Raglan - the best surf break in New Zealand and much more!

This week I have to drive from Auckland to Wellington. I'll start with a stop at the coastal town of Raglan, a place that holds many personal memories for me. After that I'll visit the 'Tree Church' at Ohaupo and finally the town of Taumarunui, my last stop before entering the Tongariro National Park. I'd recommend this routing for the scenery and many places of interest along the way.

An Update of one of our 2016 blogs.

And a report from 'Stuff" newspaper writer Sue Hoffart about her visit to Raglan in March of this year.

Day 1 Driving south from Auckland -


An early start (by my standards) of 7:30, and two hours after leaving Auckland I arrived in the coastal town of Raglan, just in time for a late Sunday breakfast!

Raglan is a small seaside town on the west coast of the North Island. My first visit was in the early 1970's when I was a skinny surfing kid from Auckland and after that first visit, many more were to follow. So I'm looking forward to seeing how the town has changed. 

First impressions were comforting; not a lot has changed. After parking the car I made my way to The Shack Cafe which I'm told is a favorite with the locals. And sure enough, I had a excellent breakfast with great coffee and all reasonably priced.


A popular meeting place - 'The Shack' Coffee Shop, Raglan.

After a walk around the town I drove to Manu Bay, just 10-minutes away. This is the legendary surf break made famous by American Bob Brown in his equally legendary 60's surf movie 'The Endless Summer'

The sight from the top of the hill of a line-up wrapping around the point, brought back memories of arriving on a perfect day, along with friends Kris Bjerring, Graeme Thompson, my brother Les and Roger Carter to find we had the waves all to ourselves. That surfers would be so lucky today!


One of the world's great surf breaks, just a few miles from the town of Raglan.

After leaving Raglan I wanted to take a look at the Tree Church I'd been reading about, located near to the town of Ohaupo. This took about 45 minutes and on the way it was nice to see Mt Pirongia in the distance, a peak I'd had climbed a couple of years earlier with my good friend Peter Hosking.


Mt Pirongia, on the road between Raglan and Tongariro National Park.

The 'Tree Church' is located on a long straight stretch of road off the main highway, surrounded by farmlands and without much outside signage, so I was grateful to have my GPS along for the ride. 

I spoke with the owner and it soon became clear that he was as surprised as anyone about how quickly his quiet oasis had become a popular place for visitors to visit. It's in a beautiful setting and a lot of work is going on to further develop the gardens and walking tracks. I was glad I'd made the effort of making a visit.


The charming little Tree Church at Ohaupo.


The grounds around the Tree Church.

After leaving the 'Tree Church', several interesting options are then available - 



Continue south to visit the Waitomo Caves.


Then travel east to Rotorua.


Followed by a visit to Hobbiton.

But my next stop was further to the south and the small rural farming town of Taumarunui. The driving was easy, the scenery varied and at times breathtaking. 


The Ngapuwaiwaha Marae at Taumarunui.

Taumarunui gives the impression of having seen better times, so after a look at the very attractive local Marae (Maori meeting place) I continued to my destination for the night. I'm excited, because tomorrow I take on the amazing one-day Tongariro Crossing.

The routing I followed today got me off the main highways and is my preferred way of traveling south of Auckland. The road into and out of Raglan involves a few tight turns and some hills, so some care is needed. 

A long and tiring day, but well worth the effort.


The Tongariro Crossing.

This drive can be included on many of the New Zealand Vacations itineraries. Like this one, the 12 Day 'Heart of New Zealand'

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Apr 27, 2020