Tucked away on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island is the colourful, coastal town of Raglan. The popular holiday destination is known for its relaxed atmosphere, laidback locals, and rugged, black sand beaches. And while it only has a population of around 3,000 people, there is no shortage of things to do!
Raglan caters to almost everyone—the creative types, the outdoorsy folk, the foodies and more. So if you’re planning your next getaway and Raglan’s on your radar, check out this handy list of the six best things to do in Raglan. Whether you try just one activity or manage to do them all, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable time.
Learn to surf
If there’s one thing Raglan is known for, it’s surfing! So it makes complete sense to see what all the fuss is about by testing your own ability to catch a wave! Raglan Surf School offers a 3-hour beginners lesson at the beautiful Ngarunui Beach – an exposed spot southwest of the township where you’re guaranteed to find wave after wave.
The lessons are run by friendly and experienced instructors who know all the tricks to make sure that you get the most out of your three-hour lesson. They’ll do their best to get you up on your board in no time – but not before you’re trained on dry land and know how to keep yourself safe.
And if you didn’t come prepared for surfing, Raglan Surf School has you covered. Their beginner surfing lesson includes free surfboard and wetsuit hire as well as transport to and from your accommodation in Raglan township. A surfing lesson is a fun and adventurous way to spend a morning in Raglan, and you may just leave your holiday with a thrilling lifelong hobby!
Take the harbour sunset cruise
Step aboard Wahinemoe to see the Raglan harbour in a whole new light. If we could recommend one thing and one thing only for you to do in Raglan, it would have to be the famous harbour sunset cruise. The 14-metre catamaran has been purpose-built for entertaining on the Whaingaroa Harbour with a two-level design that ensures you won’t miss any of the action.
The Raglan coastline offers so much more than what can be seen from land. There are hidden bays and ancient limestone rock formations as well as an abundance of marine and bird life to watch as the day turns to dusk. Listen to the captain’s fascinating commentary, purchase drinks on board and order some fish and chips to enjoy as you cruise (as long as you book in advance!)
The 1.5-hour cruise is a great way to celebrate your first night in Raglan or see out a memorable trip. Whether you’re travelling with family, friends, your partner or solo, the Raglan Harbour sunset cruise is an entertaining way to spend a summer evening.
Check out the Raglan cafes and restaurants
For a small town, Raglan punches well above its weight when it comes to cafes and restaurants! Used to catering to a slew of visitors—especially during the summer months—Raglan has dozens of eateries to choose from.
If you’re after a casual café meal, check out The Shack on the corner of Bow Street and Wainui Road. With picturesque palms lining the street outside and welcoming staff within, this café will have you feeling content before your food is even served. The popular brunch spot serves up all your trusty breakfast favourites or you can grab a tasty coffee and a cake to go.
Further down Wainui Road is Rock-It Kitchen, a beautiful rustic spot just perfect for a meal in the sun. Set in an old woolshed with outdoor dining on the surrounding lawn, Rock-It Kitchen is open for breakfast and lunch every day and for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. If you’re looking for a spot with a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy drinks and a bite with friends, Rock-It Kitchen is well worth a visit.
If you have an evening meal in mind, perhaps to celebrate something special, Orca Restaurant and Bar will be sure to impress. This beachside eatery offers casual dining during the day and formal dining in the evening. With beautiful harbour views, a delicious seasonal menu and an extensive wine list, there’s little more you could want in a Raglan restaurant.
Hike to some scenic spots
The natural environment surrounding Raglan is perfect for exploring, surrounded by farmland, native vegetation, rivers and miles of coastline. If you love fresh air, bird watching and jaw-dropping views, we recommend spending some time exploring the local hiking trails.
Just a 20-minute drive from the Raglan township lies Mount Karioi, an extinct volcano and wildly popular hiking spot. The views from the lookout and the summit are incredible – but you’ll need a fair amount of energy to make it to the top! It’s about a 3-hour hike to the lookout and a 3.5-hour hike to the summit – and be prepared to meet your fair share of obstacles along the way. The muddy track is steep and slippery in parts (especially after rain) and there are chains and ladders in place to help you negotiate some tricky parts. But the views of the surrounding harbours, bush and countryside make it all worth it. On a fine day you can even see as far as Mount Taranaki and Mount Ruapehu.
Another popular (and much shorter) hike from Raglan is the track to Bridal Veil Falls. This 55-metre plunge waterfall makes for a spectacular sight, and it’s only a 15-minute drive away from Raglan. You’ll reach the top of the falls after a picturesque, 10-minute walk through native bush, and this section of the track is accessible to prams and wheelchairs. And if you want to venture down to the bottom of the falls, it’s another 10-minute walk down some steep sections and couple of hundred stairs. Unfortunately, you can’t swim at the falls – the water quality is not up to standard – but you can snap some amazing pictures!
Ride a horse along the beach
Another way to explore some of Raglan’s natural surrounds is not by foot—but astride a magnificent horse. Horse riding tours in Raglan can take you across local farmland, along the beach and coastline or to serene spots at sunset.
Whether or not you’re an experienced horse rider, there is an option for you in Raglan. Surf & Turf Horse Riding offers great rides for beginners and even pony rides for children over the age 4. Tours can be customised to suit different levels of experience and can traverse the hills surrounding the Te Uku windfarm, weave through native bush or amble along the harbour. There is even an option that travels through pine forest to see some magical sights at sunset.
Just 20-minutes away in Ruapuke, more adventurous horse-riding tours can take you through streams, along the black sand beaches and even into the ocean. From October to April, Wildcoast also offers the option to enjoy burgers and beer on the beach while you enjoy the last of the sun as it sets on the horizon. If you haven’t experienced horse riding yet, Raglan is a great place to start!
Explore the local markets
There are many creative people in Raglan with some truly amazing talents, so the Raglan Creative Market is a fun place to visit if you’re in town at the right time! The Raglan Creative Market is held on the second Sunday of each month and is a great place to check out some of the local arts and crafts. The market offers food, fashion, jewellery, artwork, music, entertainment and more! Pick up some homemade pesto to take home, a knitted hat for a new baby or a beautiful canvas for your home.
And if you’re visiting Raglan during spring or summer, be sure to pay a visit to the Raglan Growers Market too. Here, you can pick up high quality, homegrown produce for excellent prices and also grab something fresh to eat on the go. Past meals have included tasty options like homemade vegetable curry, fried chicken burgers and crumbed fish tacos. The Raglan Growers Market is a waste-free event, so be sure to come prepared with bags, bowls, cups and utensils if you plan to have a bite on site. It runs from 4pm until 7pm on Fridays and is the perfect way to spend a warm summer evening.