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If you’re a fan of quirky surf towns with plenty of excellent restaurants and cafes, then Raglan is the perfect vacation spot for you. It’s one of my favorite towns in New Zealand because of its relaxed vibe and because there’s so much to do in such a small town.
Think adventure sports like rock-climbing and canyoning, to more relaxed activities like a sunset cruise on the harbor to digging your own private hot pool at the other, and relatively unknown, hot water beach (not the one in the Coromandel.)
There’s so much on offer in Raglan, and I can’t wait to tell you all about the best things to do in this incredible town. In this blog post, I list 25 of the best activities in Raglan as well as other important info to know before visiting!
About Raglan, New Zealand
Raglan is located just 32 minutes from the closest city Hamilton and just under 2 hours from Auckland. This small town (it has a population of just over 3,000) is situated within the Waikato region, on the West Coast of the North Island.
The climate here is quite mild, with warm summers and mild, wet winters. Average temperatures in the summer are around 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit), whilst temperatures typically lie around 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) in the winter.
Raglan is perhaps most famous for its surf beaches. It has some of the best surf conditions in the country as well as the longest left-hand break in the world. It’s no wonder Raglan has been attracting tourists for decades. In fact, Raglan attracts about 100,000 visitors each month during the summer!
Related Read: Find out about the best time to visit New Zealand!
Things to do in Raglan, New Zealand
1. Visit Bridal Veil Falls
Just a 15-minute drive from Raglan, the massive Bridal Veil Falls (they are 55 meters/180 feet tall) is a great spot to spend a few hours. It’s one of the most spectacular waterfalls in New Zealand! The falls are what is known as a plunge waterfall because the water plunges into the Pakoka River.
It’s an easy-moderate walk from the car park to the bottom of the falls, which will take about 20 minutes each way. Although, I should note it may take a little longer on your return as you need to climb back up the 300 steps, which can be quite a leg-workout. For a shorter, easier walk, consider just doing the 10-minute walk to the top of the falls, this trail is wheelchair and stroller friendly, and honestly, the view from the viewpoint here is epic!
Although the water in the plunge pool here may look appealing, it’s not safe to swim in due to bad water quality.
2. Go surfing
If you love to surf, then Raglan is the place for you – it’s known in the surfing world as one of the best places in New Zealand to catch a wave. There are several surf beaches within driving distance of Raglan town, and each one is suitable for different abilities.
Whale Bay is a must for advanced surfers, provided you’re up for a challenge. It’s best to surf here at low tide, and a good starting point is the rocks at the western end of Whale Bay. Worth noting is this beach is especially popular with local surfers, so it’s a great place to come and learn all the secret surf spots for those in the know.
One of the most famous surf beaches in the country is Manu Bay, which was featured in the movie ‘Endless Summer’. Many in the surfing community list Manu Bay as having the longest left-hand break in the world. If you’re skilled enough, you could catch a wave here and ride it for up to 2 kilometers (1.2 miles)! Manu Bay is located a 15-minute drive from Raglan via State Highway 23 and Wainui Road.
A good beach for beginner surfers is Ngarunui Beach, just 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from Raglan. Here, more consistent waves mean it’s more of a relaxed surfing experience Plus, during the summer months, lifeguards patrol the beach adding an extra element of security for beginners.
Beginners should really consider a 2-hour surf lesson to help them tackle Raglan’s challenging surf. Your experienced guide will work with you to improve your surfing skills. A 2-hour lesson starts from only $94 NZD per person and includes your surf board and wet suit. You can book online here!
Related Read: Another surfing beach to check out closer to Auckland is the beautiful Piha Beach!
3. Wander the vibrant downtown Raglan
Raglan is a buzzing surf town lined with many casual cafes, clothing stores, surf stores, and great restaurants. The locals are known for their alternative, quirky nature, and the town reflects that. In fact, Raglan is one of my favorite towns to visit on the North Island. I highly recommend spending a few hours wandering the town on your first day here to get a feel for this cool town!
Raglan Roast on Bow Street is one of the best coffee shops in town and specializes in strong kiwi-style coffee. In fact, they roast their own beans on-site. It’s also worth checking out La La Land on Wallis Street for delicious waffles, coffee, and hot chocolate.
