Pancake Rocks & Blowholes

Well worth a stop off on a trip down the West Coast are the stunning pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki. Situated in the fascinating Paparoa National Park, which encompasses a huge range of landscapes and ecosystems, high tide is the most impressive time of day to plan your visit, when huge waves roll in underneath the cavities formed by the rocks and explode up through the crevices in geyser like eruptions.

Another of New Zealand’s mind blowing natural wonders, these rocks started forming 30 million years ago, when small fragments of lime rich dead marine creatures were deposited on the seabed, then overlaid by weaker layers of soft mud and clay.

On a clear day you can see right over to Mount Cook and enjoy the spectacular coastline, but this part of the west coast is probably the only time on our trip that we actually hope for slightly inclement weather, as the spectacle of the blowholes is far more impressive on a story day when the swells of the seas creating some really unforgettable moments.

We recommend the short Dolomite Point walk that takes in some of the best viewing spots for the blowholes. The walk begins right opposite the visitor centre and I Site and after a short stride through rainforest and native nikau palms, opens out to the first blowhole, named ‘sudden sound’ due to the sounds made as it erupts.

The track continues around the pancake rocks and blowholes, Looping around to a surge pool, called Devils Cauldron that makes you feel like you’re watching the inside of a washing machine as the waves swirl and crash around, and then over a small bridge to the Chimney Pot Blowhole and then Putai – the most impressive blowhole, and our favourite spot to wait, camera poised to capture the moment the seawater explodes from between the rocks in magnificent fashion.

The pathway then heads down some steps and winds around the surge pool before meeting up with the other track and heads back up through the trees.

What our travellers enjoyed about visiting Punakaiki…

  • Viewing the impressive rockfromations from horseback on one of the guided trecks on offer.
  • Exploring more of the Paparoa National park and hiking one of the many  tracks and trails.
  • Catching sight of the Hectors Dolphins that can often be spotted playing around the rocks.