Have you heard of Raglan, New Zealand’s free spirited town on the North Island? Like its slogan ‘jewel of the Waikato’, Raglan sparkles. Here, backpackers rub shoulders with weekenders, high end tourists, and of course, locals. Everyone feels welcome here, not too tourist orientated to take away from the rustic vibe, yet not too ‘local’ to feel excluded.
The thing about Raglan is that the town seeps into your bones and makes you feel deeply relaxed. More a cluster of bays than a beach town, it’s a place to surf and wander, to drink coffee and chill, and to pace your days around the lazy ebb of the tide.
I would highly urge you to go without a plan and just feel your way through, but here are a few ideas to get you wander lusting:
1 Rent a bach
It’s what kiwis call a modest beach house and more economical with more people. If we had a larger group, the holiday home we rented would have been NZ$40 a night. Also a shame that NZ has really begun to crack down on freedom camping and Manu Bay (which would have been perfect for a night’s sleep with nearby clean toilet and seaside views) is prohibited for camping. Sigh.
Anyway, that brings me to the next point-
2 Surf at Manu Bay
Rent a board and wetsuit for $20-30 an hour at one of the rental shops in town, or take lessons for $90, or simply observe others more talented than ourselves and instead search the rocks at low tide for paua
3 Watch the cuzzie bros back flip off the river bridge then muster the courage to do the same
A favourite pastime of all backpackers everywhere, best achieved after a couple of beers. Watch the water level under the bridge though and jump when you see the locals doing it.
4 Hike up Mt Karioi
8kms south of Raglan and more a hill than a mountain (spoken like a true Taranaki girl) Mt Karioi is a little adventure to break up the leisure. It doesn’t have to be a big hike - we only hiked up to the first lookout – after a half hour hike we sat on a giant fallen tree and ate a picnic lunch.
5 Rent a kayak
No explanation needed, enjoy being out on the glittery waters on a calm day.
In Raglan, everything else fell away - I forgot about work, to do lists and everyday stresses. A great first stop out of Auckland on your way down the west side of the North Island, don’t forget to pace yourself and enjoy the serene side of New Zealand.
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