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Surfing (with waves to attract both beginners and the world’s top surfers), kite surfing, fishing, kayaking, and just cruising in the vast harbor are the big water-sport attractions. Coastal walks and forest walks, from one hour to one day, are also popular.
Raglan Boat Charters. If it's a social harbor cruise you're after, try a two-hour sunset sail aboard the Wahinemoe, a 70-person purpose-built catamaran. It runs daily November to April and includes a barbecue dinner (NZ$49). For a quieter, more low-key one-hour cruise (NZ$30), opt for Harmony Scenic Cruises, whose skipper, Ian Hardie, knows his way around the harbor's tidal inlets and bays. From Harmony III, you can see forest reserves, historic habitation sites, isolated beaches, the "pancakes" (limestone outcrops), seabirds, and perhaps the pod of orca that occasionally visits the harbor. This tour runs all year, with times based on the tides. Reservations are essential for both cruises. The Wahinemoe operates from Raglan Wharf, in Wallis Street, while Harmony III sets off from the Raglan jetty, in the township at the end of Bow Street. 07/825–7873. www.raglanboatcharters.co.nz.
Raglan Kayak. There's no better way to explore huge Raglan Harbour than on nature's terms with Steve and Candide Reid. Local boy Steve searched the world for the perfect place to work on water, then realized it was back home. People of any age and ability are welcome on his daily trip, where the focus is on paddling with the tide and wind, swimming on secluded beaches, great scenery, espresso, and home-baked goodies. Trips run for three hours (NZ$75). Kayaks are also available for rent (NZ$20 single, NZ$30 tandem per hour; NZ$40–$60 per half day; NZ $50–$80 per day). Closed Easter to end of October. 07/825–8862.
Raglan Surf Co.. If you're itching to hit the waves, stop by this top surfing store. Starting out as a factory and producing high-performance boards for years, it now stocks homegrown boards as well as the leading brands. The shop also rents surfboards, wet suits, and boogie boards, and staffers pass along helpful, local surf tips. 3 Wainui Rd., Raglan, 3225. 07/825–8988. www.raglansurf.com.
Raglan Surfing School. Past and even present national surfing champions often work as instructors at this surfing school. A three-hour beginner session, including board and wet suit, is around NZ$89 and ends with a sauna experience. Surf Adventure Packages run two to five days and include transport, daily surfing lessons, free saunas and accommodation, and other adventures, such as rappelling, paragliding, and jet-boating. A choice of "surf dames," women's and luxury surfing retreats, is offered throughout the year. The school (and surf beaches) is a little out of town, but transportation is provided throughout Raglan. The school also rents boards and wet suits at Ocean (Ngarunui) Beach, November–April, daily 9:30–5. Rental boards are available from the surf school in winter. 5b Whaanga Rd., Whale Bay, Raglan, 3296. 07/825–7873. www.raglansurfingschool.co.nz.
Although the surf looks inviting at most of the West Coast beaches, there can be dangerous rips and undertows, so be careful where you take a dip. The safest spots around Raglan are Te Aro Bay (Wallis and Puriri streets), Te Kopua, and at Cox and Lorenzen bays at high tide. Call Raglan Information Centre (07/825–0556) for tide times. In summer, lifeguards patrol the beach at Ngarunui; to avoid the strong rips, swim between the flags.
From Raglan, a number of walks and hikes give you wonderful views of the coastline and take you through splendid native bush. The closest and easiest is from the township itself, through Wainui Reserve to gorgeous Ocean (Ngarunui) Beach. You can climb above coastal bluffs to a lookout point and enjoy the drama of the kite surfers at play at Ocean Beach, or follow the beach (except at high spring tides) all the way (6 km/4 miles). Ask for a brochure at the Raglan Information Centre. Don't leave valuables in your vehicle while you're away walking.
Bridal Veil Falls. A 10-minute shaded hike from the parking lot leads through native forest to the spectacle of the falls. Two viewing platforms are near the top of the 150-foot drop. This section of track is wheelchair accessible. Another much steeper track continues to a midway-viewing platform; from there a 10-minute trail descends to a bridge and viewing platform at the base of the falls. The tall trees and the sight of the falls cascading over the hard basalt cliff are worth the effort required for the return climb. The falls are 20 km (12 miles) south of Raglan via the Kawhia road.
Mt. Karioi. Although somewhat more difficult than the Bridal Veil Falls trail, the walk up Mt. Karioi is great. Some sections are quite steep, so good walking gear and a positive attitude are required, but it's worth the challenge for the fantastic views of the coast. The Mt. Karioi Track, from Te Toto Gorge at Whaanga Road, climbs to a lookout and then the summit (3–3½ hours one-way). Wairake Track, from Karioi Road, is a shorter, steeper summit option (2–3 hours one-way).
The Department of Conservation. This department manages tracks and surrounding conservation land. The Raglan Information Centre can also provide maps. 07/858–1000 Hamilton.