Preparing to battle end-of-school-holidays traffic? Take a break from today’s chaos with a cuppa, coffee or meal at one of these on-the-beaten-track cafes.

Cambridge

A barn-like space 4½km north of Cambridge, Red Cherry cafe is a restful and child-friendly place to pull into between Cambridge and Hamilton, especially if the mood in the car is anything but restful. Open 8.30am-4.30pm today, corner Forrest Rd and State Highway 1.

Matamata

Workman's Cafe and Bar

is an institution along State Highway 27. Despite the name, it's not a pie-warmer-and-sweaty-tradesmen kind of place — it's named for its owner, Syd Workman. Good, honest food and friendly service. Open from 8am "until the last person walks out the door", at 52 Broadway.

Warkworth

Kids getting fidgety? With a lawn, playground and shady trees, The Cider Shed cafe is a great place for them to let off steam while you fuel up on caffeine before joining the crawl towards the Puhoi Tunnel. Open 7 days. 182 State Highway 1, Dome Valley, 3km north of Warkworth.

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Waipu

Kid yourself that the holidays aren't over by stopping for lunch or dinner at the laid-back McLeod's Pizza Barn, a couple of kilometres off State Highway 1 at Waipu. Possibly the only Scottish-themed pizza kitchen south of, well, the North Pole, and guaranteed to send you home with a happy belly. Opens 11.30am, kitchen closes 9pm. 2 Cove Rd.

Thames

If you're heading back from the Coromandel, factor in brunch or lunch in Thames before braving State Highway 2. Try Sola Cafe at 720 Pollen St (open 8am-4pm today) or Cafe Melbourne, up the road at number 715, (9am-4pm). (Yes, alert reader, that makes six cafes not five, but it's hard to separate these two, in quality or geography.)