When you think of Punakaiki you immediately think of the Pancake Rocks, one of the most iconic tourist spots on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The Pancake Rocks are reason enough to visit, but there are heaps of other things to do in Punakaiki, including some nice beaches, a stunning river walk and a cave.
The Pancake Rocks, a group of limestone rock formations, is the main reason you’ll visit Punakaiki. It’s well worth the detour from wherever else you were going. It’s a beautiful spot and it’s very easy to visit – it’ll only take 30 minutes or so to walk around.
You might be lucky enough to see a dolphin – we did once out of the four or so times we’ve been there. There’s also a blowhole to check out, although it hasn’t really been “blowing” when we we’ve seen it. You can check out the best times to see the blowhole at the café in town.
Pancake Rocks at Sunset
If you’re staying in the area I highly recommend visiting the Pancake Rocks at sunset. If you’re anything like me you’ll want to see this stunning spot in a different light, and although we didn’t get a great sunset that day it was still worthwhile.
Pororari River Track
Fancy a taste of Thailand, Laos or Guatemala on your next trip to the West Coast? Check out the Pororari River Track! It’s the most vibrantly green, tropical-looking river valley we’ve seen anywhere in New Zealand.
If you visit on a sunny day you’ll be greeted with some stunning views, and it only takes an hour or two to walk the best parts of the track (another bonus – it’s mostly flat).
The Paparoa Track is a New Zealand “Great Walk” and should take three days to complete. We haven’t done it yet, but we did drive to the end of the track to see what it was like. That spot (the end of Waikori Road) has similar views to the Pororari River Track. From what I’ve read the track starts in Blackball and finishes in Punakaiki — a lot of Great Walks can be walked in either direction but I’m not sure if that’s the case here (let me know if you know more details).
Walking along a dusty road surrounded by limestone hills and bright green trees reminded me a lot of Vang Vieng in Laos — it’s worth a look even if you’re not walking the Paparoa Track.
The Truman Track takes you down a short path to one of the best beaches in the region. It’s an easy walk (20 minutes or so) and there’s even a waterfall falling from the cliffs onto the beach (only really visible during rain by the looks of it).
Hang out at the Beach
It wouldn’t be a beach town without some long stretches of beach to walk along and you’re well covered in Punakaiki. Also make sure to watch a sunset (either at the beach or at the Pancake Rocks).
Punakaiki Cavern is a short walk from the Pancake Rocks and is worth a quick look. It’s small, and you can’t go all the way in, but caves are always interesting to see, especially one as easy to visit as this.
Eat Some Pancakes
The Pancake Rocks aren’t the only pancakes in Punakaiki. The café across the road has some comfortable outdoor seating (not much of a view unfortunately) and pancakes on the menu – it’d almost be rude not to.
Do Some Kayaking
We saw people kayaking down the Pororari River when we did the walk, and I remember thinking that it looked like fun. We’re not really water people, and haven’t done any kayaking in New Zealand, but I reckon this would be one of the best spots to do it.
Other Things to Do in Punakaiki
Whether you’re travelling further north towards Westport and Karamea or back down south, there are heaps of nice views on the roads leading to Punakaiki. There are plenty of beaches to stop at and roadside viewpoints to chill out at.
Getting to Punakaiki
From Greymouth it’ll take around 40-minutes to get to Punakaiki. From there it’s around 50-minutes to Westport or two hours-ish to Karamea. If you’re coming from Christchurch it’ll be around four hours, via the scenic road through Arthurs Pass.
Where to Stay in Punakaiki?
We’ve stayed in Punakaiki twice, once sleeping in our car at the camping ground and once at the fancy Punakaiki Resort. The experiences couldn’t have been more different, but both were fun in their own way. There are a few other places to stay in Punakaiki, including Te Nikau Retreat and Punakaiki Beachfront Motels.
Are you planning a trip to Punakaiki? Let us know in the comments below!
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