Raglan - always a treat
Wanting a 'cabin fever' cure - take a day trip, or overnighter to Raglan. We are spending 2 nights on this trip at the imaginatively named "G spot" apartments above Whale Bay, 8 kms south of the township. For a day trip it's about as far as a comfortable day trip should be - 280km round trip from Auckland. A couple of hours on the ground at destination including lunch and you're back at ground zero 6pmish much depending on motorway traffic. Very unpredictable and hopefully for your trip, a freeway not a carpark. On the way down we briefly stop at the Riverside cafe, Huntly, across the river from the power station. A very unlikely, unprepossessing building, almost derelict appearance, with a couple of rumpity tables at the entrance. If we hadn't been before we would hit the road again. Tour buses stop here too and today we arrive just behind a 30 seater. Older visitors from the USA having an early lunch on the way to Rotorua. I am just behind them at the drinks frig and could eavesdrop on their deliberations; "whether to have the 'unknown' Lemon & Paeroa or be safe and stick to Coke". I am quite encouraged to see how many opted for the L&P. If you need a coffee and can keep your eyes shut until you get to your table you will be impressed by the quality of the coffee, the china and the service.
On our way again, we are soon turning right towards the west coast and Raglan / Kawhia. Another 50 odd kms to go. The road is in good condition but not fast, having lots of sharp 25km bends, steep hills and blind corners. It's not worth the risk so take your time. As we are nearing Raglan we come to the lefthand turn off to the 55 metre high Bridal Veil falls. A 26km return side trip on a sealed good quality class 2 road then a 10 minute easy walk to the top of the falls. We had visited the falls previously so didn't make the detour today. The falls are quite spectacular and well worth the side trip and we think we may take the time on the return journey. Another 10 minutes and we are coming down the hill into Raglan's main street. A great vista towards the estuary past the stately line of Phoenix palms with the traditional 2 storied Harbourview hotel on the right. We had spent a night at the Harbourview a few years ago and it is rather good. The bar and restaurant is very atmospheric, allowing your imagination to conjure life in Victorian times.
We drive on down to the estuary end, noting some new accommodation options on the left, right on the water; Bow Street studios. They look quite appealing and we think we might be investigating them at some future time. Tammy is in need of a walk and the waterfront boardwalk is quiet and sunny. Tammy is not sure about the large cracks between the boards and needs considerable encouragement to make any progress. Quite soon she mutinies and the safety of Dad's arms is the only way forward. A very pretty short walk which takes you along the estuary frontage, past the river footbridge and back to the edge of town. It was here that I am completely taken aback; 'No dogs, $300 fine'. What? The bureaucratic nonsense we have to put up with today is dumbfounding. The innocent being made to pay for the guilty once more. It would be just our luck to find an officious dognapper around the next corner so we cancel our plan to investigate the main street shops, make our way to the California and drive back up main street looking for lunch. The famous 'Tongue & Groove' cafe is in our minds but it is nowhere to be found. We thought we had missed it but closer inspection reveal it has morphed into 'The Shack'. It is quite busy, which, at this time of year Raglan generally isn't, when we enter through the original corner double doors. Quickly greeted and shown to one of only 2 free tables our comment to each other is - 'They know what they are doing'. We each choose the warm chicken salad from the short but tempting menu, plus 2 glasses of a Martinborough pinot. Very good and not overpriced. Our chicken salads are fresh and excellent, followed by 2 very flavourful long blacks.
We want to revisit some shops across the road from The Shack and I am not going to leave Tammy on her own in the California any longer. Risk being my middle name, I walk her, on her lead, across main street and down towards the shops. There is no cry of 'Halt - dog' so I figure all the local dognappers must be on lunch or away for a training day. The 2 shops are quite interesting with local art, some antiquey bits and pieces and a few 2nd hand books. Nothing with the 'I have to own that' label which puts us on the road to Whale Bay at about 3pm. Whale Bay is about 8 kms from town and can be quite spectacular with big surf but today, ripples only. A long set of wide wooden steps leads you to a nice little grassed walkway along the seafrontage - if you go to the left an 'unwelcoming' sign from local Maori soon confronts you. To the right leads you to a large grassed area where, today, we witness a most spectacular sight. Thousands of monarch butterflies fluttering about and landing on several flame trees. A bit of later research reveal that this activity is called clustering and monarchs gather like this at certain times of the year, usually the same location each year, sheltered and near the sea, the males first, followed by the females. That we should happen to be here on this day - quite amazing. On the return walk, much to my surprise, Tammy negotiates the 25 or so steps with alacrity and we are quickly back at the California where she eats her well earned treat. Ngarunui Bay is a place of high drama with big surf but today very quiet with a light breeze, just enough to help the powered hang glider pilot on his way. With the light slowly fading it is time to hit the 'G Spot', a few kms further on and what an amazing spot it is - high above the bay with an uninterrupted view out across the Tasman sea. Very well set up with everything here for a comfortable stay, including a dishwasher, an item usually missing from most casual Kiwi accommodation. There are 2 apartments in the mainly concrete and glass structure, one above the other, with the top being the most desirable. On leaving day, which we don't mind so much as it is overcast, we stop in for a last great 'Shack' coffee then take the now right hand turn to Bridal Veil falls. These are spectacular so no matter how many times you visit they always seem fresh. Its about 2pm and with an uneventful run back to Auckland including a brief stop by the river at Ngauruawhia where we see several trout jumping, we are back home about 4:30pm.