Surfing, Glowworms, Waterfalls & Caves

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The little surfing town of Raglan was our next destination, on the west coast of the North Island. 

It was baking hot now, and summer was in full swing.  We’d had a lovely dinner and wine with friends the night before, so to be honest we were all a bit on the tired side.  Luckily it was an easy two hour drive over to this area, and we arrived to glorious sunshine.

We found a campsite surrounded by water on it’s own little peninsular, right by a huge kids playground and a bridge that led over the water, right into the heart of the town.  With the added bonus of also being right beside an airfield, and flanked by it’s own beach, we couldn’t have picked a better location!

As soon as we arrived a light aircraft was taking off, towing a glider, which was so exciting for Fin to see.  After a quick powernap, we went to watch the planes taking off.  Fin soon got talking to the pilot and before he knew it, he was sat in the cockpit of the light aircraft, asking the pilot loads of questions about all the buttons and dials.  Such a cool experience for a little boy!  By the end of it, he was confident that he could drive it all by himself!  

Later in the day, it was still relentlessly hot, so we took a run out to find the famous surfing beaches in the area.  We found the epic beach that makes this area so well known, Fin got his gear on, and we joined the hoards making our way down to the sand.

The water was crystal clear and the waves were strong!  They were really quite big, so we generally kept in the shallows… we’ll leave the big rollers in the deep to the experts!

That said, Fin’s confidence in the sea was growing every day, and we had such a laugh in the surf that afternoon and it was the perfect way to cool off.

We mooched into the little town later in the day for some food. This place was very chilled and had that uniquely hip surf town atmosphere about it that we absolutely love. 

Over the two days here, we spent our time exploring the stunning coastline and it’s quirky town, watching the planes and enjoying some more surfing.

Next stop was onwards to Waitomo, where there is the chance to see glowworms.  We hadn’t seen anything like this before so were keen to catch a glimpse.  There were really mixed reviews though of the trips themselves into the caves.  People felt like they were herded in like cattle, and whilst the actual glowworms themselves were really special to witness, it did seem that people felt the experience was rushed and too much of a tourist circus to truly enjoy it.

With this in mind we were a bit sceptical.  We really wanted to see these little guys, but didn’t want to fall into the tourist trap.  Last thing we wanted was to share the experience with ten thousand other tourists all papping away and causing a general disturbance!  

As we were on the hunt for a place to park up for the night, we came across a restaurant high up on the hillside.  They did a deal where you could enjoy all-you-can-eat casserole, roast potatoes and rice, which sounded ideal!  So off we went to set up camp.  Whilst we were ploughing through our second plate of casserole that night, we were chatting to the owner to ask him for the insider track on where we could see the glowworms.  At which point he told us he had some living right there in the cliffs and caves on his farmstead!

As night fell, we went for a little bush walk to see the local farm animals. We stumbled across some limestone caves and walked through a jungle to get back to our van.  Once it was dark, we went out to meet the owner, who led us down a little bridge, and to a little limestone ledge.  And there they were!  Tiny little lights clinging to the rock face.  Almost iridescent green, they looked a little magical.  Fin and his dad took a closer look with a torch and they were little lava-like worms, with a glowing bum!  We had a good laugh about that and then stood staring at them for a while.  We had this little place all to ourselves and although there weren’t millions of them, like they advertise in the big tourist caves, we could enjoy them just us, and nature, without any of touristic nonsense!  It turned out to be such a special little encounter, and with that, we went to bed and told glowworm stories till we fell asleep!

Jen Skehan