It's getting a tiny bit colder in NZ as autumn is approaching. It's so weird to be in April and talk about autumn weather & wind - April equals spring time & light time in my head of the Northern hemisphere... Fortunately there's still heaps of amazingly nice sunny days here in Bay of Plenty on the East Coast of New Zealand's North Island (the location of Mount Maunganui, Leon's childhood home). Same goes for Waikato & the King Country which is the neighboring region to the West and last week we decided to go on a mission. A mission to visit one of Leon's favorite surf spots in NZ and a mission to explore an area I haven't been to yet: Raglan and surrounding nature.
The West Coast Surf Paradise: Raglan
Since I arrived in New Zealand 4 months ago I've heard quite a lot about Raglan. Once a small sleepy west coast town which these days has turned into a busy hub for surfers. Visiting tourists as well as locals come here and especially December through February gets really busy. With Leon being the keen surfer he is, we drove straight from Mount Maunganui to Raglan (a 2.5 h drive) and started checking the main surf breaks: Main Beach, Manu Bay Indicators and Whale Bay. Apparently Raglan's Manu Bay was featured in the famous surf movie The Endless Summer from 64´and the popularity of Raglan's waves has only gone up since.
Being a non-surfing girlfriend of a surfer, I really like Raglan's main beach which is perfect for beach walks, beach runs & beach yoga. The more windy Manu Bay is beautiful as well with lovely green picnic areas for yoga and chilling. Indicators and Whale Bay a bit secluded with no facilities etc. so not very "family friendly".
Raglan has a small and charming downtown with a boutique- and a bit of a hippie feel. It's definitely a very arty place with lots of creative locals! Must visit is Raglan Roast for a locally and freshly roasted coffee! Our good friend Kat drove over from the Mount as well and joined us for one of those. She also suggested us to visit the Solscape - the super ECO retreat/resort/camping spot/cafe over-viewing the ocean from a high hill. If we hadn't been staying with Leon's lovely family friends Solscape would have been first accommodation choice - it is a very cool and inspiring spot.
Hiking Raglan's Sleeping Lady: Mount Karioi
For those in for some proper nature walks and mountain hikes (me me me) the main choices when visiting Raglan are either Mount Karioi (756m) just out of Raglan or taking a trip a bit further south to Pirongia Forest Park and Mount Pirongia (959m). The two "sister" mountains both sounds like very interesting hikes - Mount Pirongia being more of a whole day mission with several track options and even a over-night hut option as well. Mount Karioi can be done in 3 hours or less - we hiked it taking the Eastern Wairake track which is steeper and a bit shorter than the main track starting at the base of the mountain at the rough and cool Te Toto Gorge Lookout.
The Wairake Track starts a bit further up the mountain and you park just outside "The Farmer's house". Both Lonely Planet and our local family friends told us this option is more safe as theft is a problem at Te Toto Gorge parking lot. The first 15 minutes hike is through flat farmland where after the track gets super exotic, super steep and super amazing. The tranquility and lushness you experience when hiking in native bush is indescribable.
And the view from the top: breathtaking! If you take a good look on a clear day you can spot Mount Taranaki's perfectly shaped cone to the south just off the coast.
First or Last Stop When Visiting Raglan: The Bridal Veil Falls
When we drove into Raglan I noticed a turn-off from the main Hamilton-Raglan road to Waireinga also known as The Bridal Veil Falls. A 55m water fall surrounded by native bush and an ancient touch of magic... After recommendations from Kat and the family friends we decided to stop here on the way back and check it out. Water falls are always a bit hit or miss but Waireinga is definitely worth a visit and the small walk to get there (10 min). Super majestic and surroundings are so lush and fresh.
So long Raglan, we'll be coming back here this season for sure!