I would like to introduce you to Raglan – as voted by National Geographic as one of the world’s best surf towns. We’ve rented a rustic, sagging at the bones beach cottage perched on the North Island of New Zealand overlooking Whale Bay, a 15-minute drive from Raglan. There is a huge surf culture oozing from this small coastal town. Raglan was recommended by a kiwi friend who grew up surfing these epic waves. You see, we were yearning for an escape after my globetrotting wings were clipped from me being pregnant with Winnie. We hadn’t been on a overseas trip, little lone surf or ride, for quite some time. When researching for optimal destinations to spend a couple of weeks after Christmas and celebrate the start of the new year we had a couple of boxes that needed to be ticked. The considerations were a) expense of air tickets now that Finn is a fully-fledged ticket holder, b) the travelling expenses while in the country, the time difference and minimising jet lag since we would be travelling with a toddler and a three-month old. And then c) a destination where we could enjoy some surf and sniff out some globetrotting opportunities.
We’re travelling with our best friends who also have two girls very close in age to our two globetrotters. So the Land of the Long White Cloud came up trumps. We couldn’t go past the north island’s brilliant surf highway, three hour flight and a reputable five day beach ride.
Now back to the pocket of beauty we found south of Auckland, a town revered for its surf and too cool attitude – Raglan. We arrived on dusk and fell asleep to the thundering crash of waves whoosing on our doorstep. Buster was up at the crack of dawn peeling on his wet suit and escaping out the front garden gate to surf one of the best left hand breaks in the world all within minutes of waking up. When he returned with a big grin, licked in salt, and the girls still asleep I took the opportunity to run along the road that clings to the side of the hills. I ran past bachs’, as kiwi’s call them, cradled on the hillside. Silver, timber-slated shacks that have been whipped by the sea winds and undoubtedly housed many generations of surfers.
We spent the morning checking out the funkified town of Raglan that was humming with life. Our first stop was a cornerside eatery called The Shack which we chose for its local popularity. We had to wait a wee while for a table but were rewarded with a pork belly baguette (one word – incredible) and New Zealand wild-caught salmon, salsa verde and capers, mugs of smooth coffee and berry smoothies for the girls.
Completely satiated and the girls ancie to stretch their toddler legs we walked down Bow Street to the river. I’m in love with the New Zealand Christmas Tree’s that are in bloom at the moment with red starburst flowers. Some of these trees that line the shoreline are grand with age with wrinkled bark and gnarled limbs. The girls spent a good hour climbing on the outstretched branches of one tree.
There is a footbridge that stretches over the river making it’s banks accessible and is a safe haven for families to swim in the aqua marine water with its black-as-coal sand. Kids were squealing with delight as they plunged off the foot bridge into the fast-flowing river. With a water temperature of 19 degrees the river was refreshing without being too chilly.
The next couple of days we fell into the reggae rhythm of Raglan life swept up in the relaxed, chilled out atmosphere that this town emanates. My girlfriend and I hired surfboards from Solscape and on New Years eve had a two-hour private lesson from a bleached-blonde surfer chica known as Ruby. Solscape is a retreat that offers accommodation, yoga, surf lessons and has a very swish raw-food eatery that overlooks the main beach. It has a hipster feel to it with bearded dudes and olive-skinned chicas with symbolic tattoos staffing the joint. I would definitely consider staying there next time we visit Raglan, that’s for sure.
Our surf lesson was at Ngarunui surf beach which is a fair hike down to the shoreline for us spoilt Australians who are accustomed to a ten second hot sand trot before you’re nose diving the waves. Be warned; with kids and all the paraphernalia that you have to haul you’ll want to be keen, or pack lightly.
One of the days we hopped into the car and travelled north on a heart-in-your-mouth gravel road to a hidden beach called Ruapuke. The scenery changed from treeless hills dotted in sheep to valleys of dense forest with trees ferns reminding me of hobbit country.
All in all Raglan has surpassed our expectations in every way and we’re already promising that we’ll return.