For something more substantial, ULO’s Kitchen, also on Wallis Street, serves up some of the best Japanese food on the North Island – it’s so fresh! And another place I love is Orca Eatery & Bar, just down the road for delicious steaks and burgers.
4. Watch the sunset at Manu Bay
I’ve already mentioned Manu Bay as one of the most iconic surfing beaches in the country, but its pros don’t end there – Manu Bay is also one of the best spots to watch the sunset in Raglan.
The Maori name for Manu Bay is ‘Waikeri,’ which means swirling or surging waters, so when the sun sets, the bright colors are often reflected on the surface of the water, making for an epic photo. In fact, it almost seems as though the sun is dancing on the water thanks to the big surge here.
It’s a popular sunset-watching spot, and one of the best vantage points for the sunset is on the tattooed rocks along the beach. The rocks are carved with unique patterns and are located about halfway between Manu Bay and Ngarunui Bay.
5. Kayak or SUP to the Raglan Pancake Rocks
An awesome activity on a warm day is to kayak or SUP out to the unique pancake rocks in Raglan Harbor. These limestone formations are so photogenic and are only accessible by water; in fact, you can kayak or SUP directly beside them!
There are several sets of pancake rocks along the coast here, the first is just 900 meters (2,953 feet) from Putoetoe Point (where I recommend launching from), and there’s even a scenic black sand beach here at low tide. From here, you can explore further along the coastline towards Maotaka Point, Horongarara Point, and Tokatoka Point. All in this is 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of paddling, so allow at least a few hours.
6. Raglan Sunset Cruise
There are over 122 kilometers (78 miles) of coastline to explore from Raglan. It’s recognized as an important conservation area with over 2 million trees growing along the coastline, as well as that, it’s classed as a bird sanctuary.
A great way to see this unique coastline is on a nature cruise, even better, a sunset cruise where you can enjoy the luxuries of a catamaran boat. The design of the boat means that you can explore hidden bays and beaches. Towards the end of the tour, venture out deeper into the harbor to watch the sky light up in a myriad of colors.
This sunset cruise costs $60 NZD per person and an additional $15 NZD if you add on the delicious fish & chips served on board. Departure time is typically 1 hour before sunset, so it varies by season.
If the timing doesn’t work out for a sunset cruise you can always book the standard daytime cruise which is also super fun and is priced at just $60 NZD!
Why I Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
7. Te Toto Gorge Lookout
It’s a 15-minute, winding drive from Manu Bay to this epic viewpoint over Raglan and the surrounding coast. It’s not an easy drive with a few hairpin corners, as well as that the final 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) are on a gravel road – so I only recommend this drive for those experienced with backcountry kiwi roads.
There’s a carpark at the viewpoint, and the lookout platform is just a 100-meter (300 feet) walk from the car park. As I said, the ocean views are great, but this viewpoint is not ideal for those afraid of heights as there’s a steep vertical drop beneath the platform. If you’re nervous, it’s best not to look down!
You can also walk down to the gorge beneath the viewing platform. The trail starts 30 meters (98 feet) from the car park and follows through native bush. It’s not very well signposted. There’s simply an orange marker on one of the trees at the start of the track.
8. Raglan Museum
Raglan Museum offers a unique insight into Raglan’s history. There are many exhibitions, artifacts, and photographs on display here that tell the story of life in Raglan in the 20th Century right through to the present day.
Some of the best permanent exhibitions here include the WWI exhibition, which details the stories of local soldiers who fought in the war. The James and Mary Wallis exhibition provides in-depth information about the founders of Raglan – missionaries James and Mary Wallis together with Maori Chief Te Awa-i-taia.
You can also check out the wooden telephone exchange switchboard that was used in the town up until the 1970s And learn all about the native birds here at the native bird exhibition. Interestingly too, there’s a surf exhibition, which opened in 2013.
Entry to the museum is via Raglan Information at 15 Wainui Road, Raglan. The museum is open 7 days a week, and entrance costs $4 NZD per adult.
9. Michael Hope Lookout
Another great sunset spot is the Michael Hope Lookout, which provides an epic view over Ngarunui Beach. It’s a very popular spot and has a few picnic benches to sit with a picnic and watch the sun dip into the Tasman Sea. If you’re an early riser, sunrise from this spot is also pretty good!
It’s worth noting that this is a very popular spot at sunset, so aim to get here at least an hour before sunset to nab one of the picnic benches.
