Visitors often linger far longer than they intended to in RAGLAN, 48km west of Hamilton, which hugs the south side of the large and picturesque Whaingaroa Harbour. They’re lured by the town’s bohemian arts and crafts tenor and the laidback spirit of the surfing community – the waters here feature some of the best left-handed breaks in the world.
Cafés, banks and pubs line palm-shaded Bow Street, whose western end butts against the harbour, spanned by a slender footbridge where kids are always egging each other to jump off. Apart from wandering the foreshore, there are few sights as such, so you’ll soon want to head 8km south of town to the surf beaches.
There’s good hiking and horse riding both here and further south at Bridal Veil Falls. Sweeping views of Raglan Harbour and along the coast unfurl from the summit of Mount Karioi (755m), reached on a winding gravel-road loop around the Karioi Mountain.
The horizon to the south is dominated by Mount Karioi, which according to Maori legend was the ultimate goal of the great migratory canoe Tainui. On reaching the mouth of the harbour a bar blocked the way, hence the name Whaingaroa (“long pursuit”). The shortened epithet, Whangaroa, was the name used for the harbour until 1855, when it was renamed Raglan after the officer who led the Charge of the Light Brigade.