Best Surf Towns: Raglan Surf (plus glow worms, bubbling mud n more)

Raglan Surf Trip Live Swell

A Raglan Surf Trip

Do you love to travel and surf? If the answer is yes, then how would it make you feel to knock a few of the best surf destinations off your bucket list? If you’re like us then it would probably feel like you are living life to the fullest.  Thats what Live Swell is about, living life and part of that is to able to travel and surf to the best destinations around. Raglan, New Zealand was on our list, and one we have can now check off the bucket list. Made famous by the movie, Endless Summer, we have always wanted to experience the Raglan surf for ourself. Raglan, New Zealand is a great surf trip, but has lots to offer besides just the surf. With friendly locals, a beautiful landscape, great coffee, and more, you’ll find an unforgettable Raglan surf trip.

Not to many folks take advantage of the opportunities we all have with our limited time on earth. We sure hope you do.  And if that little voice is creeping up and saying “you can’t afford to travel and surf right now…” then be sure to take advantage of our Ultimate Guide for Free or Discounted Flights we have left for you at the end of this article. After all, if we are going to let you know how amazing Raglan and New Zealand are, we want to also provide you with valuable tools to help you get there.

This past week, this author, checked off one of New Zealand’s best surf towns, Raglan, off the bucket list. The ironic thing is that we simply got a taste and have already started thinking about returning.

Raglan surf trip live swell


Apart from consistent waves, the best surf towns offer unique places to stay, welcoming and insightful locals, great culture, eating and a mellow vibe.  This is Raglan, NZ.

Raglan Surf Trip – Where We Stayed

“The Funky Cottage”

Often when we travel, we prefer to stay in an Airbnb. It just gives us more freedom to find the kind space and amenities in the perfect location for us as well as access to great local insight on the area. We made great friends with our hosts, Ross and Wanda Henderson,  at the “Funky Cottage” overlooking Manu Bay.  Not only did our hosts have a massive impact on our experience, they also gave us great tips and help when we set off on our some our day trips – including digging (thanks to a shovel from Ross) our own private thermal hot water bath on a secluded beach and acutely observing “bubbling mud” – a phenomena that some travelers spend a lifetime thinking about and several thousands to witness in person.   It may not be easy, but its worth it.

In this review of Ragland, NZ we share our experience though our lens of one of the world’s best surf towns.

Morning view from our loft window overlooking Manu Bay at the Funky Cottage. Our host Ross, surfed the Raglan surf break, for 40 years. He dialed us in to the area with a local’s lens by driving us around to the local surf spots and showing us the best way to access to them too.


Raglan Surf Trip Live Swell

Morning view from the Funky Cottage – You can see the corduroy of the waves lining up to Manu Bay


Hot Pools of Kawhia, New Zealand

New Zealand is full of volcanic energy and all the joys that come with it. In all the travels and all the thermal pools, bubbling mud and geyser’s I’ve seen, this place is second to none. The hot water pools in Kawhia are the most impressive I have experienced, the place is nearly untouched and for us was 100% private when we went. You simply park your car, trek over the big black sand dune and 2 hours before low tide you can sense the smell of sulfur and feel the temp of the hot water below your feet. Then you Dig!!! Literally dig your own thermal pool.

The hot pool dig site.  We borrowed the shovel from Ross our cool host.

Kawiha Raglan Surf Trip Hot Pool 1


First shovel loads as we dug our very own Kawiha Hot Pool.

Kawiha Raglan Surf Trip Hot Pool 3.JPG


After 15-20 minutes of excavating you have your own thermal hot pool.

Kawiha Raglan Surf Trip Hot Pool 4.JPG


The sunset that evening was perfect with the reflection of the clouds in the ocean water.


The sunset this evening was perfect with the reflection of the clouds in the ocean water. Raglan surf


After all the digging, then you get to relax in the hot pool. It is perfect after wrestle in the surf. We finished digging our pool right at sunset and this was our view.

NZ raglan surf kawhia sunset 2


Finally..Raglan Surf at Manu Bay

The surf did clean up and we got several fun surf sessions at Manu Bay. Manu is just one of 5 + local surf breaks that are world class and likely better for the more experienced to advanced surfers. Manu is a long left hand point break. Just jump off at the rocks at the point, but be careful of the rocks. There is also an outside section further west around the point called Boneyards. It’s a shorter wave but good if you want to get away from the crowds. On an epic day, you can surf surf right through indicators, to Whale Bay to Manu Bay. A few were missed this time, but don’t worry we will be back.

Ellington Surf Boards makes it to Raglan New Zealand.    Manu Bay looking good.

Ellington Surf Boards makes it to Raglan New Zealand. Manu Bay looking good.


The entry to Manu Bay. Raglan Surf Trip June 2015.

Raglan surf Live Swell June 2015


Getting accustomed to the long lefts does not take to long.

