Witness the weird water-sculptured wonders of ‘Limestone Country’ on the wild West Coast of New Zealand.
Paparoa National Park lies midway between Westport and Greymouth, centred on the small coastal settlement of Punakaiki. This region has the finest scenery on the West Coast. At Dolomite Point, limestone outcrops have weathered to form the bizarre Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. When high tides coincide with westerly swells, seawater surges into caverns beneath the pancake-like rock stacks, and spurts skywards in the form of spectacular geysers.
The Punakaiki visitor centre is 1 km south of the Pancake Rocks on the main road. A visit here will introduce you to intriguing limestone landscapes and great opportunities for recreation such as; tramping, caving, canoeing, rock climbing, abseiling, bird watching, fishing and hunting. A short kayak trip on the Pororari River, for example, is a source of fun and fascination.
Start with the easy coastal walks, including a visit to the world’s only nesting area for the rare Westland black petrel. Take a good torch into the more accessible caves behind Punakaiki, and consider a guided tour of the deeper cave systems like the Aranui Cave. There are two overnight tramps, which open up the wild heartland of the Paparoa Range. The Inland Pack Track is a 2 day journey following a goldminer’s route dating back to 1867. The Croesus Track is also a 2 day trek penetrating deep into limestone country through the historic goldmining areas that lie between Blackball and Barrytown.
The inland areas have luxuriant lowland forest with fine examples of New Zealand’s towering rimu, rata and miro trees and a dense understorey of tree ferns, vines and the subtropical nikau palm. The morning chorus of the tui and bellbird are a delight, and sometimes at night you can hear the sharp whistle of the great spotted kiwi.
Remember that the Pancake Rocks are only a taste of the diverse natural attractions of Paparoa. Travel inland and be prepared for many surprises.