You can’t leave Raglan without surfing.
So on our last morning in this laid-back surf town, we hiked down to Ngarunui Beach and waited for the Raglan Surfing School to show up. This outfitter operates sets up a kiosk every day at around 9 a.m. — depending on the surf — and rents out boards and wetsuits.
I had briefly considered bringing my own board to New Zealand. But when we had plotted out the trip, it didn’t make sense to lug that kind of bulky equipment around if we were only going to surf for, at the most, a couple of days.
Renting boards seemed a whole lot easier.
There was a nice swell running that morning, with larger sets closing out across the bay. We walked for about an hour — hardly anyone else was on the beach — until the rental kiosk arrived.
The guy who ran it convinced me to take out a smaller, 8-foot board that he claimed was magical. “Everyone who surfs and takes it out loves it,” he said. I was wary at first, especially since I’d be paddling in a full wetsuit — not the most comfortable or flexible — but he was right: That was one magical board. We picked a quiet spot with some small left-hand peelers and had a ton of fun.
We would have stayed out longer, but we had plans to drive to Taupō, a charming town of about 24,000 people on the shores of Lake Taupō smack in the center of the North Island. It would be a roughly three-hour drive from Raglan.
On the way, though, we thought we’d warm up and relax our bodies in one of the geothermal pools Taupō is known for. The area is a center volcanic and geothermal activity and boasts several hot pools suitable and open to the public.
We opted for the Wairakei Terraces Hot Pools — mainly because it was adults-only — to lounge in its natural thermal springs. (Admission $25NZD per person)
These thermal bathing pools range in temperature from 100 degrees Fahrenheit to a scalding 107.6 degrees. They are positioned just below some man-made silica terraces, taking full advantage of the geothermal water flow that’s drawn to the surface from about a mile underground. Supposedly, the waters here have healing properties. The heat and natural beauty, alone, made me feel a lot better and more relaxed.
After about an hour here, we hit the road again, to Acacia Bay, a sleepy community on a small inlet on the western shores Tapuaeharuru Bay.
We had booked another Airbnb, this time right on the bay. I was eager to just relax, especially after a three-hour drive, and enjoy lake living.
Lake Taupō is the largest freshwater lake in New Zealand, with a surface area of 238 square miles. (It’s also the second-largest lake in all of Oceania.) Its perimeter runs about 119 miles and it’s chockfull of introduced brown and rainbow trout.
Which was why we were here.
But first, we needed to eat.
Our host recommended the nearby Bay Bar & Brassiere, commonly referred to as just “The Bay.”
It was just a down-home family restaurant with menu items such as barbecue baby-back pork ribs, mini lamb rissoles, pan-seared venison medallions and fresh fish. While my husband ordered the wild game hot pot — with venison, beef and rabbit — I went for one of the restaurant’s award-winning, wood-fired pizzas.
The best part was you can split the pie, so I got the Loaded Hog (twice-baked pork belly strips, smoky bacon, roasted garlic, caramelized onions and cream cheese) and the El Bandito (spiced chorizo, hot spiced beef, Mexican beans, red capsicum, jalapeños, sour cream and nacho chips).
It. Was. A. Lot.
And I couldn’t finish it. Not even half.
But that’s OK. We had a big day of trout fishing tomorrow, and I needed the extra carbs later.
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