Raglan travel guide

Raglan is a small coastal town that’s located on the west coast of the North Island. It’s less a 2-hour drive from the bustling city of Auckland, and even closer to Hamilton, but your experience there couldn’t be more different!

Known for its pristine surf beaches, delicious food, and laid-back atmosphere, this vibrant town has so much to offer.

Whether you’re looking to catch a wave on your surfboard, take a sunset cruise, or hike to one of the area’s fantastic viewpoints, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do.

Wildlife lovers will also be fond of Raglan, as depending on the time of year you’ve got a chance of spotting whales and orcas!

This Raglan guide will set you up with the knowledge you need for the perfect trip. So, let’s dive right in!

Women doing yoga poses in Raglan Yoga Retreat.
A yoga session in Raglan.

An Overview of Raglan

Population~3,800 people
RegionWaikato, North Island
Area 4.9 km2
Elevation65 metres above sea level
Main attractionsBeaches, surfing, boat cruise, kayaking, breathtaking views, and adventure activities
Nearby destinationsHamilton, Waitomo, Auckland, Rotorua, and Tauranga & Mount Maunganui
A tourist canyoning in Raglan Rock.
Abseiling is a popular activity in Raglan – and it’s suitable for practically everyone.

The History of Raglan

Raglan and its surrounding area are thought to have been inhabited for around 800 years. However it wasn’t always known by that name; Māori referred to it as ‘Whaingaroa’, which means ‘the long pursuit’.

The first Europeans settled there in 1835 where they were welcomed by local Māori. After a large amount of land was sold by Chief Wiremu Neera Te Awaitaia, much of it was turned into pasture.

It wasn’t until 1858 that the name ‘Raglan’ came into play. The name was given to honour Fitzroy Somerset who had been a commander of the British Forces in the Crimean War.

Raglan was also the location of civil disobedience campaigns in the 1970s due to an event that happened during WWII.

During the war, the government took ancestral land from Māori owners to build an airfield for the military.

After the war had finished, instead of returning the land to its original indigenous owners it became the Raglan Golf Course.

Street signs and cars on the road while people walk on the pavement of Raglan Town Centre.
Raglan township today.

The Geography of Raglan

Raglan is most commonly associated with Raglan Harbour which is located 12 km inland from the entrance to the Tasman Sea. A variety of rivers flow into this harbour including Tawatahi, Kerikeri and Waingaro.

North of Raglan Harbour there are endless sand dunes that are rich with iron, and of course, you’ve got the nearby beaches of Ngarunui and Ruapuke. The area is also blessed with limestone cliffs, perfect for kayaking around.

Aside from its breathtaking coastline, you’ve also got Pirongia Forest Park which is a 30-45 minute drive from the town.

To the Southwest of Raglan, you’ll find Mt Karioi, an extinct volcano. Mount Karioi is thought to be millions of years old, with the last eruption taking place around 2.5 million years ago.

Legend says that Karioi, a Māori Princess, was jilted by her lover. Once, she’d discovered that the love was lost, she simply lay down and rested, heartbroken.

Paddle boarders making their way around the limestone cliffs of Raglan.
Paddle board or kayak around the limestone coast of Raglan.

Things to Do in Raglan

You’ll find plenty of fantastic things to do in Raglan even though it’s a relatively small coastal town.

Top activities and attractions include:

Beaches

Raglan is famous for its beaches. Two of the most popular beaches in the area include Ngarunui and Ruapuke.

Surfing

Surfing is one of the most popular activities in Raglan and there are plenty of great places to catch a wave including Manu Bay, Whale Bay, and Ruapuke Beach.

Boat cruises

During the summer, sunset harbour cruises run from Raglan. You’ll get to experience an epic sunset out on the water. There’s also a choice of optional fish and chips (which is highly recommended).

Kayaking

Rent a kayak from Raglan Kayak & Paddleboard and explore the limestone coast. This area is known for its pancake geology, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot orcas if it’s the right time of year!

Breathtaking views

Raglan is famous for its gorgeous views, but there are a few places that stand out above the rest. Check out Te Toto Gorge Lookout, the Mount Karioi Summit and Bridal Veil Falls.

Adventure activities

You won’t be short of adrenaline-pumping activities in Raglan. However, some of the most popular options include rock climbing, canyoning, and caving!

Save Money on Your Visit

As a reader of NZTT, you’re entitled to a range of discounts in the region.

Pick up a bargain through BookMe (no promo code required), or save 10% on anything sold through Backpacker Deals using the coupon code NZTT.

We’ve also arranged the following specials for you too…

Places to Eat in Raglan

There are lots of great restaurants in Raglan so you’ll have plenty of options!

These are some of the best places to eat:

Orca Restaurant & Bar

This waterfront eatery is known for its epic views, delicious food, and fantastic atmosphere. There’s also a full bar so what more do you need?

The Wharf Kitchen & Bar

The Wharf Kitchen & Bar is another restaurant in Raglan that’s known for its lovely views. However, the highlight of this place has to be its food with great portion sizes, and its extensive menu.

Rock-It Kitchen

This quirky restaurant is a favourite spot for locals and visitors alike. It has a strong focus on local ingredients, resulting in fresh flavours. Rock-It Kitchen is also dog-friendly, and you’ll be treated to striking views of the local area

The Shack

If you’re looking for tasty food then make sure you head to The Shack. Their all-day menu primarily focuses on healthy options, and they’ve got an extensive drinks menu too.

Raglan Fish

Last but certainly not least is Raglan Fish. This is the perfect option if you’re looking for a quick bite. The fish and chips here are delicious and you can even eat overlooking the water!