There’s a small car park here; it’s just over a 10-minute drive from Raglan town to the parking lot via SH23 and Wainui Road.
10. Go canyoning
For the adventurous traveler, why not try your hand at canyoning, a unique sport where you must navigate your way down a fast-flowing waterfall or stream.
You can try out canyoning here in Raglan at the freshwater stream at Mount Karioi. Unless you’re very experienced, it’s best to book a guided tour. On this tour, you must descend and ascend several waterfalls (you have a safety harness, so it’s completely safe). And despite how daunting it sounds, it’s actually suitable for the whole family.
What’s great about canyoning in Raglan is that you can do it in any season. Prices start from $139 NZD per adult. It’s worth noting that canyoning is only suitable for children over 8 years of age.
Related Read: For a fun road trip, drive from Hamilton to Rotorua and stop at some of the beautiful places along the way!
11. Visit Workshop Brewing
You can try Workshop Brewing beers in bars all over Raglan (and Hamilton too, for that matter) but there’s nothing quite like going to the workshop itself. It’s such a cool experience, and different to your typical taproom visit.
Basically, Workshop Brewing HQ is just a shed in located the industrial part of Raglan, but they operate like an off-license and offer takeaway beers and tastings. You can even bring your own containers at home to fill up!
When we paid a visit, there wasn’t even a bar or anything like that, but we got chatting to the owner about our love of all things craft beer. He’s a great guy and we really enjoyed chatting to him, so if you love beer as much as we do, then we highly recommend checking out Workshop Brewing!
The shed is open from 1 pm until 6 pm from Wednesday to Saturday, or you can find their beer at several of the restaurants I’ve mentioned throughout this article!
12. Try rock climbing
Whether you’re an experienced or a beginner – Raglan has an abundance of rock climbing routes to choose from. What makes this such a great area to go rock climbing is the Waikato Limestone rocks found only here. Its unique structure means it’s suitable for all abilities.
It’s a good idea to book a guided rock climbing tour because you have a fully qualified instructor on hand and know all the equipment is completely safe. With this particular tour, you will get a real rock climbing experience. Prices start from $158 NZD per adult for the top rock climbing tour. You can check availability and book online here.
Did you know – rock climbing is the fastest-growing adventure sport in the world?
13. Go shopping
Raglan Creative Market takes place in the Old School Arts Centre on the second Sunday of every month, although sometimes there are additional dates added, so make sure to check when you’re in town!
At the market you can find lots of artisan goods that really showcase the Raglan way of life. From paintings by local artists, holistic healing crystals, and woven clothing and accessories, this market is basically a hippy paradise, and we love visiting! Plus, there’s tons of amazing food and produce here – it will take you a superhuman amount of strength to resist all of the freshly baked bread!
This market is super popular, especially during the summer, and people often line up all the way down the street to get in, so try and get there as early as you can!
The market is our favorite place to shop in Raglan but there are lots of other cute boutiques around the town. Everyone’s Store is a popular clothing store that features an expertly curated collection of local designers, and there are some seriously cute finds here.
14. Swim at the Raglan Footbridge
Wake yourself up with a refreshing swim in the cold waters of the Raglan Footbridge (also called the Kopua Footbridge) in town. Join the local kids (and adults) on a summer evening by jumping from the jumping zone of the bridge.
In fact, jumping from the Kopua Footbridge is considered a rite of passage for local children. The jumping point of the bridge is 4.46 meters (15 feet) high and was actually a lot lower but was re-constructed in 2010.
If you do decide to brave the jump, be sure to be careful as you must stand on the railings of the bridge to jump in, and this can be slippery!
15. Visit the local art galleries
Many artists call Raglan home, and as a result, there are plenty of awesome art galleries in this small town. Most of them specialize in local art!
The Wharf Gallery on Wallis Street is perhaps the most popular art gallery in town and specializes in contemporary New Zealand art. It was just opened recently in 2010 and focuses on both new and well-established artists. If you’re an art-lover, other must-see galleries include the Jet Collective on Bow Street and the Raglan Old School Arts Centre, a community-run arts center on Stewart Street.
16. Hike up to Mount Karioi Summit
One of the best but most challenging hikes in Raglan is the Mount Karioi Track which will take about 3.5 hours each way. Mount Karioi is actually a dormant volcano, and the views from the summit of the Herangi Ranges and Te Aroha mountains are spectacular. In fact, on a clear day, you can see as far as the magnificent Mount Taranaki! So, all in all, it’s worth the challenging and steep climb.
