A small town on New Zealand’s rugged west coast in the North Island, Raglan is known for its black sand beaches, laid-back locals and rolling blue waves that draws in surfers from all around the world. Raglan has also got a creative arts scene, is big on being environmentally friendly (over 70% of the town’s waste is recycled) and is dotted with colourful cafes, yoga studios and bars.
From hiking to kayaking, surfing and meditation, there are a bunch of activities to do in Raglan. It’s the kind of place where you’ll come for a few days and could end up staying a few weeks.
If you’re in search of sun, waves, nature and good beer, look no further than this west-coast beauty. Here are our top things to do in Raglan.
Hit The Waves At Ngarunui Beach
The surf at Ngarunui Beach—Raglan’s flagship—has some of the best waves in Aotearoa. There’s a real mix of people who ride the waves here, from territorial locals to travellers and beginners on foam long boards learning to surf—it can get busy on the weekends and across the summer months. Not only does it boast great surf, Ngarunui Beach is beautiful. It’s a black sand beach lined with flax trees and the Tasman Sea provides a clear and refreshing place to swim—the beach is patrolled by life guards in the high season. Bring your board, a towel, a beach umbrella and a good book—happy days.
Get Stuck Into Fish And Chips By The Estuary
New Zealand is known for its fish and chips—and the ones you get from Raglan Fresh Fish, a little blue place that’s found on the main drag, is seriously good. There’s usually a line of people wanting to order but the wait is never too long. Pick up a snapper with a golden crispy batter with a scoop of sweet potato chips and the classic cheese burger #holidays. Stroll on down to the estuary to have your kai by the water—it’s the best place in town to watch the sun set with the music of cicadas and kids having fun splashing about in the background.
When visiting Raglan you should definitely check out the Waireinga waterfall, also know as Bridal Veil Falls. Situated along the Pakoka River in the Waikato region, the spectacular waterfall is 55 metres high and will take you around 20 minutes to drive there from the coastal town. Once you hop out of the car, it’s an easy 10-minute walk through the bush to reach the two top viewing platforms. Enjoy views of the plunging white falls, grey rock and lush countryside. If you’re up for it, there are steep steps to walk down to reach the bottom of the waterfall. The Department of Conservation doesn’t recommend swimming in the water, so if you want to cool off you’ll have to head back to the beach.
Hike Mount Karioi
Challenge yourself to an adventure and hike to the summit of Mount Karioi, a 2.4 million year old extinct volcano cloaked in lush native forest. There are two ways to reach the top—the Wairake Track that’s slightly easier, or the Mt Karioi Track, which will take you around three hours one-way but is more scenic. The Mt Karioi Track, which begins at a car park about a 20-minute drive away from Raglan, is steep from the get go—but you'll soon forget about the hard graft when you’re rewarded by views of the coast and the cobalt blue ocean. This is a difficult hike, so expect chains and to climb up near vertical rock faces. On a clear day you can see as far south as Mt Taranaki, Pureora and the Herangi Range as well as the Maungatautari, Pirongia and Te Aroha mountains. The track gets very muddy even in summer, so it’s best to wear boots and bring lots and lots of snacks—cheese and bacon rolls should do the job.
Get Refreshed At The Local Pub
You won’t go hungry or thirsty in Raglan. There are a handful of great places to park up, including George's Beach Club, which has an outside courtyard, a summer vibe and good looking punters snacking on wood fired pizzas and ciders. For something a little fancier, head to The Wharf Kitchen and Bar and order the seafood platter with a bottle of pinot gris. If you’re up for a boogie, the YOT Club regularly has live music and has fun Sunday sessions with the DJs pumping house beats. The Harbour View Hotel is our pick however. It’s a quintessential Kiwi pub smack-bang in the centre of town and the perfect place to have a beer or two while you people watch.
Check Out The Arts Scene
Quirky, eclectic, colourful and inclusive, the arts scene in Raglan is well and truly thriving. You’ll find everything from paintings to sculptures, jewellery, carvings and ceramics. There is a real emphasis on being sustainable and the environment, with artists drawing inspiration from the surrounding sea, cliffs, waterfalls, caves and beaches. Go for a wander and check out the several art galleries to be found throughout the township. Every second Sunday of each month there is a creative market held at the Raglan Old School Arts Centre. And if you were having difficulty deciding what's the best weekend to visit Raglan, there's an annual Raglan Arts Weekend, which has been running since 2009 and showcases Raglan’s creativity featuring over 30 artists and their work.
Explore The Harbour By Kayak
As well as a stunning coastline, Raglan has an estuary and harbour to explore—one of the best ways to do so is by kayak. A short paddle across from the harbour you’ll reach the limestone coast and the pancake rock formations. If you plan your journey well with the tides, you can park up on the sand and tuck into a picnic lunch. There are a few places in town that offer kayak hire including the local backpackers, and if you would like a guided tour, Raglan Kayak has been offering excursions since 2003. Stand up paddle boarding is another popular activity to do in Ragan, as let’s face it, you can’t beat spending time outdoors and on the water.
Keen for another local escape? Here are the best things to do in the Coromandel.
Image credit: Ngarunui Beach by Westend61, Bridal Veil Falls by Matteo Colombo, The Wharf, Raglan Kayak