Fish fillet with french fries and a small burger beside it.
Fish and chips don’t come fresher than in Raglan.

The Best Places to Stay in Raglan

Although Raglan is relatively small, it’s the perfect place to relax so we’d recommend staying here for at least two days.

The one thing to note is that there aren’t many accommodation options here compared to many other areas in New Zealand. For this reason, you’ll want to book in advance to secure the place you want.

Here are our top picks for staying in Raglan:

Budget: Raglan Backpackers

This is one of the cheapest accommodation options you’ll find in Raglan and it’s beautiful. Boasting a shared kitchen, sauna and hot tub, it’s the obvious choice.

Check availability: Raglan Backpackers.

Mid-range: Raglan Sunset Motel and Conference Venue

This property is just a short walk from the beach and offers a variety of room options. We also love its modern, beachy styling.

Check availability: Raglan Sunset Motel and Conference Venue.

Luxury: The Silos Apartments

This gorgeous place is set out on Raglan Wharf so offers stunning sea views – it is literally right on the water. Some of the units sleep up to four people too, so it’s a great choice for families and small groups.

Check availability: The Silos Apartments.

Self-contained accommodation: Three Streams Raglan Retreat

This beautiful studio apartment sleeps up to four people and has a private courtyard that features a BBQ and outdoor bath.

Check availability: Three Streams Raglan Retreat.

Top Tips for Visiting Raglan

Here are some top tops if you’re looking to make the most of your trip:

  • If you’re not heading out on a sunset boat cruise then make sure you watch the sun go down at Manu Bay – trust us, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Raglan can get extremely busy, especially during the best summer swells, as it’s one of the country’s most famous surfing locations.
  • You’ll find a wide variety of local goods in Raglan ranging from food to jewellery, so make sure you have a good look around the town.
An instructor teaching three ladies on how to surf while on the sandy beach of Raglan.
Surfing is a popular reason to visit Raglan. Photo: Paul Abbitt.

Nearby Towns and Attractions

You won’t run out of things to do in Raglan, but if you’re looking to head out on a day trip then you’ve got plenty of options. Just keep in mind, that getting around by car is the most efficient way to travel.

These are some of the best day trips from Raglan.

Alternatively, they might be your next stop as you continue on your journey.

Hamilton

First up on this list is the city of Hamilton which is known as the ‘City of the Future’. It’s located along the Waikato River which is the longest river in New Zealand.

Hamilton is the fourth largest city in the country so naturally, there’s a lot to do there! From world-renowned botanical gardens to the city’s Waikato Museum, there’s something for everyone.

You can also head out on a river cruise which we’d definitely recommend.

Hamilton is a 35-minute drive from Raglan.

>>> Explore Hamilton.

A couple biking on the path next to the Waikato River.
Enjoy exploring the Waikato River in Hamilton.

Waitomo

There are lots of unique places to visit in New Zealand but Waitomo will take your breath away! There, you’ll find one of the country’s most popular attractions – the Waitomo Caves.

This cave system is home to thousands of tiny glow worms that light up the darkness of the caves. It’s quite a sight to see. You can explore on foot, head out on a boat, or try black water rafting!

Other things to do in Waitomo include visiting the Zipline Park and hiking the Ruakuri Bush Walk.

Waitomo Caves is a 1.5-hour drive from Raglan.

>>> Explore Waitomo.

Tourists black water rafting inside a cave filled with glow worms.
Black water rafting is just one of the amazing things to do in Waitomo.

Auckland

Although Auckland may not be the country’s capital, it’s for sure the largest city in New Zealand. With a population of over 1.5 million people and a regional area of 1,086 km2, this city is HUGE!

Auckland is based around two large harbours and is one of the country’s most multicultural hubs. For this reason, you won’t be short of fantastic eateries, cultural attractions, and music.

Not only is the scenery spectacular there, but you’ll find plenty of things to do.

Auckland is a 1-hour and 50-minute drive from Raglan.

>>> Explore Auckland.

Tourists at the stern of a boat enjoying the view of the port of Auckland.

Rotorua

Rotorua is the ‘adventure capital’ of the North Island so, as you’ve probably guessed, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to adrenaline-pumping activities.

Rotorua is most famously known for its geothermal activity and striking landscapes, but it’s also a great place to learn about Māori culture.

Although this city may be small, it packs a punch!

Rotorua is a 1-hour and 55-minute drive from Raglan.

>>> Explore Rotorua.

Three adventurers bathing in the warm waters of Kerosene Creek, Rotorua, NZ.
Enjoy a hot waterfall in Rotorua. Photo: Vaughan Brookfield.

Tauranga & Mount Maunganui

Tauranga is considered to be one of the most scenic cities in New Zealand which is saying a lot! It’s located right on the coast and offers stunning views of the Bay of Plenty.

The vibrant seaside town of Mount Maunganui is found here too. In fact, the two places are connected by a bridge so you can easily explore both.

From hiking up the towering Mount Maunganui to exploring Tauranga’s Historic Village, there’s so much to do here.

Tauranga & Mount Maunganui are a 2-hour drive from Raglan.

>>> Explore Tauranga & The Mount.

The view of the Bay of Plenty and the cities as seen from Mount Maunganui.
Enjoy incredible views from Mount Maunganui.

Whether you’re looking to hit the waves on your surfboard, relax on the beach, or head out on a boat cruise, Raglan has so much to offer.

There’s no denying it’s a beautiful area, but even better – there are endless day trips that you can enjoy from this coastal town.

Hopefully, this Raglan guide has given you an idea of what there is to do there, as well as the best eateries and accommodation options.

Enjoy exploring one of our favourite little coastal towns.