If you’re after a bit of an ‘off the beaten track’ experience then this is the itinerary for you. Your journey begins by travelling to Raglan. With its world-famous left hand surf break and thriving artistic community, Raglan is a mecca for those seeking a slightly alternative lifestyle. Just south of Raglan is the smaller but equally appealing west coast town of Kawhia, the spiritual and ancestral home of the region’s Maori tribe, Tainui. Otorohanga, the self-proclaimed ‘Kiwiana’ capital of NZ is next on the list, followed by glowworm and caving adventures in the renowned Waitomo Caves.
Leg 1: Hamilton to Raglan
Drive to Raglan, 45 mins drive from the centre of Hamilton. Raglan is known as a surf town with an artistic flavour and its world famous left hand surf break.
- Bridal Veil Falls, 7 kms before Raglan – excellent for a picnic and native bush walk. The view is good from the top, and even better if you take the steps to the bottom.
- Hire a bike and cycle round the picturesque and laidback town
- Hire a kayak to explore the harbour or take a cruise
- Fish from the wharf with the locals, or take a charter trip out across the bar. And if you happen to be unlucky catching your own, the locals recommend the Fish and Chips Shop at the Wharf
- Cool off with a swim at Ngarunui (Ocean Beach) – always remember to swim between the flags and take your jandals – the black sand of the dunes gets burning hot. The harbour is another swimming option.
- Watch the kitesurfers take to the air above the waves on a windy day
- Go horse riding – choose a trek ranging from 1-3 hours
- Learn to surf at the surfing school – then test yourself at Manu Bay, the longest left hand break in the world.
- Check out the shops, cafes, arts and crafts – this creative town has quite a personality.
Overnight with a view of the Raglan harbour or the wild west coast.
Leg 2: Raglan to Otorohanga via Kawhia
Head over the hill to Kawhia (allow 1 hour), a coastal village known for its hot water spring on Ocean Beach where you can dig your own bath and for the annual Kai Festival in February.
- Take a harbour cruise and learn about the area’s history
- The fishing’s great – drop a line from the wharf, go floundering or head out with a chartered boat.
- Check out the arts and crafts galleries and the harbour-front museum and information centre (centre open Wed to Sun, Labour weekend to Easter)
- See Maketu Marae – burial place of the Tainui canoe that brought the first people to the region.
- Walk to Ocean Beach at low tide and dig your own hot pool in the shallows.
Drive to Otorohanga (50 mins), known for its Kiwiana culture and displays along with the Kiwi House.
- Seek out the Kiwiana walk off the main street. Printed guides are available from one of the main street shops or i-SITE
- Visit the Kiwi House where you are guaranteed to see a kiwi and other native species. The grounds are a good place for a picnic.
- To finish the day enjoy a cold beer at the Thirsty Weta Bar and Eatery or one of the other bars/cafes in town.
Stay overnight in a farmstay or other accommodation or head further south to Waitomo (15 mins).
Leg 3: Otorohanga to Hamilton via Waitomo
Take SH3 south to Waitomo. The world famous cave system with its myriad glowworms has every option from spectacular walks to the adrenalin rush of black water rafting and abseiling.
- Explore the magical glowworm caves by taking a cave tour (a number of options are available).
- Challenge yourself with a 100m abseil into the Lost World
- Check out Ruakuri natural tunnel and bush walk.
- Get your heart pumping by going black water rafting or tubing – there are plenty of options depending on time and adrenalin level.
- Take in the highly entertaining Kiwi Culture Show.
- Enjoy some delicious local fare at HuHu Cafe.
Head back to Hamilton (drive time 1 hour 45 mins).