Punakaiki. Rock Formation in New Zealand, Oceania


Rock Formation in New Zealand, Oceania

Punakaiki Photo © Bobbi Lee Hitchon

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The Boom
	- Punakaiki
The Boom - Punakaiki. Photo by Jocelyn Kinghorn
The gateway to the dramatic limestone country of the Paparoa National Park, the coastal township of Punakaiki is most famous for it’s spectacular “Pancake Rocks”.

Home to just 70 permanent residents, the township is located halfway between Greymouth and Westport on one of the most spectacular coastal highways in New Zealand.

Pancake Rocks

The Pancake Rocks are Dolomite Point limestone rocks established through a layering-weathering process called ‘stylobedding’. The formations that began forming 30 million years ago, when lime-rich fragments of dead marine creatures were deposited on the seabed, then overlaid by weaker layers of soft mud and clay. The seabed was raised above sea-level by earthquakes to form the coastal cliffs and coastline. The sea, wind, and rain have since etched out the soft layers to form the unusual rock formations, that today appear like stacked pancakes.

In many places inside the cliffs, narrow vertical air shafts have been created by the rain, and meet with horizontal tunnels created by the pounding ocean. When conditions are right, heavy ocean swells thunder into these caverns beneath the rocks, and huge water spouts blast skywards through the blowholes in a truly spectacular sight.

A 15-minute walk leads down from the highway through native forest, before emerging into areas of coastal flax and scrub and leading out to the rocks and blowholes. The best time to visit is at high tide – check out the tide times posted at the visitor information center.

Outdoor Activities

Punakaiki is most well-known for its Pancake Rocks, but is also the gateway for Paparoa National Park. For more information on the Park and its hikes, look at the Department of Conservation webstite at www.doc.govt.nz.

Horse Trekking

For a different perspective, see the area from horseback. Punakaiki Horse Treks will lead you along trails through the Punakaiki Valley, including river crossings. The trek concludes on the beach.

The business is open between November and May, with a 3 hour ride costing $160 NZD. Check out their website for more information.


If heading underground piques your interest, check out the Fox River Tourist Cave. The cave is open to amateur explorers, and is a three-hour return trip. Be sure to bring your own torch, and wear sturdy walking shoes.


The stunning views of Punakaiki can also be enjoyed from the water. Canoes are available to hire from Punakaiki Canoes, located near the Pororari River Bridge. Canoe hire is $40 NZD for 2 hours, or $60 NZD for a full day. Family rates are available. The water is gentle, making it perfect for all abilities, and offers stunning views. www.riverkayaking.co.nz has more information.

Where to Eat

For pancake stacks of the edible variety, try the Wild Coast Café. Situated next to the visitor information center, the café also serves up classic kiwi meat pies, as well as ice creams for hot summer days. Internet is also available.

For any meal, the Punakaiki Tavern is a safe bet for good quality pub food. Welcoming both locals and international visitors, the Tavern is open 8 a.m. until late.

For some artwork alongside your coffee, make your way to Punakaiki Crafts. The gallery features local artists, as well as serving up excellent coffee, cakes, and slices. The café is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and the gallery is open until 7 . m.

If you have your own transport, head down the road to Jack’s Gasthof on the Little Totara River. The former German owners turn out excellent pizza, with a bar and accommodation also available.

Where to Stay

For a small township, Punakaiki has plenty of accommodation available.

For a mid-range budget, try Hydrangea Cottages on Main Road Punakaiki. The self-contained cottages sleep up to seven, and fit into the landscape with salvaged timber and river stones, with beautiful mosaics and gardens. Also recommended is the Punakaiki Resort, just 300 meters from the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.

For a budget option, try Te Nikau Retreat, a hostel tucked away in the native rainforest next to Paparoa National Park. The Retreat offers a range of cabins, dorms and lodges, with just a short walk to the beach. Also recommended for budget travellers are Beaconstone Eco Lodge and Punakaiki Beach Hostel.

Getting There

The Pancake Rocks are located at Dolomite Point on State Highway 6, 40 minutes drive north of Greymouth and 50 minutes south of Westport.

National carrier InterCity runs daily bus services connecting Punakaiki with Greymouth (45 minutes), Westport (45 minutes) and Fox Glacier (5 hours). Check out www.intercity.co.nz for timetables and fare details.

Other Information

Once in town, check out the Department of Conservation Visitor Center for more information on the area, including the Paparoa National Park. The center is located at 4294 Coast Road. Or check out www.doc.gov.nz for more details.

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Author: Amanda. Last updated: Jul 31, 2015

Pictures of Punakaiki

Pancake Rocks - Punakaiki
Pancake Rocks - Punakaiki. Photo by Christopher Crouzet

Just About See Ozz - Punakaiki
Just About See Ozz - Punakaiki. Photo by Jocelyn Kinghorn

Pancake rocks - Punakaiki
Pancake rocks - Punakaiki. Photo by Tristan Schmurr


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