News from the Raglan Karioi Trail

Raglan Karioi Trail 2018 Queen of Karioi - Ali Wilson's experience of her first bash at our hill.

Ali is a Physiotherapist from Mount Maunganui (originally from Yorkshire, England). She moved to NZ for the love of the outdoors. An Ironman triathlete for the last couple of years, she's now focusing on off-road events, finding they are "so much more rewarding and allow you to see the best of NZ". Ali grew up in the hills, which must why she loves running up and down them!


My new favourite trail run - The Raglan Karioi Trail, 24km, 1800m ascent/descent, off-road trails, farmland, unsealed road, ropes/chains, ridges… you name it, it’s got it.

What makes this trail run stand out to me is the variety of terrain, the technical running elements, and the physical toughness. Lining up on the start line I was unsure of how the race would unfold; as I’m far from a technical runner and more of a baby elephant running downhill. However, always up for a challenge and loving running around the hills, I was excited to give it a crack.
The Karioi trail run starts on private farmland on the Ruapuke side of the Karioi mountain, involving 2 ascents and descents of the mountain, forming an initial out and back, and clockwise lap of Mount Karioi.
An initially deceiving and gradually ascending farm track makes for a kilometer of easing in the legs, only to be rudely awakened with a sharp right, and a step ascent heading up a fence line into native bush. Before even reaching the bush line (less than 2km in) and I’m walking- a planned wise decision. It’s definitely a run you want to push the pace when the terrain lets you, but the gradient of the first ascent would have blown the legs up too much, making for a painful 2nd half of the run.
Once in the bush, you’re climbing up through a well marked out Department of Conservation Trail (DoC). It’s wet and slippy underfoot from the recent wet weather, and the tree roots make sure you’re focussing on your footwork. The elevation profile means the quads and calves are working hard, not to mention the arms, using any muscle available to haul yourself up. It’s just over 3km to the top of the first climb where you pop out at the trig point of Mount Karioi with 360-degree views over the West Coast and The Waikato. There isn’t much time to take in the scenery as the technicality of the terrain, which traverses around the trig point, requires some concentration: lowering yourself over large tree roots, steep drop-offs, and slippery rocks. At the top, you traverse around for a few hundred meters before steadily descending. This section was pretty boggy and wet, but good enough underfoot that you could pick up the pace, and the downhill was a welcomed break for the quads and the lungs.
Once at the track junction, a friendly volunteer, appearing from nowhere, directed us clockwise around the mountain and down towards the shoreline. This is where the fun begins and the pace significantly slows (unless you’re willing to risk a broken bone). The course initially descends 110 vertical metres over a distance of 400m, no wonder there are chains/ropes to help lower yourself over the steep rocks and tree roots. Technical, yes, but the trees, chains, and slippery surface make it perfect for a good old bum slide (that’s how all the pro’s do it right?!).  The track then flattens out to a more runnable gradient and continues to descend through the bush before opening up into a deceptively challenging track through a wide open grass field. The song ‘the hills are alive, with the sound of music’ is probably fitting to describe the terrain, but underfoot the large boulders make hard work of what should be a fast descent.
Reaching the unsealed gravel road is the second welcomed increase of pace for a few undulating kilometres, before we hang a hard right uphill for what seems to be an additional detour from the road ‘just to make things more interesting’ (I’m sure if we’d stayed on the road it would have been: a. Quicker b. Less interesting and c. Less elevation… but who wants that!).
In just under 10km you’ve descended from the summit at 756m to the lowest point on the course at ~50m (above sea level, according to my Garmin). Once at Karioi Lodge you start with a gentle incline ascending back up Mount Karioi through native bush. The incline and terrain allow the legs to keep ticking over at a steady pace, the gradient not quite enough to justify walking yet. I think this part of the race is where people may have made up or lost some ground, it really was a case of ignoring all rational sense and blocking out the legs and lungs screaming at you. Thankfully, soon enough, the gradient increases and the terrain allows for a change of muscle group, scrambling up rocks, swinging from tree branches and navigating over ridgelines. Ascending just short of 5km you reach the junction at which we passed through after the first climb. The lovely volunteer shouts ‘you’ve done this section before...easy...home run now’ to which I wrongly interpreted to mean, ‘it’s all downhill from here’. This section just went on and on, not what I remembered on the way out, feeling fresh and feeling like I was on an episode of ninja warrior. Ninja warrior I was not. The track undulates, overall ascending back to the trig point for what seems to be an eternity. The legs are tired which leads to silly footing mistakes, and many a time hitting the deck, into what is now a mud bath from the passing foot traffic of the competitors.  Climbing the ladder up to the trig and a sigh of relief, now it really is all downhill retracing our steps to the finish line. The descent is the last challenge for the legs and I’m sure the photographer at the bottom of the hill heard the baby elephant coming from a mile off. One last rye smile at the photographer, before passing him and extravagantly going head over heels in a pile of cow shit, that really was the last hit the body needed at this stage. Reaching the farm track I can see the finish line, and that’s all I needed alongside the gentle downhill to pick up the pace and cross the line in 3.27.54.
Overall, it’s a race for those who want to challenge themselves physically...and mentally... but also one whereby you can have fun along the way, with the change in terrain and technical elements. It’s definitely not a road runners race or one where you can maintain a constant fast pace; but with some overall strength in the legs when the change of terrain demands it, and the mental stubbornness to block out the pain and self-doubts, this race could be for you.
This was the first running event in a while where I’ve grinned from ear to ear, shouted out loud ‘I’m on ninja warrior’ and been so frustrated at myself for constantly falling over.
What makes me talk of this race so highly is the physical toughness, the organisation and execution on the day and the community feel it gives you from start to finish. Crossing the finish line, the organisers and volunteers are keen to hear everyone’s story, help get you fed and watered with beer and a sausage sizzle, and welcome you to stay to be part of their event.
All you can ask for.
I will definitely be back for more.
Here is the link to my Garmin which will give you more of an insight into the trail:
Approach is a new venture Ali her partner have begun as a way to share their weekend ventures and training. With it, they hope to inspire women to get out there and enjoy the best of New Zealand.
The original post can be found on Ali's blog here: https://www.approachlife.co.nz/blog/raglan-karioi-trail-run
The 2019 edition of the Raglan Karioi Trail takes place Saturday 14 December 2019. Super Earlybird sales open in June 2019. raglankarioitrail.co.nz/enter-race/

