It was never our intention, but we seem have developed a fascination with pancakes. Not the edible kind, although we are partial to a good breakfast pancake with maple syrup. The pancakes we’re referring to are the incredible layered rock formations made famous here in New Zealand by the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes on the west coast of the South Island.
We were pretty amazed when we first visited Punakaiki and, rather naively, thought that these formations were quite unique to the area. As we’ve since discovered, and continue to discover, they are in fact more widespread. If you’re north of Auckland and looking for a gentle walk, there’s an interesting little outcrop near Waipu, accessible via the Waipu Coastal Trail. But for those of you who enjoy more watery pursuits, Raglan offers a rather unique experience.
The interesting thing about Raglan’s pancake rocks is that they’re hiding in plain site. On previous visits to Raglan, like most, we sauntered down the main street towards the sea and the footbridge over to the small peninsula that’s home to Raglan’s airstrip. We enjoyed the view out towards the harbour mouth and of the surrounding hills, not knowing there was an adventure waiting for us just across the water. But each time we told ourselves that we must come back and explore Raglan on our paddleboards. Finally we have, and we’re so glad we did.
We chose a relatively wind-free morning to explore the harbour. Those of you who paddle, whether it’s kayak or standup paddleboard, will know that wind is not your friend. Unless of course it’s on your back on the way home. In addition to the wind, we also paid attention to the tide. We weren’t sure what the tidal flow was like in Raglan Harbour but we figured it would be best to paddle on the incoming tide. It was still fairly low when we arrived in Raglan, but in the time it took to set up our boards and gear, followed by a little pre-paddle snack, the water had already reached the wooden boardwalk that runs along the harbour edge. So, with the early summer sun warming our backs, we set off, heading west towards the harbour mouth and what looked like the start of the rock formations on the opposite side.
From where we started at the Putoetoe Point end of Cliff Street, it’s about a 900m paddle across to a first set of rocky pancake ‘islands’ where, depending on the tide, there’s a secluded little black sand beach. From here you can paddle inland along the coastline, exploring all the interesting little nooks and crannies until you reach Marotaka Point. From here you have a choice, you can either head back across the harbour to where you started or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can continue on towards Horongarara Point and then across the inlet towards another set of pancake rocks on the western side of Tokatoka Point. From Tokatoka Point you can paddle back across the harbour towards Aroaro Bay before returning to your starting point on Cliff Street. Altogether you’ll cover a distance of just over 5 km (3 miles), not bad for a morning’s paddle.
Guided and Self-guided Tour Options
We’re fortunate enough to have our own paddleboards, a pair of inflatable Red Paddle Co Explorers which have served us well for many seasons now. We really like the convenience and ruggedness of these exceptionally well made boards. However, if you’ve never tried paddleboarding before, this trip may not be the best time to learn as it’s a fair distance to paddle. Instead, we would highly recommend kayaking as it’s far easier.
If you don’t have your own boards or kayaks, or you’ve never paddled before, don’t worry, kayaking at Raglan is very popular, and the team at Raglan Kayak & Paddleboard can sort you out with equipment hire or fully guided tours.
Raglan Tides and Weather
Given that Raglan’s estuary is tidal, it’s always worth paying attention to tidal flows when paddleboarding, particularly on the outgoing tide. You can check Raglan tide times here on the New Zealand MetService website.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the weather when paddling at Raglan, especially the wind direction and strength. For the latest Raglan weather forecast and to check detailed local weather conditions and forecasts including wind, rain, temperature and cloud cover we use, and highly recommend, Windy.com.