How far to:
Hamilton: 45 kms, 41 mins
Auckland: 150 kms, 2 hours
Waitomo: 103 kms, 1,5 hour
Surfing in Raglan
With world-class surf breaks and some of the most consistent surfing conditions in New Zealand, Raglan is a surfing hot spot.
Four beaches in the area top the list. About 10 minutes out of town is Ngārunui Beach, also known as Ocean Beach, which is good for less experienced and beginner surfers. Manu Bay is legendary with experienced surfers reporting the long left-hand break can give a two-kilometre ride if you know what you are doing. Whale Bay, a little further along the coast with surfers saying it’s not for the faint-hearted, while Ruapeke can also pack a powerful punch.
For surfers wanting to perfect their techniques and for those just starting out there are experts ready to provide lessons. Raglan Surf School offers group, family and school lessons, as well as private one-on-one coaching.
Kayaking & Paddle-boarding
Kayaking around the beautiful harbour and along the scenic coastline reveals hidden locations not readily reached on foot or by road. BYO or rent from Raglan Kayak & Paddleboard, and there are guided tour options too – all with picture-perfect scenery including inlets clad with native forest and beaches where another footprint in the sand means it is a crowded day.
Stand up paddleboarding (SUP-ing) is a perfect way to get out onto Raglan Harbour to see marine and birdlife up close and inspect the unusual pancake rock formations, the layers having been etched out by water, wind and salt spray over the aeons. BYO or hire a board locally.
Raglan Harbour cruise
The deep harbour is also a magnet with its marine animals, birdlife and intriguing pancake rock formations that can be explored in several ways – either by kayak, on a standup paddle board or aboard the purpose-built catamaran.
A scenic cruise is a relaxing way to get out on Raglan Harbour to explore its far reaches, witness the wildlife and enjoy the scenery while a local guide talks about what there is to see and the fascinating history of the area. One of the cruise options is aboard the Wahine Moe, a purpose-built catamaran that has comfortable seating areas, indoors or on deck. Passengers can go cruising at sunset or head out on the special nature cruise – on both you can choose the extra of delicious fish and chips from Raglan Fish.
Sunset & beach
Surfers around the world know and love Raglan, especially Manu Bay (also known as The Point), immediately to the south of the town and featured in the 1966 cult surfing movie Endless Summer. The left-hand break here is legendary and said to be the longest in the world.
Raglan’s population swells 300-400 percent in the summer months as visitors flock to the area, attracted by the ambience and the beaches, resplendent with their sparkling black iron ore-rich sand and tumbling waves. Many come to swim and beach-comb, others to surf cast for fish, and just about everyone to catch the kaleidoscopic drama of the sun setting out over the ocean.
Bridal Veil Falls
An easy walk is the 10-minute path leading to the top of the Bridal Veil Falls, also known as the Wairēinga Falls. Two viewing platforms provide stunning vistas of the 55 metre high falls and ample photo opportunities of the plunging white water flanked by grey rock and green bush.
For visitors wanting to look up at the falls there is a step stairway leading down to a further platform.
Mount Karioi & Te Toto Gorge
Raglan has some of the best coastal trails where the spectacular views out over the ocean waves, black sand beaches, native forest and farmland make the perfect excuse for hikers to take regular breathers along the way.
For hikers who like a challenge there’s the summit of Mount Karioi, an ancient volcano that rises sharply from the sea standing guard over the entrance to Raglan Harbour and is rich in Māori legend.
The track to the top climbs from Te Toto Gorge on the mountain’s north-west side, passing the gorge’s formidable cliffs and the remnants of the centuries-old traditional Māori productive garden. The reward on high is the panoramic view.
Getting on your bike in Raglan also gives opportunity to take in the great scenery.
Mountain bikers will find trails graded from easy to advanced – for example the half-day 45km Mount Karioi Loop, where there is the annual Karioi Classic event that is literally breath-taking, with views out over the ocean and on a clear day all the way down the coast to Mount Taranaki.
Threading through the Wainui Reserve the Te Ara Kākāriki Trail has sections that are suitable for the kids while the added interest in biking the 18km Pīpīwharauroa Trail is Te Uku Wind Farm with its 137 metre high turbines.
Good food and Raglan go together like fish and chips, wine and cheese, sugar and spice – you get the picture.
Before and after a day of beach, hiking, biking and exploring art galleries and studios, there are eateries and bars ready to serve up deliciousness, much of it locally grown and locally produced.
The Shack on the main street, open for breakfast and lunch, serves good honest local food – start the day with the nourishing combo of miso flavoured butternut and scrambled eggs, while lunch could be braised lamb shoulder with eggplant.
Also on the main street is ISO Raglan, again celebrating local growers with a menu that is packed with flavour and designed around fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Orca Eatery & Bar offers seafood, steaks and burgers with great waterfront views while neighbour La Land specialises in all that’s sweet – waffles, cakes, slices, chocolate and more. Here four-legged customers are offered free ‘puppucinos’.
ULO’s Kitchen is a funky eatery highlighting Japanese fusion flavours using local produce.
On the road running between Raglan town and the surf beaches is Rock-it Kitchen. This rustic eatery can also be reached by kayak or paddleboard thanks to a tidal stream that connects with the harbour. Local and organic are the passwords here with menus that change regularly to reflect what’s in season.
Raglan Fish & chips
The town caters for all tastes and a range of budgets with the world-famous in Raglan fish and chips being a favourite with many visitors. If this iconic meal is your fix, head down to Raglan Wharf to Raglan Fish where you can eat in or take out, perhaps sitting with your legs dangling over the wharf as you tuck in. Raglan fish also has fresh and smoked fish.
There are upscale shops to browse, many devoted to the beach and surfing scene, and galleries showcasing the creative works of the artists and literary residents of the area.
And don’t forget to head down to Raglan Wharf where renowned local potter Tony Sly has his studio and shop, alongside Soul Shoes, where father and daughter work side by side handcrafting a range of leather goods.
Raglan is also home to a number of artisan food and beverage producers with products showcased by chefs and available direct from the makers or in food stores around town.
Raglan is home to many creative artists with the Old School Arts Centre a focal point in town. This protected heritage building is a multi-purpose venue staging regularly changing exhibitions in its gallery with spaces for workshops, demonstrations, live music and movies.
The centre is also where the creative market is held on the second Sunday each month, as well as being the first stop for people in town for two key arts events staged annually – the Raglan Arts Weekend, held on Labour Weekend at the end of October, and the Raglan Arts Trail event when artists open their studios.