Stop and marvel at the perfect pancake rock stacks, which are piled high in giant columns and battered by ocean swells. Wonder at the seismic forces that thrust these mysteries of nature up from the seabed.
Punakaiki is the gateway to the dramatic limestone country of the Paparoa National Park. It lies half way between Greymouth and Westport on one of the most spectacular coastal highways in New Zealand. The township has a visitor centre, tearooms, craft shop and accommodation. Across the road from the visitor centre is a circular path that affords excellent views of the pancake rocks. These limestone rocks began forming 30 million years ago as tiny fragments of dead marine creatures such as bivalve shellfish and other molluscs, creating an even layer of sediment on the seabed. Earthquake action lifted the layers to the surface. The sea, wind and rain have since sculpted the unusual rock formations. As heavy swells thunder into caverns beneath the rocks, huge water spouts blast skywards through the blowholes. When high tides coincide with strong westerly winds, 15 metre foaming geysers can be seen.
The bizarre blowholes and rocks are just an appetiser for what the Punakaiki area has to offer. They are merely the ‘front window’ of a storehouse of natural treasures to be explored. Check out these options:- paddle the ‘Lost World’ of the Pororari River Gorge, catch a glimpse of an eerie underground world in the nearby cave systems or stroll down the Truman Track to an unspoiled private beach with striking limestone formations. Visit the breeding ground of the rare Westland petrel, view dolphins and seals from a boat or tramp in virgin rain forest on the Croesus and Inland Pack Tracks.
Go bush, go underground, go down to the sea. Be totally absorbed and surprised by the wonders of nature in ‘Limestone Country’. Punakaiki Rocks!