The track starts at Te Toto Gorge, 13 km (8 mi) from Raglan. And although it’s a steep hike to the summit, there are many viewpoints (including one very photogenic viewpoint of Raglan Harbor) along the way where you can stop and catch your breath. Along the way, you will see that chains and ladders have been installed to help you navigate the rocky outcrops. The last section of the track is the hardest as you have to climb 756 meters (2,480 feet) to the summit.
Mount Karioi Track is one of the best hikes on the North Island.
Related Read: Mount Taranaki is located near New Plymouth. Check out all the fun things to do in New Plymouth!
17. Stay at a place with a view!
I think staying somewhere with a great view really makes a trip that much sweeter, wherever you are in the world!
When we went to Hamilton, we stayed in Journey’s End, a comfy apartment with gorgeous views of the Tawatahi River and Patikirau Bay. It even had a hot tub and a nice deck area overlooking the water where we could chill out on beanbags and soak in the views. The apartment sleeps up to 6 people, and prices start at $350 NZD per night during the winter months, ranging up to $500 NZD per night in the summer. You can check prices and book Journey’s End online here!
Another alternative is the Silos Apartments, which are probably the coolest place to stay in Raglan. I mean, they’re boutique apartments within converted cement silos, so essentially they’re edgy on the outside and super stylish on the inside. Plus, they’re located right on the Raglan Wharf so you can opt for a sea view apartment and wake up to sparkling blue water every morning, and enjoy epic sunsets in the evening. Sea view apartments here start at $385 NZD (plus $65 NZD tax) per night for two guests.
18. Go mountain biking
Te Ara Kakariki is the place for mountain biking in Raglan, with over seven trails that all tie into the same loop – meaning you can successfully ride all seven in one day. Most of the trails here are a Grade 2, which means the whole family can ride them. The trails are not far from town, just over 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) via Wainui Road and Riria Kereopa Memorial Dr.
Some of my favorite trails here include Mr. C’s Groove, which is a nice, short trail with an awesome view of Raglan harbor at the halfway point. Hateful 80 and Alley Oop are two of the park’s other busiest and most popular trails. If you’re up for it, a more challenging trail is Aunt Betty, which takes you through the trees and involves some table-top jumps.
You can rent mountain bikes from the Raglan Rocks Adventure Centre, rental of a full-suspension bike is $50 NZD for 2 hours, and hard-tailed bikes are $40 NZD for 2 hours.
Related Read: Check out the best bike trails in Queenstown!
19. Kawhia Hot Water Beach
One of the best-kept secrets on the North Island is the Hot Water Beach at Kawhia. Here, like in other more famous hot water beaches (I’m looking at you, Coromandel Hot Water Beach), you can dig your own private hot pool, but at Kawhia, you’ll likely have the beach all to yourself.
It can be quite hard to find the hot water beach if you don’t know where to look – drive to the end of Ocean Beach Road in Kawhia and park at the car park at the end. From here, walk across the sand dunes onto Ocean Beach (that’s the official name of the beach) and find a spot to dig. Worth noting is you can only do this at low tide, so be sure to check the tide times before you go!
20. Yoga Class
As you can imagine, in a town full of creative, hippy types, yoga is a popular activity here. The Space Raglan is one of the best places to indulge in a relaxing yoga session, and it’s conveniently located in the center of town. They offer a range of classes suitable for all abilities and will work with you to develop a routine that fits in with your lifestyle.
You can try a beginner’s yoga class or something more unique like hatha yoga and vinyasa yoga. In fact, they offer 12 different yoga classes here weekly. Prices start at $20 NZD per class.
21. Play a round of golf
If you’re a golf fanatic or are simply looking for a relaxing sport to play whilst in Raglan – look no further than Raglan Golf Club on Te Hutewai Road. This 18-hole par 69 course boasts some epic views of Mt Karioi, Raglan town, and Raglan Harbor.
Plus, it’s very reasonably priced to play here, just $35 NZD per adult for 18-holes!
22. Attend SoundSplash Music Festival
Typically held every year in late January in Mystery Creek, Hamilton (a 45-minute drive from Raglan) – Soundsplash is a super-cool music festival that hosts international, new, and quirkier music acts. In 2022, for example, acts like Netsky, Hollie Smith, and The Broods played to a large audience.
