The sun was barely up when Charlie Young saw Raglan for the first time.
The California native and his wife, Erin Rogers, had crossed the Pacific to land in the pre-dawn darkness of Auckland.
Oceans are to yawn over from tin cans at 10,000 metres.
But kilometres of green hills unfolding towards an extinct volcano that stars in both Maori legend and early European explorer logs makes you put your feet on the ground. And keep them there.
Young and Rogers are both surfers, so Raglan was on their radar, but before they set eyes on the coastal getaway its biggest attraction that morning was its proximity.
With the city disappearing behind them, the couple eventually found themselves on State Highway 23. Crossing the Waipa River and passing across farmland, they crested the hill known to locals as "The Deviation".
"We looked down and you could see Karioi, our mountain, and this beautiful valley. It reminded us of the old mythical, mystical Shangri-La. It was a very magical moment."
The couple, seasoned travellers, had arranged a 35-day New Zealand itinerary. But they never left Raglan.
"We started getting some amazing surfing, we met some of our amazing people."
Boarding their return flight to the United States, where Young worked in a suit-and-tie job for industrial relations and Rogers ran the family restaurant, they vowed to return - permanently - within a year.
Exactly a year later, on November 21 1999, they were back, Young says.
"It's as easy to remember as my anniversary, because it was a life-changing day."
Since then the couple have not only put down roots, settling in Whale Bay, eight kilometres west of Raglan, they've helped others do the same by establishing several successful tourist ventures.
Raglan has been Shangri-La for Young and its not hard to see why.
Ribbons of reliably long surf breaks roll onto volcanic sands, drawing surfers since the 1960s, and the town itself isn't too shabby either.
At the western tip of the main drag, past the cafes and restaurants, the inner harbour glistens like scattered crystals in the late afternoon sun.
But Raglan is no earthly paradise. There's a reason Shangri-La exists only in our imaginations. Nowhere is perfect.
Young can measure Raglan's imperfections by the turn of the calendar - 10 weeks to be precise.
That's how long it took to secure a rental home for a new manager and his family.
"And I knew the community and a lot of people knew me and we had to go around and scratch together a house. They were going to leave. In hospitality the jobs themselves aren't the highest paying ... but these people need a place to live. And Raglan has hit the wall."
That's what reality looks like when your slice of paradise has caught the eye of well-to-do city folk seeking weekend escapes.
Incentives for property developers could be the answer, the 59-year-old says.
Change is happening. A 500-section housing development is planned for Rangitahi Peninsula.
But some in the town of around 3500 fear the continuing impact on infrastructure, already pushed to the limit by the thousands of visitors, primarily in summer.
That impact - on roads, parking and wastewater - has to be managed properly for prosperity to continue.
Initiatives such as Xtreme Zero Waste, a community enterprise helping the community cut waste by 75 per cent, shows Raglan has the nous to find solutions.
And find them they must - happy places thrive, Young says.
"If the community's doing very well, the citizens of the community are enjoying themselves. That makes it great for the tourists, because that's what tourism in a big way is about, people like to visit a town that's vibrant."
Tyla Mataira-Stothers is among those captured by the buzz. She was born in Raglan, but left as a toddler.
Six months ago she returned to reconnect with whanau and become fluent in te reo.
The 21-year-old was studying towards Maori development studies at Victoria University, but left because she felt she could not continue before learning te reo and tikanga and all the meaning wrapped up in both.
"You can't understand a culture without knowing the language, because that's the eyes to the culture."
It's a bit like a community - it takes everyone working together and understanding each other to make it click.
Mataira-Stothers loves Xtreme Zero Waste and how it's taking the stigma out of waste, but she's seen what's not working too.
She lives and works with family at educational, environmental and health organisation Te Mauri Tau, but knows others struggle to keep a roof over their heads, with some families asked to leave rentals during high season, she says.
"Something that became apparent to me is the lack of permanent housing for locals. It's awesome for local businesses that people are coming here, but I know over Christmas there were families ... with no home.
"It's like a lot of the locals say - it's too beautiful for its own good."
Morgan Morris knows about the beauty of Raglan - inside and out.
It's right there in front of her home in the hills above the town, where she can see the Raglan Area School buildings where she made friendships so strong they drew her and husband Stefan Frew home three years ago.
A corporate lawyer in Hamilton, the 30-year-old is on maternity leave since son Mason arrived six months ago.
Motherhood has entrenched some of her views about the direction of the country, such as the need for universal free health care.
"I think that [free healthcare for young kids] is fabulous, but at the same time if the parents can't look after themselves, then they can't look after their children."
Housing worries her too.
She's heard of professional couples from Hamilton being chosen over locals for hotly-contested rentals.
"They're actually renting it out not to people who need it, but to people who want to ... have that lifestyle. It's really important that people who are from Raglan can stay in Raglan."
Sometimes she just worries that Raglan's soul will be changed by its surging popularity.
"That sense of community to me is really important ... I hope that Raglan maintains that element of quaintness and that sense of community, because there's some really passionate people who live in this community and they're imperative to making sure it doesn't turn into a place like The Mount or Pauanui or Whangamata."