Situated 39 kilometers out of Hamilton and on the West coast of New Zealand is Raglan. This place is amazing!
The drive from Hamilton is an easy one and will take you approximately 40 minutes. The roads for SH23 are well signposted from the city centre and Kahikatea Drive. Follow the signs to Dinsdale, Whatawhata and Raglan.
Take SH1 from Auckland if you’re coming from the North and follow the signs for Hamilton. Just before Hamilton there’s a turn off to SH39 to Te Kowhai/Whatawhata and Raglan.
Turn right at Whatawhata to SH23 for Raglan. Its a nice scenic drive across the divy (Raglan Hills) with beautiful farm scenery and gorgeous views from the top. You can also go the alternative route. Turn right onto Rotowaro Rd off SH1 at Huntly. Go across the bridge and follow the road past Glen Afton and Pukemiro to the end. Turning right onto Waingaro Road and past the awesome Waingaro Hot Pools.
They are not the flashiest of thermal pools but, its nice to relax and soak in these baths on the way. You’ll need to be careful of stock on the roads. As you will quite often find cows, lambs or bulls on the road so make sure you keep your eyes peeled… Speaking from personal experience!
There isn’t much difference in travel time. SH1 is definitely an easier drive, but the back roads are a much better view. Make sure you stop at the top of the Raglan hills and take in the view. On a clear day you’ll have a nice view of Mt Karioi and the Te Uku wind farms at the top of the hills in the distance.
From the South
Chances are when you’re coming from the South. You’ve been to the glowworm caves at Waitomo. Head into Otorohanga and take a left onto SH39 towards Hamilton/Raglan/Whatawhata. Alternatively from Te Awamutu, take SH3 to Hamilton and follow the signs for Raglan/Whatawhata and SH23.
Where to go and what to do
As you come into Raglan at the top of the hill, you get to see the beautiful harbour with the surf breaks in the far (left) distance. It is a such a beautiful little town with everything you need. Cafe’s and restaurants, art shops, surf shops, liquor stores, trade aid, little boutique stores, a laundromat. A wide range of take away food establishments including Sushi, Pizza, Kebabs, some of the best and freshest fish and chips in the country.
Not to mention the best health and whole food store around – The Herbal Dispensary. Where you can get anything from aromatherapy oils to natural skin care, soap and toothpaste, freshly baked sourdough, fresh organic locally sourced produce, kombucha and other healthy drinks. Healthy snacks, sugar alternatives, baking goods, teas, coffee, gluten free bread and pasta, honey, cheese and fresh organic milk. There’s a mechanic at the bottom end of Wallis Street and another on Park Drive. The latter includes a small parts store.
In our opinion the best coffee in the world – (we might be a little biased). We love and enjoy our coffee and Raglan Roast has become our standard to measure against when having coffee anywhere else.
Fun for the kids
The boardwalk down the bottom end of Wallis street joins the bottom of the shops to the huge playground & skatepark across the bridge. Where the kids will have ball beachside, there’s even a basketball court if you’re that way inclined. If it is high tide and a nice day you will frequently see people jumping from the bridge into the canal underneath. Be aware of people jumping from both sides at the same time. You can hire paddle boards & kayaks from down the bottom end of town and have fun playing and exploring the harbour.
Food Food Food
Relax with Fish & Chips from Jo’s takeaways by the campground. For something a little more fancy try Orca the restaurant. There is a wide range of options available here. The Shack and Isobar do amazing breakfast lunch and dinner at a reasonable price. There are several bakeries in town, so a quick snack of a classic New Zealand pie is always up for grabs. For the freshest fish in town (you can literally watch it come off the boat and into the fryer) head to the end of the wharf at the far end of Wallis street at Raglan fish. You will not be disappointed.
Getting around Raglan
As you drive through Raglan and turn left onto Wainui Rd and go past the fire station and over the one way bridge. You might feel like you’re heading out of town. The first turnoff on the right is the road to the domain, the park, the campground and Jo’s takeaways!
If you keep going straight after the one way bridge you’ll come to Ngarunui Beach Rd. The road to the main swimming beach in Raglan and also where most of the surfing lessons take place. Its a beautiful view form the top so don’t forget to stop to see whole beach, its absolutely stunning! As you descend down to the carpark you’ll have a short steep walk down to the beach where you’ll be treated with waves and black black sand! To the left are the rock pools on low tide and to the right, the beautiful beach with room for everyone.
Surfing in Raglan
If you’re wanting the surf beach were mostly locals are surfing at all times. You head past Ngarunui Beach Rd on the main road and go over the hills to a big carpark on the right. Look for all the station wagons and hippy cars/tourists. Here you’ll see the most amazing sight, one of the best left hand break in the world!
I’ve been told that on the right day, it’s possible to surf all the way to the main beach. (I’m not sure how true this is) You will see all the surfers in the water and there is usually always spectators up on the grass watching or photographers taking pics of the surfers & awesome waves! I am yet to see a calm day with no breaks happening. Everyone is usually very friendly, but as it goes with wave etiquette – respect the locals and other surfers and hang back to keep an eye on how it plays out. Wait your turn and enjoy !! Get a surf report of conditions here if you’re thinking about heading out.
Surfing lessons in Raglan
If its lessons you would like to do while here there are a few options but the only one I have experience with is the Raglan Surf School. Its up past the surf beach and up a long drive but man is it worth it……. For $89 you get a 3hr group lesson and it would pay to get the tides right (full or as close to full tide as possible) with a van ride down to the beach and ride back afterwards. You also get your board and wetsuit as part of the deal and learn in a group environment. You can also get a 1:1 lesson if you’d rather that. The age limit for lessons are 10 years and up, but they do make excpetions!
Ruapuke Beach and Bridal Veil Falls
If you’re wanting a beach that is a little more private but just a s breathtaking then Ruapuke Beach is a must see! You take Te Mata road, off SH23. Look for Ruapuke Road at Te Mata school and head literally right to the end. There is a toilet by the beach access route and its a short 10 minute walk to the beach. Its beautiful and a place where you are likely to see people fishing, swimming and riding horses. Or you might be the only ones on the beach! On the weekends you’ll find a few scattered families and people catching smaller waves but it is a must see! Its only a 20 minute drive from the Highway 23 turnoff.
If you keep going past Ruapuke Rd to Kawhia Rd and follow the signs for Bridal Veil falls. a short walk will take you to this breathtaking waterfall in seemingly the middle of nowhere. It’s a must see for some fun and beautiful photo opportunities.
There are a few backpackers in Raglan too, one right in town which is bright and vibrant and always full of life called Lazy Stayz. Prices range from $38 per night. Colonial style rooms are also available to rent at the Harbour View Hotel. Starting at $60 per night. If you are looking for the relaxed getaway, there’s always Solscape which is out of town but closer to the surf beach. There are plenty of other options, but be aware that there are limits on freedom camping spots. The local RSA (Returned Servicemen Association) offers freedom camping in their parking area for a minimal fee. There are also several camp grounds, with powered and non-powered sites and huts and bungalows in all sizes.
The atmosphere of a little town like Raglan is out of this world, the locals are so friendly and keen to answer any questions you may have. Raglan really does have it all, it doesn’t matter if you want to come here for a bit of relaxation with massages and wine or live it up a little at the Yot Club where they frequently have live bands and party the night away in New Zealand’s little piece of paradise!