When you think about surfing in New Zealand, you think about Raglan. THE spot and a must do! Well, we had this brilliant idea of checking out Raglan on the Easter weekend. Following a big platoon of cars and RVs we rolled into town and of course headed straight to the spot, where it seems everyone else was heading too. Arriving at Manu Bay we were shocked and amused at the same time. The swell was small, still about 50 people were sitting in the break, dropping in and yelling at each other. Not our world … after we had a quick look at Whale Bay and Indicators, which are just around the corner, we decided to follow the dirtroad, that winds around the prominent Mt. Karioi. With our van it was a bit of a slow and bumpy ride but we really enjoyed what would turn out as being the start of getting off the beaten track on Waikato’s west coast!
Following the dirtroad for a few kilometers will bring you to Te Toto Gorge where there’s a beautiful viewpoint with a platform. Definitely worth the stop!
This is the point where 95% of the cars coming from Raglan will turn around and after that we’ve basically seen one more car on our way to Ruapuke Beach and the motor camp, which was our first sleepover stop on the trip. Freedom camping on the beach could have also been a possibility but we were unsure of how often the rangers would patrol the area as there’s a high fine associated with freedom camping in no-camping zones. In some districts freedom camping is allowed which for 99,9% of the cases however is only tolerated if you have a ‘self contained’ motorhome or caravan. From the motor camp there’s a small track that leads over the hills and down to Ruapuke Beach. Definitely a must for checking out an amazing sunset at the beach!
The next day we did a bit of a detour to check out the Bridal Veil Falls. We had already seen some signs when driving into Raglan and were prepared to share the quite famous view with hundreds of people from Europe, Japan and the US – back to ‘the beaten track’ for a bit. The path to the falls is very well maintained, like most of the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) tracks we’ve seen so far. The country’s beauty is it’s biggest treasure (also economically speaking) and the Kiwis are taking very good care of their tracks and nature’s attractions.
After the Bridal Veil Falls we headed on towards the ‘secret’ hot water beach in Kawhia. The winding dirt road leads you through farm land and native forests and along the scenic Aoeta Harbor. Our plan to stop fur a quick lunch there didn’t quite work out -> SANDFLIES! If you haven’t been to New Zealand, well, no glossy brochure is going to tell you about these little creatures that make life (mostly on the west coast) very hard for you, unless you have the right repellent at hand!
Kawhia is really like the nicest, smallest, quietest town we’ve been to on this trip. Such a mellow mood. We had a coffee in one of the bars and really enjoyed listening to the village people’s talks. At night we had diner in the ‘Blue Chook’ and witnessed our first ever night out in a bar when rugby was on. The Chiefs (Hamilton, NZ) were up against Western Force (WA, OZ). There’s a big rivalry between OZ and NZ, especially when it comes to rugby it seems. 😉
From Kawhia town it’s just another ten minutes down the road to Te Puia Hot Spring. The climb up the dune will be rewarded with a great view in all directions and the beach at your feet. For the hot pools bring a spade, which you could also rent somewhere in town. An hour before low tide you’ll start noticing the smell of sulfur. There’s two large poles at the beach and we found that you have to walk in extension of the line between the two poles to reach the springs hidden underneath the sand. Walk around and test the temperature with your feet. Wait long enough because else all your hard work will be washed away with one wave that comes in a bit further.