So you're coming to Raglan for the epic Raglan Karioi Trail!

If it's not your first time, you'll know that it’s a real gem of an end of the road destination. Raglan has a warm heart and a colourful personality. And, there’s so much to do here. We love Raglan and that’s why we’ve made it home. There are very few places with that just-right mix of activities, music, art, food, and culture. 

Thanks to the large Maori population in Raglan there is a strong bicultural identity within our community, which is such an important part of this town. Add to this, the melting pot of ethnicities that make up Raglan’s community, from those who have decided to make Raglan their home, to the consistent flow of domestic and international visitors. This diversity of people makes for such a buzzing, creative little town.

Raglan has long been famous as one of the best surf spots in the world with its left-hand breaks at Manu Bay, Whale Bay, and Indicators. Many international visitors initially having been drawn by the surf have since discovered how much more there is to Raglan than just surf. It’s increasingly becoming an absolute ‘must’ place to visit for kiwis and international tourists alike. There really is something for everyone in Raglan. If you’re planning your stay then here’s a few of our favourites, feel free to add yours if they don’t feature in the comments below:


  • Te Toto Gorge, park in the car park and take a short walk to the viewing platform that juts out the edge of the cliff, 100 meters above the sea below, it will deliver you a heart fluttering view.

  • Bridal Veil Falls – turn left on Te Mata Rd just before you get to Raglan. It’s a short walk to the falls and the track to the top of the falls is suitable for buggies and wheelchairs. The view of the 55m waterfall is just mind-blowing and you can walk down several flights of steps to the bottom of the falls to feel the spray on your face and get the full glory.


Raglan is becoming well known as a real foodie heaven with its fantastic range of cafes and restaurants. Here are some of our favourites:

  • The Shack - always consistently good food, coffee, and service, open during the day for breakfast and lunch.

  • Rock-it is a must visit, even if it’s just for a coffee, although it’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on most days and the food is really good. Rock-it is based in an old barn and has a huge deck and lawn perfect for the kids to play. It’s also dog-friendly.

