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Raglan, Whale Bay. Photo (cropped): Florian Bugiel via Flickr, Creative Commons

Forty-five minutes drive west of Hamilton and two hours south of Auckland, Raglan is home to one of the planet’s longest left-hand rides. The surf break at Manu Bay was made famous by the film ‘Endless Summer’ in 1966. Nowadays it’s a stop on the international pro-surfing circuit.

Raglan is a laidback mix of the old, the new and the funky. Make sure you check out the artists’ studios, design stores, and the bevy of awesome eateries. There is a healthy live music scene, especially over summer. Stay a few nights here and enjoy the groove of this small town as if you were a local.

Raglan town is perfectly nestled between the Whaingaroa Harbour and a short drive to Whale Bay and Manu Bay facing the Tasman Sea and is a stroller’s paradise. Wander down Bow Street with its cafes and palm trees, then turn right at the bottom of the street onto the new boardwalk - it has stairs down to the water so you can swim off it at high tide. Or join the children and jump off the footbridge. For a longer walk, head east down Wallis Street to the Raglan Wharf for their legendary fish ‘n’ chips. Or take a long beach walk from the harbour mouth along Ngarunui (or Ocean Beach) to the Wainui Beach Reserve and get a surf lesson from the Raglan Surfing School or watch paragliders catching updrafts from the high sand dunes.

Raglan’s historic Fisherman’s Wharf re-opened after a devastating fire in 2010 and has been given a new life incorporating the traditional fishing fleets, new artisan shops and the Fresh Fish market. You can buy a wide assortment of locally caught fish not normally found in fish shops in NZ… that’s as fresh as it gets. You can also browse through the artisan shops, including hand-crafted leather shop and pottery or enjoy a great coffee at the Wharf Coffee Cafe.

There is so much to do here, but exploring Whaingaroa Harbour by hiring a kayak on Cliff Street or by boat is a must. The good ship Wahine Moe takes you on a 3-hour sunset ‘Fish’n'Chip’ cruises from Raglan Wharf. The ancient rock formations and Maori history will leave you spellbound.

For unsurpassed views of the west coast’s dormant volcanic peaks and estuaries, try the steep, three-hour climb up 731m peak of Mt Karioi. Drive 11km southwest from town along Whaanga Road and start hiking from the Te Toto Gorge parking lot. On a clear day you’ll see the mountains of Ruapehu, Taranaki and Pirongia and the harbours of Raglan, Aotea and Kawhia. Or get a great view the easy way from the lookout at the carpark.

Along the road to Kawhia southeast of Raglan is Bridal Veil Falls, a thin plume that, at 58 metres, is actually taller than Niagara Falls. It’s a 10-minute walk through the bush to the top of the falls, which now have a viewing platform.

Wainui Reserve is a 140ha farm park with spectacular views of Raglan’s rolling coastline with access to Ngarunui Beach’s black sand. The moderate nature walk is rich in native fauna and flora with good picnic facilities. Kaitoke Estuary Walk is an easy hour one-way stroll along the inner Raglan harbour beginning at the one-lane bridge.

Where to stay


What to do

  • Get your walking shoes on explore the town by foot
  • Cruise Raglan’s harbour by kayak
  • Visit Raglan Wharf’s fish market and artisan shops
  • Take a Sunset Cruise on the Wahine Moe
  • Go horse riding along the beach
  • Take a surf lesson
  • Mountainbike The Pipiwharauroa Walking and Biking Trail over Te Uku Windfarm
  • Play a round of golf at Raglan Golf Club
  • Visit the Bridal Veil Falls, 20km south of Raglan
  • Drive the coastal road from Raglan to Kawhia

More info


Getting there

  • From Hamilton by road: 48km
  • From Auckland by road: 174km

Raglan Surfing School on Ocean Beach
Surf lessons at sunset / Credit: Raglan Surfing School

Raglan Wharf
The new Raglan Wharf Fish Market / Credit: Raglan Boat Charters

Harbour Cruise on the Wahine Moe
Harbour Cruise on the Wahine Moe visiting pancake rocks / Credit: Raglan Boat Charters


Piwa perched