There was really only one thing I wanted to do in New Zealand: surf.
Well, that and pet an alpaca, but that was about it.
So since I did the vast majority of the trip planning, I made sure we carved out time to drive to Raglan, a small beachside town on the western coast about a two-hour drive from Half Moon Bay in Auckland.
I could have stayed an extra day on Waiheke Island, for sure, but there were still so many things to see, do and eat on the North Island.
We got up early on Saturday and walked along Oneroa Beach at sunrise. It was nothing short of spectacular. Amazingly, we were the only people walking the beach that morning. Well, us and the seabirds.
At around 8 a.m., we popped into Delight Café right in town with great views of the ocean and an all-day breakfast menu that included Turkish dishes such as toasted pita wraps and a tagine chorizo (eggs poached in red harissa with olives, hummus and Greek yogurt).
We went traditional, with a French toast made with local artisan bread and a side of Greek yogurt, and a beef-and-cheese meat pie, with the perfect flakey crust. All this and a cup of Turkish coffee and we were good to go!
We caught the 10:30 a.m. ferry back to Half Moon Bay and drove about two hours through pasturelands and herds of shorn sheep, down winding roads and among native ferns to Raglan.
I booked a rental overlooking Manu Bay, the first and most popular of the world-class Raglan point breaks. This bay boasts a long left that peels across the whole bay. It’s amazing to behold.
And it just so happened the bay was hosting the Rip Curl Pro while we were there. So it was firing — and we could watch it all from our lanai!
A word about Raglan.
There are dozens of surf breaks here. Just drive along the coast and you’ll see them. It’s a surf mecca of sorts, with people from around the world traveling here — most often in campervans — so catch a few uncrowded waves.
That said, this place is swarming with novice surfers and people not from New Zealand. Most of the people we met, actually, weren’t from the area. The girl who rented us surfboards was from Pittsburgh.
Raglan’s population was 2,637 in the 2006 census, with a median age of 37 and a personal income of $18,900. In 10 years, the population has risen to 4,920 people.
Our rental was also just a 15-minute walk — hike, actually — to Ngarunui Beach, sometimes called Ocean Beach, Main Beach or Wainui Beach. It’s the main sandy swimming and surfing spot in Raglan, with surfboard rentals right on the black-sand beach.
It’s a gorgeous stretch of sand, too. On low tide, it’s an expansive beach, with plenty of room for sunbathers, families and energetic dogs.
While surfing is the big draw, there’s a lot more to do in Raglan. You can kiteboard, golf and fish. You can even book a horseback ride on the beach. You can spend three hours hiking to the top of Mount Karioi, an extinct volcano that rises 2,480 feet above sea level, or mountain-bike around the region.
We visited the palm-lined main streets of the very small but charming Raglan town. There are restaurants, bakeries, surf shops, art galleries, grocery stores and cafés that perfectly fit into that laid-back surf lifestyle.
After walking around the little town, we stopped at Bow Street Depot, a friendly neighborhood restaurant with outdoor seating that boasted fairly elevated bar food such as falafel sliders with beetroot relish or chicken liver pâte served with toasted focaccia.
We tried the beef sliders with blue cheese, caramelized onions and a house-made aioli, twice-coked pork belly served with a caramel vinegar, the ceviche of tarakihi (jackass morwong) marinated in a citrus and coconut cream, and the satay chicken skewers. All this complemented the New Zealand-brewed beers we sampled, such as the Lakeman Pale Ale and the Good George IPA, brewed in nearby Hamilton.
Today, we scouted, walked and ate.
Tomorrow, we surf.
Follow my adventures in New Zealand on Instagram (@catherinetoth), Twitter (@thedailydish), Facebook (/thecatdish) and now on Snapchat (@catherinetoth). #cattravels