  • Wallis Street Bistro - tasty, fresh, Mediterranean-style food designed and made owner/ chef Justin Thompson (Shack owner) and a sleek, profession operation to boot.

  • The Wharf Kitchen & Bar - great spot for a drink in the sun in the evening and dinner.

  • Orca has great steaks, sourced locally and is based right in town, consistent, great quality meals.

  • Isobar - these guys have the best options for people watching by far, right in town with lots of space and a really diverse menu including an excellent selection of vegan and raw treats. They have the best beer in town with Pilot Brewery beer on tap. Or just grab a coffee and watch the world go by. Staff are friendly and there’s a real buzz to the place!

  • The Food Department - based in the old dairy on the other side of the one-way bridge in Raglan West has fantastic coffee and pizzas. Their homemade gelato is second to none.

  • Jo’s Takeaways at the Kopua Domain does great fish and chips and has lots of choices for vegetarians too, try their broccoli-bites and corn-fritters.

  • Raglan Fish at the Wharf has fresh fish you can cook in your bach, and it also offers fish and chips. Eat them on the Wharf and watch the fishing enthusiasts try to catch a few of their own.

  • The Conscious Kitchen up at Solscape has by far the best view. They serve breakfast and lunch from their plant-based kitchen and you won't be disappointed!

  • Turkish - absolutely scrummy kebabs.


  • Raglan Roast, get yours down Volcom Lane, or on the corner of Bow Street/ Wainui Rd, or at The Food Department in Raglan West, or at Te Uku Roast based at the old Post Office at Te Uku.

Shopping (get ready for Xmas)

  • Atamira is an absolute must if you’re keen on fashion, jewelry, books, and other curios. It’s a gorgeously decorated shop and has lots of clothing options for both men and women. Lots of designer brands like Kate Sylvester, Tiger Lily, etc.

  • Scintilla is a Raglan based clothing designer creating unique clothing for women since 2004.

  • Trade Aid has a fantastic range of homewares, jewelry, toys, and fair-trade coffee and chocolate, ask them about the stories behind their products too.

  • Soul Shoes, gorgeous, handmade leather shoes, bags belts, and other accessories, if you’re sick of wearing those plastic jandals and want something that is made to last year’s not months, then pick up a pair of Soul Shoes leather jandals.

  • Jet Collective, a collective of 5 different artists selling their paintings, jewelry, clothing and ceramics and so much more. Jet Collective, along with Kanuka (below are our favourite places to buy gifts for family and friends.

  • Kanuka down Volcom Lane is a feast for the eyes with its huge collection of wonderful decorations for your home.

  • Raglan Surf Emporium down Volcom Lane, on Wainui Rd stocks heaps of surfboards as well as super cool surf brands, Volcom, Rusty, RVC and more.

  • Local Potter Tony Sly creates and sells his beautiful wares down at the wharf, a great gift for anyone who loves to cook or host or to yourself!

  • Sunday 9 December 2019 is the Xmas Market at the Old School on Stewart St, regular markets run the second Sunday of the month, bursting with local produce and arts and crafts.

  • Whether you are in the market for a unique piece of Raglan or just window shopping Matapihi Art Gallery on Bow Street is a must. Over 40 local Artists are represented a handful of which run the show. You’ll find everything from jewelry to sculptures on show and available to buy.


  • Main beach, Ngaruanui, take a right off Wainui Rd about 4 km out of town, great for beginner surfers, and if you want to swim safely between the flags.

  • Ocean beach/ kite beach, down Kereopa Drive, great for walking the dogs and when the tide is low there’s usually some awesome little pools for the little ones

  • Manu Bay is great at the boat ramp at low tide for a quick swim.

  • Te Kopua Domain; a place for the whole family, swimming, skateboarding, pump track, there’s also BBQs, playgrounds and if you’re brave enough you’ve got to jump off the bridge at high tide.

Healing and Massage

  • Visit the Herbal Dispensary for a huge range of natural remedies, organic foods, and freshly made juices. They are on Wallis Street, right next door to The Wallis Street Bistro.

  • Phi Massage is nestled into the native bush of Whale Bay. Listen to merging streams, birds and the ocean as Linda allows you to completely unwind whilst she works her magic.

