Back in December, I got to spend two and a half days relaxing in and exploring Raglan (aka New Zealand’s chill surfer capital.) The city is known for its beaches, coffee and laid back vibes, and it certainly did not disappoint. So here is a quick run down on where I stayed, what I did, and how I got there to help you plan your own trip.
How to get there
If you have a car you can just drive down State Highway 23. If you, like me, don’t have a car and want to take the bus then you’ll just have to do a little planning. You’ll need to take a bus from where ever you are to Hamilton and then take the local Bus 23 from Hamilton to Raglan. It’s a super easy switch to make as Bus 23 picks up right out front of the bus terminal where all of the national bus companies (e.g. Intercity, Manabus) drop off. You just have to make sure that the bus that takes you to Hamilton drops you off before Bus 23 leaves as it only runs a few times a day.
Where I stayed
There are a few small backpackers in Raglan, the one I stayed at was Raglan Backpackers and Waterfront Lodge. It was an awesome place, with a free sauna and hot tub, hammocks galore, surfing lessons and yoga, and so much more. Everyone that worked there was super nice and the atmosphere was (no surprise) super laid back. They also have a very friendly cat, which was really the cherry on top for me. (I really do think there is a correlation between a hostel being good and having a cat. It’s certainly a trend I’ve noticed during my travels.)
Where I ate
Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot of food or shopping in Raglan. I did love the fish and chip place on The Warf called Raglan Fish. They had great fish and chips for decent prices, and well as lots of other fresh seafood options (and a veggie burger as well if you aren’t into seafood.) There was also a cute little café in town on Bow St. called The Shack that had great breakfast and a nice atmosphere. It’s a good place to grab a bite to eat while you plan out your day.
What I did
As much as it is a laid back, chill place, I don’t actually find sitting around and doing nothing for long spans of time relaxing. So while I did spend some time on the beach and sleeping in the hammocks at the hostel, I also spent a lot of time out exploring the area. I went on a nice beach walk that went down the beach and then up and around through the bush (there is a reserve there with lots of walks through the bush and farmland, definitely go through there if you have the time.) For specifics on the beach walk, go into the i-Site and they can show you on the map (the map is horrible, by the way. But it’s alright enough to figure out where you’re going.) The main two things I did were the Estuary Walk and going out to Bridal Veil Falls.
Estuary Walk: A short 1hr-ish walk around the estuary (who could have guessed?) Go at high tide to get some nice views of the water and surrounding greenery. Or do like I did and forget that high/low tide is a thing and go at low tide and look at a bunch of mud. It’s a nice walk either way. It’s also not a circular track, so you can either turn around and go back the way you came or walk back through the neighborhood.
Bridal Veil Falls: The falls are about 20 minutes by car from Raglan. If you don’t have a car, you can rent a bike and take the two-hour ride out there. This is what I did and I can honestly say it was worth it. Though I must admit that I did rent an electric bike, and I don’t think I would have made it up all those hills on the way there without a little help. If you are fit and ride a lot you likely wouldn’t have an issue on a normal bike. But I am out of shape and have the knees of a geriatric, so electric bike it was. If you too need a little help, you can rent an electric bike from the i-Site.
To get to the falls, I took a gravel back road instead of the main highway (because riding a bike on a highway is scary. Don’t judge me.) There was a wonderful view once I trudged my way to the top of the mountain (hill? It felt like a mountain) ridge, which you can see in the video, though the go pro clip doesn’t really do it justice. From then on it was mostly down hill, and once you get to Ruapuke Rd you get an awesome downhill ride on paved road through farmland, which was absolutely beautiful.
Eventually you get to the actual falls. At the i-Site, I was told that there was a place to chain up the bike, but I never saw one. So I just took it with me to the top of the falls and chained it up to the fence there out of the way. No idea if that’s legal or whatever, but it’s what I did. (Note: there may have been some giant bike rack that I just missed somehow, so do have a look around when you get there. I do have a penchant for missing things that are right in front of me.) The walk through the forest to get to the falls was short but lovely. It is crazy to think that that tiny, quiet stream turns into that giant waterfall.
There are four different viewing platforms to see the waterfall: One at the very top, where you can watch the river turn into the waterfall as it leaps off of the edge; one as you begin your decent to the bottom, where you can get a nice side view of the entire waterfall and the pool below; another about halfway down; and then finally the one at the bottom, where you can look up and appreciate the full height and power of the falls. There are also a few informational panels along the way so that you can learn more about how the falls came to be.
I didn’t try surfing because it was still kind of cold and last time I tried it I did not have a good time at all, so all of my enjoyment of the water came from watching it from the beach. I spent a nice evening just chatting with some people from the hostel on the beach while watching the sunset. The rest of my time was essentially just spent wandering around, trying to find stuff to do and things to eat. If you like coffee, make sure to stop by Raglan Roast, which is in one of the little back alleys off of the main street (super easy to find, don’t worry.) You can also rent a kayak and go out to the pancake rocks (though weather didn’t allow for this while I was there unfortunately.)
And that’s pretty much my entire adventure in Raglan. It was a very nice few days and I’m glad I got to take some time off of work to go. Watch my video of my trip above or click here to watch it on youtube.
Have you ever been to Raglan? If so, what were your favorite things that you saw/did while there?