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Raglan is a hidden gem in New Zealand often missed by travellers. This beautiful little corner on the North Island is known for its black sands, surf beaches, boutique shops, arts and crafts, trendy cafes and restaurants, and Raglan Roast – coffee roasted right here in Raglan.
This weekend, we escape from our toddler and choose Raglan as our babymoon destination to reignite the sparks between my partner and me before our son joins the family.
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Raglan i-Site Visitor Centre
Our favourite first stops for every destination in New Zealand is the i-Site Visitor Information Centre. We come here for more than just brochures and ask for directions. This is usually the best place to have a chat with locals about recommendations on your specific type of vacation.
For us, this trip is a weekend getaway from our 2yo toddler Kyra, and a celebration of being a couple before our son arrives in March 2020. We want this trip to be relaxing, romantic and stress-free.
Coincidentally, the lady we met at the visitor centre is also heavily pregnant with twin boys. So she knew exactly what to recommend, and it turns out, most of these attractions are family-friendly regardless of whether you have a baby, toddler or kids tagging along.
Top Attractions in Raglan
Raglan is surrounded by nature, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that the top attractions here are Bridal Veil Falls, Michael Hope Lookout, and the 3 famous surf break beaches.
However, many other activities in Raglan are also worth exploring, such as horse riding, surf lessons, and Raglan Museum. We will cover some of the top things to do in Raglan in the section below and introduce a list of hiking tracks and trails for the adventurers!
Bridal Veil Falls
As the name suggests, Bridal Veil Falls is a 55m waterfall resembling a bride’s veil. Many people choose to get married at this romantic and magical place. Bridal Veil Falls is about 20 minutes drive from Raglan, where 15 minutes of that drive is off the State Hwy.
I was 25 weeks pregnant at the time and managed to walk easily to the falls in 10 minutes. However, the path isn’t stroller-friendly, so if you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, an ergonomic baby carrier would be the best option.
At the end of the pathway, there’s a sign that points to the lookout area. The waterfall sits in a bright open space with no obstructive views from the trees. This allows photo opportunities during most hours of the day.
To the left, you’ll see the top of the waterfall. Although you can get really close to the falls, the angle only allows you to see the top, so the view of Bridal Veil Falls is minimal.
To the right, you’ll get to the upper falls viewing platform, which gives you a full view of the breathtaking Bridal Veil Falls. It isn’t too much of a challenge to keep walking towards the bottom of the falls.
As for our family, we decided to give it a miss this time with my big belly and clumsy feet.
Michael Hope Lookout
There’s no better vantage point than Michael Hope Lookout to take in the panoramic view of Raglan’s best beaches. There is plenty of space for picnics and walks, and this is our perfect afternoon stop to rest up and recharge while watching brave people paragliding along the coastline.
Ngarunui Beach, Manu Bay Reserve & Whale Bay
A bit of a walk downhill from Ngarunui Beach‘s car park is a picturesque beginner’s surf beach with smooth black sand ideal for swimming, surfing and fishing.
Manu Bay Reserve is one of the best spots for surfing in Raglan. Many surfers choose to enter the breaking waves by jumping in from the reef rocks.
We had a fantastic time just sitting and chilling on the grass, watching these courageous surfers, wishing we could do the same!
Whale Bay is another popular spot, more secluded with world-renowned surf.
Top Things To Do in Raglan
Raglan is a budget-friendly destination for backpackers, couples and families. There’s no need to break the bank to explore this coastal town. Apart from the must-do top attractions, Raglan has unique local boutique shops, huge playgrounds, water activities and beautiful walks and hikes. Don’t forget to explore Raglan Wharf, which we have written detailed guides below.
Three Bridges Walk
Quite literally, three bridges walk means walking through the 3 bridges around the heart of Raglan surrounded by black sand beaches and dazzling waters.
This is the top-recommended walk for families and, in my case, pregnant ladies. The entire path is stroller friendly, and you can choose to end the walk at any point.
Of course, there are many other hikes and walks for people with different fitness levels and interests. We have named many in the Tracks & Trails section below, where you can research more if you plan to hike.
Over and across Raglan Footbridge, crowds gather at the beach. There’s a campervan parking site near the playgrounds, which attracts families all over to camp here.
You can find more camping options in our accommodation section below. Kids covered in black sand, jumping off the bridge, and making a splash in the water. Line up at Jo’s Takeaway for a quick bite to enjoy the perfect day out in the sun!
Surrounded by water, it only makes sense to get yourselves wet. Kayak or paddleboard to the pancake rocks, and take in the sparkling view of the inner harbour. Raglan Kayak & Paddleboard hire is available around the intersection between Cliff St and Bow St.
