Latesha Randall shows us around this artistic community with a surfy soul
Every Raglanite knows the place to start off the day is at Raglan Roast on Volcom Lane. Join the long queue of caffeine-cravers who line up for their hit of coffee, which is roasted fresh on site. If you peer inside you might spy their roasting contraptions and catch a whiff of newly toasted beans in the air. Exchange banter with the baristas, then sit and relax with double shot in hand. raglanroast.co.nz
At the first hint of hunger pangs, it’s time to stroll over to The Shack – guaranteed to be a full house, weekdays and weekends alike. Owners Justin & Alix Thomson know a thing or two about serving up good food, and use ample local produce in their dishes. I’m partial to the chickpea fritters (a menu staple and very filling), or the green peas & walnut dukkah on toast. Before this dish I never liked peas, but was happy to be convinced otherwise.
19 Bow Street, theshackraglan.com
Satiated, hop in the car and head along Wainui Road toward the beaches that attract surfers from all over the world. First stop is Wainui Reserve to admire the view of endless rolling waves from the top, then down to the beach for a barefooted stroll. If you’re feeling up for a salty adventure, this is the perfect spot to hire a board and go for a surf lesson – although it’s almost as fun watching others attempt their wobbly stand-ups while you meander along the sand.
Your appetite renewed by all the sea breeze, it’s time to drive further along Wainui Road, passing the famous left-hand point break of Manu Bay and reaching Solscape for a light lunch. A long-time accommodation spot that keeps adding to their collection of train carriages, tipis, earth houses and lotus tents, Solscape has more recently ventured into food – opening vegan café The Conscious Kitchen, with arguably the best view of any eatery in Raglan. Owner Phil Mccabe says they wanted to “show people how good vegan food can taste”, and after many visits to indulge in their smoothies and colourful, flower sprinkled raw cakes, I’m certainly not arguing. Take some time to wander their flourishing permaculture gardens; this produce fuels most of the café’s dishes.
611 Wainui Road, solscape.co.nz
Heading back towards town, you’ll see Raglan Roast Food Department just before reaching the one-way bridge. In the late afternoon sun a cheeky scoop of their authentic Italian gelato goes down a treat, and will only set you back a few dollars.
45 Wainui Road
Wallis Bistro is freshly opened but already a popular spot for an evening out. Justin & Alix from The Shack saw a gap for “a trendy, tasty spot for dinner and drinks” and did something about it. An open kitchen shows the chefs busily at work, and plenty of outdoor seating makes the most of balmy late-summer nights. A classy menu features irresistible dishes like charred cauliflower with pickled red grapes and almond cream, which Justin recommends following with a dessert of baked stone fruit, Duck Island ice cream and lemon thyme praline. wallisbistro.co.nz
Halfway between town and the surf beach is Rock-it Kitchen – a rustic café that also houses a local radio station and some lively parties. Pop in after a morning beach walk for a hearty breakfast dish – you can’t go wrong with the kumara hash cakes. Sip a cup of delicate Forage & Bloom tea on their deck as you relax further into the Raglan groove.
248 Wainui Road, rockitraglan.co.nz
Raglan is a haven for those with an artistic bent, and you can’t leave without visiting some of the quirky gift shops that proudly display their work. Jet Collective on Bow Street is owned and operated by six local female creatives who make everything from upcycled handbags, to balms, jewellery and wall art. At the Raglan Wharf on the end of Wallis Street you’ll find the masters of clay, first by popping into recently opened Monster Company studio, and then Tony Sly Pottery. Tony Sly has made a name for himself around New Zealand for earthy, simple pieces that look equally at home in a fine dining restaurant or in your own kitchen. It hasn’t all been smooth sculpting – Tony lost his entire studio to a raging fire in 2010, and had to start again from scratch. The beautiful space today is a testament to the persistence of this potter who says he’ll never retire!
At this point you’ll be aware of two competing desires – one to beat traffic home, the other to stay in Raglan forever. To ward off the latter, take a taste of Raglan home with you. Visit the world’s ‘tiniest bread shop’ on Bow Street (beside Tradeaid) for a freshly baked – often still warm – loaf of Ruapuke Artisan Bread, handmade at the crack of dawn each day by Jenny Carter. Although she admits that other forms of cooking never fully captured her interest, she has a deep respect for “the honesty, simplicity and tradition of bread”. Each loaf is baked to the recipe handed down by her grandmother, in a dedicated kitchen beside their century-old family homestead. If the shop is sold out – which happens fast – you can pick up a loaf from Orca Restaurant. ruapukeartisanbread.co.nz.
The rest of your Raglan essentials can be found at WOK (Whaingaroa Organic Kai) on Electric Lane, and The Herbal Dispensary on Wallis Street.
There’s one last chance for a final cup of Raglan Roast on your way out of town at the old Te Uku Post Office, now christened the Roast Office. As you sip, try not to be too wistful. Raglan will welcome you with open arms again soon.