It’s a 3-day affair, and there are 4 different stages here, each pumping out different music. Interestingly, in the Blue Zone, you can hear community leaders talk about the changes they have made in their community, TED talks style.
Attend the festival for a day or turn it into a whole weekend of fun and camp here. There’s a food village (called the Kai Village, named after the Maori name for food) where you can refuel with delicious food.
Related Read: While in the area, check out the other fun things to do in Hamilton!
23. Have a picnic at the Raglan foreshore
For a casual dinner option, why not grab a takeaway of delicious, fresh fish and chips from Raglan Fish on Wallis Street or Raglan Fresh Fish on Bow Street and head to Te Kopua beach to watch the waves and the sunset.
Te Kopua is a short walk from town, across the footbridge, and it is usually pretty busy, especially on a summer evening. The black sand here may be new to you, but it’s pretty common in this area, thanks to the volcanic activity in the area thousands of years ago.
It’s completely safe to swim here, so why not work off the fish and chips with an evening swim.
24. Wainui Bush Park
Wainui Bush Park is the perfect place to stretch your legs and enjoy a nice, quiet walk. It’s also home to the beautiful Ngarunui Beach, which is super scenic and very popular with both surfers and swimmers.
We just did the loop track around the park, which is 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles). It should take you just over half an hour to walk around the whole thing, so if you just need a quick dose of fresh air and nature, this is perfect. You can also walk all the way to the beach if you’re up for it!
25. Eat ice cream at Roll Up
If you visit Raglan in the summer months, then you’ll probably notice a line of people down the main street. What are they waiting for? Well, Raglan’s famous fruit ice cream!
Roll Up has been a very popular spot in Raglan for many years, and here you can get delicious real fruit ice cream. This type of ice cream is common in New Zealand. It is basically like a soft serve mixed with real fruit – typically strawberries. It’s so good!
Roll Up also serves frozen yogurt, smoothies/shakes, as well as wraps. But trust me on the fruit ice cream, that’s what I also visit for!
Where to Eat in Raglan
Orca Eatery & Bar – a casual day-time eatery that turns into a swanky dinner restaurant, Orca Eatery & Bar offers a seasonal menu and prides itself on using only local produce, where possible. Plus, the view from the restaurant of Raglan Harbor is pretty epic too!
Rock It Kitchen – easily one of the most unique restaurants in Raglan, Rock It Kitchen is located in an old woolshed and is nestled among native trees. There’s even a stream flowing past the restaurant. It’s this relaxing setting that has locals and tourists returning time and time again. They specialize in organic, local produce, and their large sunny deck is dog-friendly!
The Shack – serving up deliciously fresh breakfast and lunch options, this bright and airy restaurant on the corner of Bow Street and Wainui Road is a popular spot with locals. They also offer plenty of vegan and gluten-free options.
WYLD Raglan – recently opened, WYLD Raglan on Bow Street is a colorful, wholesome restaurant and is a welcome addition to the town Worth noting they are only open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays but serve lunch every day.
Where to Stay in Raglan
Raglan is a small town, but thankfully, there are plenty of accommodation options for every budget.
For budget travelers, Raglan Backpackers on Wi Neera Street is a great choice as it has awesome beachfront views. There’s also a shared lounge, a large outdoor patio, and even a sauna. You can choose from a double room with a shared bathroom or save more $$$ and book a bed in a dorm.
If you can afford to spend a little more, why not consider the Silos Apartments on Raglan Wharf? These stylish apartments are actually converted cement silos, which is pretty cool. Some rooms have an epic view of the wharf whilst the remaining have a peaceful garden view.
And if you want to splurge on a luxurious stay, Three Streams Raglan Retreat is a gorgeous stylish studio apartment set on 25 acres with a large patio and an awesome outdoor tub. Raglan town is a 5 km (3.1 mi) drive away.
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
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Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
The small town of Raglan, as you can see, has no shortage of awesome things to do. In this blog, I’ve listed just 25 activities (there are heaps more), and I’m sure you’ll agree there’s something for every type of traveler in Raglan. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Raglan is one of my favorite towns in New Zealand, and I am just itching to return soon.
If you liked this blog, be sure to check out some of our blogs about New Zealand including the related reads below: