Eat Surf Repeat in Raglan
Only two-hours from big city Auckland, Raglan is a great option for those looking for a little bit of bohemian luxury in rugged, natural surroundings while also being a haven for surf enthusiasts.
With a population of less than 4,000, Raglan retains a strong community feel, while openly welcoming the surfers, backpackers and tourists who come seeking a more unique New Zealand experience.
Before arriving in Raglan, the magic begins by taking a little detour on the way to Waireinga, otherwise known as Bridal Veil falls. The 55-metre waterfall is only a ten-minute walk through lush native bush and the view from the bottom is worth every step.
But once you’re in town, there is no shortage of delicious cafes and coffee spots to keep you fuelled for the day. The Shack is a sunny café on the main street corner offering a wide variety of classic Kiwi brunch options with a modern twist. Or you can head to the hole in the wall café, Raglan Roast which has now become famous in Aotearoa for its deliciously smooth coffee.
No Raglan visit is complete without popping into Jet, an institution in the town which has been operating as an artist collective for roughly 20 years. The small, funky store has an array of artworks, souvenirs and clothing, made by local designers and artists who take turns running the shop selling their wares.
Meandering on down to Te Kopua beach you will find Raglan’s much loved foot bridge, which at high tide during summertime will be filled with Raglanites, hurling themselves over the railings to see who can make the biggest splash into the water below.
If you’re not feeling brave enough to do as the locals do and take the plunge, head to Raglan Backpackers and pick up a kayak for the day to explore the town’s highly underrated Pancake Rocks on the opposite side of the harbour. From there you can paddle your way to lunch down the stream to Rock-It Kitchen, a popular café in a renovated barn with designated spots for kayakers to come ashore.
The food here is fresh with a variety of options to suit either the health conscious or those wanting to indulge in a gourmet burger and chips. With an enclosed backyard it is the perfect place to let kids run wild while the grown-ups relax.
When it’s time for a rest, Three Streams Retreat located a short drive outside of the town centre, is the perfect spot to check-in and chill-out. Ideal for either families or those looking for a romantic getaway, the self-contained, stylishly designed accommodation provides all the comforts of home with the luxuries of a glamourous BnB. With a wide-open living plan, two bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and a romantic outdoor bath, Three Streams Retreat is the kind of place you could easily stay for a week and not get homesick or restless.
When the sun is shining, it’s worth heading to Raglan’s famous beaches. Manu Bay is a popular spot for surfers, while Ngarunui is more swimmer-friendly and provides a stunning west coast sunset in the evening.
For even more epic views, take a slow drive on a gravel road to the Te Toto Gorge lookout.
A must do for foodies is new kid on the block Ulo’s Kitchen. This funky, family-run Japanese restaurant is undoubtedly the trendiest place to eat in the region, with a DJ deck, eclectic décor, fresh food, local craft beer and a diverse team of friendly wait staff. Although it has only been open a year, it’s fast becoming a favourite spot for locals looking for fresh, international food.
La La Land is a must visit for sweet tooths and dessert lovers. Digging into one of their heavenly homemade mellow puffs should be your first priority, but the boutique chocolate café has an array of European style sweet treats and pastries that will keep you coming back for more.
If you’re looking for all the best things that Aotearoa has to offer in one tiny town, make sure you add Raglan to your list of must-see destinations.