Mike Raglan Surf Trip June 2015


Rainbows and more Rainbows on a Raglan Surf Trip

The weather patterns can get quite interesting in June, which is winter for New Zealand. Storm squalls will pop up for 15-30 minutes then move one. The result is some impressive rainbows that likely rival anywhere in the world, including Hawaii. Coupled with majestic views, these rainbows made for some magical scenery.

Pot of gold over the rainbow. Whale Bay, Indicators…The Valley.

Raglan Manu Bay Surf Vacation Rainbow


Our funky cottage had some tracks leading down to the beach below. Here is a view a snap shot of a full rainbow from the “lookout.”

Raglan Surf Vaction Rainbow


Wine Tasting on Waiheke Island

New Zealand is well know for their quality of wine. We took a ferry ride over to Waiheke Island just off Auckland when we arrived and got our fill of local wineries. There is plenty of wine to pair your dinner with, like this spread we had at the “Funky Cottage” – overlooking the bay.

New Zealand has top shelf wines and they pair well with the fish and meats…and they can be pricey too so be careful before you order up.

New Zealand Wines Live Swell raglan Surf Trip


Raglan Landscape

In Raglan, Ross mentioned that the “landscape is the dominant feature of the region…” even though more people have started to visit the area. Homes like these are built in to the hillside and lots available for a vacation rental stay.

Hillside above Manu Bay has housing stock integrated with the landscape.

Raglan Surf Trip Housing


Te Toto Gorge – Raglan, New Zealand

There is a great lookout on the Raglan coast on Wainui Road, park your car and walk down to the viewing platform where you will find stunning views!

NZ Raglan surf tetoto gorge


Something to eat in Raglan

Being of English tradition, fish and chips, are a local favorite. We picked up this massive box at the Raglan Wharf. ‘Taraheke’ is a local fish that is quite popular, but if you have to choose go with the Snapper – a light white delicious fish.

New Zealand has some killer fish and chips. This was one box that could feed an army.

Raglan Wharf Fish And Chips Live Swell raglan Surf trip


Glow Worms at Waitomo Caves

The Waitomo Caves are an easy half day trip. The volcanic region and bounty or water have carved out these caves over years. The locals typically find one when a sheep or cow of their herd goes missing, like down the hole. Yikes….Its ok though there are more sheep than people in NZ. At these caves you can observe “Glow Worms” and if your lost in the dark caves, simply follow the worms.

Waitomo Cave Raglan NZ Surf Vacation extra


Waitomo Caves on the way to Raglan. “if you get lost…just follow the worms..”

waitomo caves raglan surf


10. Another easy cool half day trip from Raglan is the Bridal Veil Falls, a 33 meter or 100 foot drop. The falls formed after a lava flow and are unique as the rock formation in the area is a “columner basalt”

Bridal Veil Falls Raglan Surf Vacation Trip

Bridal Veil Falls. Great addition to a coastal vacation.

Bridal Veil Raglan Surf Vacation Side View

From this side angle you can kinda of see it looks like a veil.

Raglan NZ surf trip Brial Falls Front view

33 Meters of good splash.

11. A day trip out to Rotorua will put you in touch with plenty more volcanic energy, you can witness the tallest geyser in the southern hemisphere “Pohutu,” check out some bubbling mud and get a glimpse of the Maori Culture.

Rotorua Pohuto Geysery NZ Surf Trip

Pohutu Geyser, site of a strong Maori Culture and Chief. Pohutu is the biggest geyser south of the equator.

Pohutu Geyser Blowing Up Surf Trip

Mike and Maria hanging out with Pohutu.

Bubbling Mud Rotorua Live Swell Surf Vacation

Maria enjoying some Bubbling Mud. Folks travel thousands of miles and spend thousands to see this?

Rotorua Green Rocks Live Swell Surf Vacation

Cool looking green rocks. Lots of sulfur smell in the area…the locals seem to be used to rotten egg smell.

12. It will be hard to miss the domesticated animal life here. I mentioned there are more sheep than humans here, it is not uncommon to see some impressive horses and cattle grazing and hanging on the green pastureland. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find products of the animals – so just go online and find yourself some Uggs.

Majestic Mountains Raglan Surf trip and horses

Couple horses just chilling in the NZ north island rolling hills.

Sheep in New Zealand on a Surf Trip

This sheep sure was angry when snapping his photo.

13. The best part of the trip may have been connecting with Ross and Wanda, our hosts of the funky cottage. Wanda is a local artist so we wound up picking up a piece of here abstract. We had a few beers and glasses of wine our last night and a solid coffee in the morning.  Ross claims to be responsible for the elevation of the level of coffee in NZ.

Mike and Ross Funky cottage live swell surf vacation ragalan

Mike with Ross, our Funky Cottage Host, and local surf veteran of 40 years. He dialed me in allright.

Maria Art Ross Funky cottage live swell surf trip

Maria scooped up a real cool piece of art from Ross’s wife, Wanda, a local artist.

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