Ngarunui Beach Walk & Sunset
I specifically wanted to take a leisure walk on the beach this time, and cover my feet with Raglan’s black sand. However, the popular surf beaches we’ve covered above, do not have direct easy access to the beach for a pregnant girl. So if you’re travelling with kids, or not as mobile, and want to take a walk on Ngarunui Beach, the closest and easiest access to the beach is via Riria Kereopa Memorial Drive.
This is also the best spot to watch Raglan’s stunning sunset. There is ample parking right in front of the beach, making it a perfect place to enjoy some takeaways or pizza in the comfort of your car.
We loved the vibes here in Raglan town centre. Boutique shops, themed stores, creative streets, and I found my favourite bohemian gypsy store! Whether you’re just window-shopping, looking for arts & crafts or something unique and different, Raglan town centre will not disappoint.
Surf & Turf Horse Riding
If I’m not heavily pregnant, horse riding would be on my top to-do list here in Raglan. Surf & Turf^ offers many horse riding options, ranging from beach rides, farm rides, swimming with horses, sunset rides and photoshoots.
Tracks & Trails
Below we have summarised some Tracks and Trails options if this your area of interest. You can get detailed guides and maps on these walks from Raglan i-Site Visitor Centre.
- Town to beach walk along Ngaranui
- Wainui bush park off Wainui Rd
- Te Ara Kakariki Raglan ocean trails, also a shared bike track
- Ngaranui beach loop walk
- Water race track (30min 1km) from Upper Wainui Rd
- Water race track to Solscape loop
- Ngarunui track (20min 800m)
- Estuary walk (1hr 5km) along Raglan Estuary
- Mt. Karioi (2hrs to look out, 3hrs to summit) starting from Te Toto Gorge carpark
- Mt Karioi Wairake track (2.5hrs to summit) not as steep as the hike above
- Papanui point (must be careful of tide changes)
- Ed Hilary Reserve (main entrance off Old Mountain Rd)
- Four Brothers track (15min 630m one-way climb)
- Karamu Walkway (Northern track: 1.5hr 2.7km one way. Southern track: 3-4hrs 7.8km one way)
- Karakariki Reserve near Whatawhata (20min to the waterfall)
- Waipa River walkway from Te Pahu Rd off Route 23
What to pack for road trips with kids + interactive packing list to tick off
Top Cafes & Restaurants in Raglan
From Raglan Roast coffee to waterfront cafes and restaurants, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to food & drinks in Raglan. Of course, if you’re here for fresh fish & chips, then head on over to Raglan Wharf for fish fresh off the boat!
You must not leave Raglan without trying Raglan Roast coffee. Hidden in Volcom Lane, this little coffee shop is the go-to coffee shop for locals and tourists.
Rock-It Kitchen is a little out of town, but we just have to mention this restaurant first. It’s ranked #1 on Tripadvisor, and totally deserves the crown. We discovered it on the way back from the surf beaches and decided to have an early dinner here. The kitchen is open from 5.30 pm in the evenings. We arrived just shortly after 5 pm, and the staff here kindly seated us and advised the chef to start a little earlier.
Although we waited about 40 minutes for our meals, we were very satisfied with the quality and presentation of our food. What we loved the most about this place was the outdoor alfresco dining area.
The romantic settings with candle lights on each table set a relaxing ambience and sparked a long-overdue romantic conversation between my partner and me.
The spacious backyard garden area has a little football net to keep the kids entertained.
The Shack Raglan is a local restaurant open every day from 8 am – 4 pm. Situated right in the hub of Raglan busiest street, with an outdoor seating area and great atmosphere. Come here for lunch if you’re in town!
Orca Eatery & Bar
Situated right by the water, Orca Eatery & Bar would be an excellent choice to enjoy the stunning view of Raglan inner harbour.
Raglan Wharf is home to many fishing and charter boats here. You can find Raglan Roast coffee, fresh fish & chips, a pottery barn, cafes & restaurants, and unique accommodation. This is a hot spot for leisure fishing if fishing is on your to-do list.
New Zealand is known for its fish & chips by the sea. If you’re after fresh fish & chips around this region, there’s no better place to get them than Raglan Fish. It’s not an upscale restaurant, nor is it a fancy seafood shop, but it’s as local as it gets.
There is a range of fish to choose from, including daily specials and smoked seafood. It can get quite busy during weekends, so expect some waiting if there are many people around. Sauces are $1 each, but there is salt on every table.
Raglan Fish sits around the corner of Raglan Wharf with sweeping views of Cox Bay, so enjoy some fresh fish off the boat and watch people reel in their fishing lines by the wharf!
If you stumbled upon the little coffee shop here at the wharf, try their Raglan Roast Coffee. However, if you can hold off your caffeine, save your thirst for Raglan Roast Coffee in Volcom Lane in town.. or have 2 coffees, because well, you’re on holiday!