  • Homeopath Janis Beet operates out of her home-based practiced perched up on Upper Wainui Rd, she’s a favourite with local mums, in particular, looking for alternative treatments for their little ones.

  • Health Coach Irma Schutte practices both from her Raglan home and online. Her approach with clients touches on many aspects of well-being. She brings consciousness back to food and fun back to spirit. Visit www.irmaschutte.com for more info.

  • For a lomilomi or hot stones massage, Hawaiian style then book in with Robbyn at Nikau Sanctuary, her massage yurt is set in the native bush up above Raglan off Mangatawhiri Road, simply bliss.

  • Raglan Acupuncture, Olly Brunton treats all ages and conditions using various techniques from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Treatments include the use of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine, Tuina Medical massage, and Qi Gong exercises. Visit Olly’s website for more info.

  • Ngarima Maratia specialises in ancient massage techniques native to N.Z. Aotearoa & Cook Islands. Her studio is incorporated into the Matapihi Art Gallery right in town on Bow Street.

Active Fun for the Kids (big or small)

  • We LOVE Raglan Rock, Gareth has over a decade of climbing experience and is passionate about what he does, which is not just rock climbing, he offers caving and archery too. He is certified and very safe and it’s not just for the kids either. Take the whole family or a group of your mates, guaranteed fun and adventure in Raglan’s beautiful surrounds. Visit the Raglan Rock website.

  • Skateboarding at the skate-park over the footbridge or via the road to the Te Kopua Domain (right next to the campsite), our kid’s favourite hang-out!

  • There is also a pump track right next to the skate park.

  • Surfing lessons are really popular and there are a few options, they all take place at Nagaruanui beach (the main beach) but will need to be booked directly with Raglan Surfing School, Surf Safe Coaching Raglan, Solscape Surf School or UP Surf Coaching, the latter is a great option if you are looking to improve your technique and make progress one-on-one.

  • Kitesurfing, Raglan is fantastic for kitesurfing, the fact that one of the best kite brands in the world, Ozone Kites, has based themselves in Raglan speaks volumes. You can buy all the gear in town at Raglan Kitesurfing at the end of Volcom Lane and they can organise lessons too.

  • Raglan Golf, the golf course at Raglan has stunning views of the estuary and is a great course, there’s also Mini Putt for the kids!

  • Raglan Kayak and Paddle-boarding, go on an adventure to the Limestone Coast, these guys have been in business for 13 years so you’ll be with super experienced guides, visit their Raglan Eco website.

  • If you need a bit of yoga there are a number of options some of which can be found at Solscape, Raglan Yoga Loft and The Space Raglan. They both have timetables available and something for everyone.

Walking Tracks (if you need to stretch those tired legs!)

Get in amongst nature, for us, there’s just nothing better than a walk or run in the bush. All that extra oxygen is so energising. Here are some of our favourite tracks.

  • Bryant Track, you can enter Bryant Track from the top, next to the Bible Camp on Wainui Road, or from the bottom, go left toward the end of the beach from the surf club and keep a close eye out for the beginning of the many steps that will take you to the top. You can cross the road and continue your walk through the bush, and you’ll pop out on Upper Wainui Road. We like to run the loop from Bryant Track, across the road through the bush to Upper Wainui Road and then back along the main road to Ngaruanui beach.

  • Wainui Reserve Track; a great little walk to do with the kids. Park in the Wainui Bush Park Reserve carpark on Wainui Road. You can walk to the beach from here. It’s also a great place to picnic. Or you can picnic at the top, on the grass overlooking the ocean.

Places to Just be

If you just want to chill out and enjoy the views, being surrounded by water and native bush the options are endless, so we’ve picked a few faves:

  • Wahine Moe; cruise the harbour and catch a sunset

  • Solscape – great view with a large lawn up high above the surf, grab a coffee and hang out

  • Head up to the top of Wainui Bush Park (mentioned below and accessible by car) just turn towards the main beach access road, take a right at the round-about and follow it to the end

  • Wave watching, there are many spots, grab some goodies in town, cruise the coast and find a grassy patch, stay there for sunset and experience Raglan at it’s most beautiful!

This list is by no means exhaustive, we are simply spoilt for choice in this wee town bursting with goodness, it's a few personal favourites, tried and tested!

Go ahead and SHARE with someone you think deserves to get a bit of Raglan…