Let the kids swim amok, then tuck into the top vegetarian food at Garden 2 Plate. Photo: Lisa Haymes
"Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
The chants from the backseat can test the goodwill of any family outing but these five short day trips all have one bribe in common: food is the end point.
For committed foodies, no day trip from Sydney would be complete without a culinary adventure or two. And wowing your taste buds doesn't have to take a back seat when you have children in tow during the school holidays, especially if there are additional activities that will entice them along for the ride.
There are many options within a few hours' drive of Sydney that will keep both parents and children happy.
Forget chicken nuggets and fast-food chains and veer towards places that will help to inspire your children to think about good food and where it comes from.
Apart from ticking the right dietary boxes, the trick is to find places where your children can gambol about safely while you sit and enjoy the scenery. And the best bit about engineering a driving holiday close to Sydney is that you can pull the plug if it all goes wrong.
Here are five ideas for day trips for foodie families where you won't need to pack your lunch.
GARDEN 2 PLATE RESTAURANT AT HARDY'S BAY, KILLCARE
Hardy's Bay, located on the pretty Bouddi Peninsula, is about as far from traffic-snarled Sydney as it gets. Hire a boat or canoe and let the kids get their wiggles out before converging on the foreshore with a mostly local crowd for G2P's woodfired pizza night every Friday. You don't have to be a family of herbivores to appreciate the fresh, flavourful food at this rustic vegan and vegetarian restaurant, where most of the ingredients featured on the menu are grown at nearby Green Gate Farm. Throw out a picnic rug, order a margherita pizza ($20) and enjoy the soundtrack of lapping water as pink clouds scud across the sky. Hardy's Bay is 93 kilometres from Sydney by car or a 20-minute ferry ride from Palm Beach.
Garden 2 Plate, 58 Araluen Drive, Hardy's Bay, Killcare, (02) 4360 2364, g2p.com.au. Open Wed-Sat 8am-3pm, Sun 9am-3pm, Fri 5-9pm.
HARTS GOURMET PRODUCE MARKET AT THIRROUL
This spot adheres to the retro-meets-rustic theme of the Hart family's two cafes – The Jack of Harts and Jude, in Engadine, and Left Bower in Sutherland.
Created by sisters Jess and Kate Hart, the new market, held on the third Sunday of every month, is tucked away behind the Old Post Office in Thirroul.
Treat your foodies-in-the-making to crepes with honey, roasted almonds and orange zest ($6.50), with a deliciously tart glass of home-made lemonade ($4), and then forage, as a family, from stalls selling everything from Irish soda bread and artisan cheeses to home-made condiments, sustainable wines, local honey, organic fruit and vegetables and 100 per cent full-blood Wagyu. Thirroul is about 56 kilometres south-south-west of Sydney.
Hart's Gourmet Produce Market, The Old Post Office, 258 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Thirroul, 9548 6229. The next market is held on April 21, 8am-2pm.
RESTAURANT TOMAH AT MOUNT TOMAH BOTANIC GARDEN
There's so much to see and do at the 252-hectare Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens that it's worth formulating a plan of attack before you visit. Pick up an adventure quest map from visitor information and help your children uncover the clues about native animals and plants and learn more about the environment. After walking up an appetite, regroup at Restaurant Tomah to admire a vista that takes in Wollemi National Park, ancestral home of the Wollemi Pine, and the Blue Mountains, which are perennially bathed in a lilac hue. On the children's menu, battered fish with fries and garden salad ($14.50) is a good bet, while adults should opt for a lovely light antipasto entree to share ($24.50). Time your visit to coincide with the TomahROMA Food and Wine Fair and Tree Tales children's show, which will be onsite on April 27 from 9am-4pm.
Mount Tomah Botanic Garden is 105 kilometres west of Sydney. Bells Line of Road, via Bilpin, Mount Tomah, (02) 4567 2060. Open 9am-5.30pm daily.
DANGAR ISLAND CAFE AND SHOP
A short ferry ride from the fishing village of Brooklyn, on the Hawkesbury River, is Dangar Island, where a very family-friendly 3.3-kilometre return walk takes you past wind-and-water-carved rock shelves, which were a traditional gathering place for the Guringai people. Amble along Bradley's Beach to find a shellfish midden, and then head on to Kiparra Park, where you can view Aboriginal rock engravings of wallaby and fish. When you're done exploring, nab a table at the community-driven Dangar Island Cafe and Shop, where all-day breakfast menu options include a toasted ham, cheese and chutney sandwich ($12), banana bread ($5) and bacon and egg roll ($8). Dangar Island is 50 kilometres from Sydney's CBD and less than one hour north of Sydney by car or train.
Dangar Island Cafe and Shop, 2 Neotsfield Ave, Dangar Island, 9985 8539.
BENDOOLEY ESTATE AT BERRIMA, SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS
The beautifully restored Book Barn, which was built early last century, is the oldest continuously run Berkelouw Books store in Australia. For families of bibliophiles, this place – with its shelves groaning under the weight of rare and antiquarian books – is pure paradise. To enter the Bendooley bubble, with its heavy beams and cosy armchairs, is to forget the world exists for anything but your pleasure. If you can coax your children away from the log fire, the Bendooley Bar and Grill's $10 kids' menu will sustain their interest with options such as pasta Neopolitana or chicken, chips and salad. Die-hard carnivores should zero in on the Kitchen Burger with the lot ($24), while the seafood-centric can slurp up the linguine with blue swimmer crab ($28). Berrima is 120 kilometres southwest of Sydney.
Bendooley Bar and Grill, Bendooley Estate, Berrima, 4877 2235, bendooleyestate.com.au. Open for lunch daily from 11am-3pm; bookings essential.
What's your favourite place to take the kids on a foodie-adventure? Jump on the comments and let us know.