Tony Sly Pottery
You can’t miss this little pottery barn on Raglan Wharf as it’s right by the car park. Tony Sly has been working with clay since the 1980s. Although we’re not pottery experts, it’s a cool little shop to check out!
The Wharf Kitchen and Bar
The Wharf Kitchen and Bar is an excellent place to grab some breakfast or brunch. Try their wharf-famous Seafood Chowder!
7 Genius top tips for road trips with kids + what to bring, nursery rhymes playlist
Accommodation in Raglan
Raglan offers many types of accommodation. From camping to backpackers, budget hotels to unique apartments, glamping to 5-star lodges, there’s something for every occasion.
Below are some of our recommendations on accommodation in Raglan.
We stayed in a secluded lodge for a romantic babymoon getaway without our toddler. You can read our review on Karamu Valley Lodge in the section below. *This lodge is closed since Covid.
The Silos Apartments
It’s to our surprise that the former Golden Bay Silos has been converted into a very unique accommodation choice for visitors, now known as The Silos Apartments.
There are currently 5 apartments to choose from, so if you’re looking for something slightly different but not too far from the hub of Raglan, The Silos would be a great place for a memorable experience.
Te Kopua Whanau Camping Ground is a stone throw away from Ngarunui Beach.
There are a few freedom camping locations that you can explore here. Middle sections of James St & Wallis St, and Grass area at East end of Lorenzen Bay Rd.
You can explore Raglan Holiday Park options if you and your family plan to camp in Raglan.
This was actually our first choice of accommodation, but unfortunately, we left the planning too late, and it was fully booked out for our dates.
Nikau Sanctuary is a unique accommodation in the style of a luxury yurt. It has its very own outdoor bath, BBQ kitchen and is surrounded by palm trees. This is definitely a top choice for a romantic getaway.
Located a short walk from the famous beaches, Solscape offers a range of accommodation, including Bach, Cottage and Studio.
💞 Stay Travel Savvy
For rural regions or underdeveloped destinations, try to support local businesses by booking guesthouses directly with the hosts. Quite often, you’ll be able to negotiate a much better rate and build connections with the locals.
If you’re a frequent traveller, we recommend sticking with one hotel booking site or hotel chain to reap the benefits of its loyalty program. Such as Agoda, Booking, Hotels, Hiltons Honors Program or IHG Rewards Program.
Our Recommended Accommodation Booking Sites
Agoda: After using many hotel booking sites and comparing them over the last decade, Agoda has the most comprehensive accommodation listings, including holiday homes. We love its cashback reward system and its loyalty program. Agoda is our family’s #1 go-to hotel booking platform.
Booking: Booking.com is still the most popular accommodation booking site with the most listings.
Expedia: Expedia Group has many of our family’s favourite brands under its umbrella. It’s an excellent one-stop platform for checking availabilities and planning out your trip.
Holiday Homes: As a family, we love booking holiday homes. They’re usually more spacious and come equipped with a full kitchen and even a washing machine, adding that extra layer of convenience to our stay with kids.
Vrbo is our go-to platform for booking holiday homes around the world.
Stayz is our favourite platform for booking holiday homes in Australia.
Bookabach is where we find holiday homes off the beaten track in New Zealand.
Karamu Valley Lodge
2021 Update: Sadly, Karamu Valley Lodge is closed until further notice. Perhaps it was hugely impacted by the pandemic like many other hospitality services. We will update here again if Karamu Valley Lodge reopens in the future.
If you have been following us, you may know our family always end up making last-minute travel plans. At this time of the year – December, pretty much all the accommodations in Raglan are booked out on hotel websites.
Fortunately for us, we found Karamu Valley Lodge. From the photos and descriptions, we didn’t expect too much from it. It was the only accommodation available and it was affordable. However, what ended up being a last-resort stay, turned out to be quite an amazing stay at Karamu Valley Lodge.
Karamu Valley Lodge is located in a secluded mountain region about halfway between Hamilton and Raglan, which is probably one of the reasons why we were able to book the last room available.
We had a very relaxing stay, away from the crowds and surrounded by nature, which was exactly what we wanted this weekend.
We stayed in a studio apartment downstairs and walked in, doubting whether we made a mistake and booked a private room instead of an apartment. It turned out the studio apartment here was super spacious and can potentially accommodate an entire family!
The owners came out to greet us promptly and offered fresh milk and bread with a welcome basket with cereals and chips on arrival. We were very impressed and did not expect this level of service for the price we paid (NZ$150).
We were surprised at the quality of the furnishing here. It really felt like we walked into the owner’s house who cared about the place very much.
Bed linens were super soft and comfortable. There were DVDs for us to enjoy and full kitchen facilities if we wanted to cook.
Effortless Planning Starts Here
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What are your favourite activities to do in a place like Raglan? Walks, water activities, surf, beach or shop til’ you drop?