Raglan - A slice of kiwi paradise

Artists and surfers rub shoulders in the west coast settlement of Raglan, giving it a bohemian vibe unlike any other – and drawing from Lonely Planet website the accolade that it “may also be New Zealand’s best looking town”.

Surfing in Raglan, Raglan, NZ

Manu Bay is a slice of kiwi paradise believed to have one of the world’s longest left-hand surf breaks. It featured in Bruce Brown’s classic 1964 surf movie The Endless Summer. Nearby, the beaches Whale Bay and Indicators also have well known left-hand breaks, while Ngaranui Beach draws swimmers as well as surfers. Surfing lessons are on offer for visitors, so important is the sport to the area that there is even a surfing academy for local school students.

The outdoor scene is rapidly developing with quintessentially kiwi activities, including kiteboarding, horse trekking and mountain biking, along with fishing, whether that’s dropping a line from the harbour wharf or casting from the beach. The local creativity on display at galleries and shops ranges from independent fashion labels, from jewellery through to flax weaving and painting, all taking inspiration from the local landscape. That even extends to the landmark water tower that greets visitors at the entry to the town and has been painted with a stylised mural of Raglan.

The Raglan Old School Arts Centre has become a hub for creativity, providing a fertile meeting ground for everyone from potters to photographers. Based in a 19th century heritage building close to the town centre, it also shows some movies and also provides a venue for the monthly Creative Market. Held every second Sunday, this includes seasonal organic produce, homemade pestos, freshly baked breads, original artwork and woven flax-ware along with kids’ accessories and original fashion clothing.

The town’s café scene is going from strength to strength, with a cluster of eateries on and around the lower main street, drawing locals and visitors alike with good coffee and food. Come night time, as well as the restaurants there’s the historic Harbour View Hotel and venues offering live music.

Bridal veil falls, Waikato Walks, Raglan, NZ

The area is rich in Maori history, reflected in its place names. That includes Whaingaroa, which is not only the name of the harbour but is frequently used for the town and surrounds as well, and Karioi for the nearby mountain which stands dominant in the landscape. The strenuous three hour trek to the top is rewarded with stunning views. Just out of Raglan visitors can discover another hidden gem with a walk to Bridal Veil/Waireinga Falls, with their 55m drop that can be seen from viewing platforms at the top and bottom. Another option is to drive out to wild Ruapuke Beach - and stop along the way to step onto a vertigo-inducing cliff-top viewing platform.

Locals are also dedicated to caring for their environment, with extensive plantings to protect the harbour and the hugely successful Xtreme Waste recycling initiative, held up as a model for others. That dedication extends to accommodation, with the Solscape Eco Retreat embracing the philosophy of environmental sustainability, offering accommodation in contemporary eco baches, recycled railway carriages and tipi retreats with solar generated power.