Things to do in New Zealand, West Coast (South Island): Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes, Paparoa National Park

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes, Paparoa National Park. New Zealand, West Coast, South Island. Photo: Neil Silverwood. Photo©www.thingstodot.com.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes, Paparoa National Park. New Zealand, West Coast, South Island. Photo: Neil Silverwood. Photo©www.thingstodot.com.

About the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes

The Punakaiki Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki are part of the Paparoa National Park. They are limestone formations created by immense pressure on alternating hard and soft layers of marine creatures and plant sediments. The rocks started forming about 30 million years ago. During high tide, the ocean water bursts through several vertical blowholes.

A number of walkways winding through the rock formations, make the Pancake Rocks accessible. Some parts of the walkways can also be accessed by wheelchair.

Location and getting there

Punakaiki is a small township on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand between Westport and Greymouth. It is located near the center of the 'Coast Road' one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world. State Highway 6 passes through the town.

If you are flying into Christchurch, you can take the TranzAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth, one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, and then rent a car to Punakaiki. The TranzAlpine covers a distance of 223 km in just under five hours.

Punakaiki is on the edge of the Paparoa National Park and forms a great base to explore the park. There is plenty of different kinds of accommodation available in and around Punakaiki, including upmarket hotels, bed & breakfasts, motels, a campervan and camping ground, and backpacker accommodation.

Visit the Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre in Punakaiki to get more information on the Pancake Rocks and surrounding area.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes, Paparoa National Park. New Zealand, West Coast, South Island. Photo: Neil Silverwood. Photo©www.thingstodot.com.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes, Paparoa National Park. New Zealand, West Coast, South Island. Photo: Neil Silverwood. Photo©www.thingstodot.com.

My Experience

I took the TranzAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth, where I was met by photographer and tour-guide Neil Silverwood with whom I had connected earlier for my trip to the West Coast. Neil is an acclaimed Kiwi photographer who won the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year Award in 2017.

It was only 2 p.m. when I arrived in Greymouth, and after a quick coffee, Neil and I decided to catch the sunset over the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki. This gave us plenty of time to drive first to the Pororari river in the Paparoa National Park, where we did some hiking and kayaking. After an early dinner of fish and chips (costing NZ $30 per head!) at the Pancake Rocks Cafe in Punakaiki and a walk at the Punakaiki Beach, we headed to see the Pancake Rocks. I was struck by the beauty of the majestic limestone structures rising from the ocean floor and bathed in the golden rays of the setting sun, along with the heavy roar of the ocean waves beating at the rocks. The Pancake Rocks are a must-do while visiting the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes, Paparoa National Park. New Zealand, West Coast, South Island. Photo: Neil Silverwood. Photo©www.thingstodot.com.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes, Paparoa National Park. New Zealand, West Coast, South Island. Photo: Neil Silverwood. Photo©www.thingstodot.com.

Pancake Rocks Cafe, Punakaiki. New Zealand, West Coast, South Island. Photo: Neil Silverwood. Photo©www.thingstodot.com.

Pancake Rocks Cafe, Punakaiki. New Zealand, West Coast, South Island. Photo: Neil Silverwood. Photo©www.thingstodot.com.

Where I stayed

I stayed at the Charleston Lodge in Charleston that I found very good. The area is quiet, and the rooms are clean and comfortable. The hosts are nice and welcoming. They helped me check-in late around 10:30 p.m. and also left some milk for me in the refrigerator in my room. It cost me around NZ$135 for a single room. However, it is not a luxury lodge.


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