A half-hour drive west from the northern city of Hamilton will find you overlooking the pretty harbourside town of Raglan (Whāingaroa in te reo Māori) – and if you push on another 15 minutes down the coast, one of the best surf breaks in the country at Manu Bay. There’s lots to do around these parts for couples looking to sink into the local scene, from scenic adventures to hot-spring soaks to catching a flick in the Old School theatre.

Here's our guide for what to look for when you roll into town.

Kayak to Pancake Rocks

The layered limestone formations of Raglan’s Pancake Rocks are a geological wonder of this stretch of coast. The only way to get there is by water, so head down to Raglan Kayak & Paddleboard at the Bow Street Jetty to hire your vessel of choice. No experience is required, and you can even book a guided tour for expert interpretation. It’s a great way to soak up the scenic beauty of the area and makes for an exciting couple’s bonding experience. Be sure to check tides and winds with staff first – they’ll help you choose the perfect time to go.

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Soak at a hot water beach

Hot water bubbles to the surface in the some of the most picturesque spots throughout New Zealand. One of the best examples is at Ocean Beach, near Kawhia, an hour’s drive from Raglan. Time your visit for low tide (bonus points if it coincides with sunset), then simply dig a pool for two in the black sand and let the geothermically heated water magically fill it up. Having a spade helps – you can sometimes find locals hiring them on the beach. Then lie back and relax together in your private hot pool.

See a movie at an intimate boutique cinema
Housed in the town’s former school building and seating just 35 people, Old School Arts Centre is a boutique – and exceedingly casual – cinema that’s a favourite with locals, but relatively off the radar. The vibe is part traditional theatre and part lounge room, with several comfy couches ideal for couples to snuggle. Reserve your tickets online, then pay at the door (cash or card). The kiosk serves drinks and snack food, including wine and beer for afternoon and evening sessions. Arrive early to snare a good seat and sit back for a cosy night at the small-town flicks.

Hike together to Karioi Summit
Test the resolve of your relationship with a challenging hike to the summit of an ancient, extinct volcano. Mount Karioi rears 756 metres above Raglan, offering a good challenge for fit hikers. The climb from Te Toto Gorge, 13 kilometres from Raglan, starts out steep, before levelling out and opening up to fantastic views as far south as Mount Taranaki. Some of the trickier sections are negotiated with the aid of chains or ladders, adding a bit of adventure for any reasonably intrepid couple. Allow about three hours to get up, with a slightly shorter descent. The Wairake Track is a shorter and easier (but not as scenic) route to the summit, starting at the end of Karioi Road, off Ruapuke Road.

Have a picnic (and swim) at Ngarunui Beach
When New Zealanders think of Raglan, they think surfing. But it’s not just surfers who gather at the wild, windswept Ngarunui Beach, a short drive from town. The black sand beach is fantastic for swimming (between the flags), sunbathing or simply having a picnic and watching the surfers do their thing as seabirds soar overhead. Head to Wainui Reserve (high on the hills above the beach) to find a sheltered spot with spectacular views of the action. Pack a bottle of wine and get there for sunset over the ocean. And if the call of the ocean proves too much, sign up for surfing lessons at Raglan Surf School.

Walk along the Te Kopua Footbridge
From the Te Kopua Footbridge, crossing the Opotoru Inlet near the centre of Raglan, you’ll get an almost hyperreal view of the blue water, and the stretch of the sandy Papahua/ Te Kopua beach. To make a day of it, pack a picnic to eat on the beach when you’re finished with your stroll.

Visit Bridal Veil Falls
Soak up the sights and sounds of this stunning waterfall, just 15 minutes’ drive from Raglan. Bridal Veil Falls (known as Wairēinga in Māori) is named for the shape the falling water makes as it plunges 55 metres over a basalt cliff into a tranquil pool. It’s a short walk from the car park (10 minutes, maximum) to the top of the viewing platform, where steps lead down through lush, native bush to the base of the falls. Photo opportunities abound from every vantage point. Note: while the pool at the bottom does look inviting, swimming isn’t allowed – save it for the beach and estuary back in town.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with 100% Pure New Zealand. For more great content, follow Broadsheet NZ on Facebook and Instagram.

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on June 1, 2022, and was updated on November 23, 2023.