and all sea witch-indebted mermaids tragically lose their newfound legs.

Al Mahara Burj Al Arab
Al Mahara Burj Al Arab
Al Mahara Burj Al Arab

Al Mahara

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

In a city known for over-the-top experiences, where you can ski or scuba dive in a mall, it should come as no surprise that you can also enjoy a luxurious meal underwater in Dubai. Nestled below the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, arguably the region’s most iconic hotel, Head Chef Andrea Migliacco brings some Italian flair to the deep blue sea. The dining room here surrounds a massive tropical reef aquarium. While enjoying the nautical surroundings, dine on smoked eel or give anchovies another try. The award-winning restaurant experiments with frothy prosecco sauces and iced caviar. It’s an ideal venue for a romantic evening, so long as you still have your voice.

Coral Reef Restaurant

Orlando, Florida

You might see a rodent swimming in the waters surrounding Disney World’s sought-after Coral Reef Restaurant, but fear not: that’s just Mickey Mouse floating around in scuba gear. Dine on American comfort food like shrimp and grits or New England clam chowder, all while surrounded by windows looking into an aquarium. The numbers here impress as only Disney can: Over 2,000 creatures swim in a 54 Olympic-sized swimming pool tank, replete with sharks, rays, and the occasional sea turtle. But it’s the company’s commitment to preserving coral reefs that really takes the cake; Disney has hired a team of scientists and conservationists at their Florida location to study and protect endangered marine species.

Cargo Hold
Cargo Hold
Cargo Hold

Cargo Hold

Durban, South Africa

Breaking tradition from typical restaurants in aquariums, Cargo Hold is situated in the helm of a shipwreck replica called Phantom Ship. As its name implies, many legends of ghosts and hauntings surround Phantom Ship. The ship structure is part of Ushaka Marine World, the largest aquarium in Africa, and one wall of the restaurant looks into a shark tank. Guests unhinge their jaws while searching for Jaws after a long day perusing the aquatic museum and its many treasures. Grilling is a specialty here, and don’t shy away from chilies, as seen in the Mozambique Chili Prawn. Pro tip: Be sure to inquire about package deals so you can save money on bundled tickets.

NEMO Restaurant & Lounge
NEMO Restaurant & Lounge
NEMO Restaurant & Lounge

Nemo Restaurant and Lounge

Antalya, Turkey

If you’re hoping to find Nemo, he’s likely residing in this glitzy and glamorous take on the underwater dining scene. Featuring an oversized bar, spiral staircase, plush fabrics, and glossed marble floors, the aquarium-paneled site looks like it’s been plucked from the Vegas strip and placed in Antalya, Turkey. If you’re feeling extra lucky, you may just have the opportunity to kiss the girl you brought (sans animal orchestra, unfortunately) over a meal of raw specialties like sushi, tartare, and ceviche.

Ossiano

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

At Michelin-rated Ossiano, each course is fittingly called a “wave,” and the progressive meal is full of creativity, so don’t be surprised if food is served in pointy sea urchin shells or wisps of smoke rise from your dish. The world-class fare is inspired by the underwater shapes and colors that encase it, and many of the dishes come from sea foraging. The restaurant offers an upscale respite from the Atlantis resort’s family-friendly waterpark and arcade experiences, so a coveted reservation is the perfect excuse to ditch the kids for the evening and enjoy some intimate Ariel and Prince Eric time.

Restaurante Submarino
Restaurante Submarino
Restaurante Submarino

Restaurante Submarino

Valencia, Spain

Translated as “submarine restaurant” in English, Restaurante Submarino is located in Valencia’s world-famous oceanarium, which is one of the largest aquariums in Europe. The restaurant offers Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine like paella, crispy suckling pig, monkfish carpaccio, and prawn aguachile. Aside from schools of metallic fish, the space boasts an impressive jellyfish-inspired light fixture that anchors elegant, modern decor. Ursula would give the space eight enthusiastic tentacles up.

Subsix

Maldives

The only way to reach Subsix is by speedboat. Upon arrival, you’ll descend into a capiz shell-lined lounge with statement chairs inspired by sea urchins. Go big with lobster tail or wagyu sirloin menu options. But what really attracts diners to the remote, underwater bistro is its ability to transform into a full-fledged nightclub with champagne breakfasts and an adults-only glow party that will have you swaying like the seaweed that surrounds you.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Joey Skladany is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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