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Hiking the Pororari River Track, Punakaiki

Hiking the Pororari River Track, Punakaiki

Punakaiki, with its world-famous Pancake Rocks, is one of the best spots to spend a day or two on the West Coast. The coastline is pretty special, but head inland a little and you’ll see one of New Zealand’s most spectacular stretches of river. It’s quite unlike anything else I’ve seen in New Zealand and reminds me of those limestone wildernesses in Vietnam, Laos etc. Thinking about hiking the Pororari River Track? Keep reading for lots of photos and tips!

Hiking the Pororari River Track

The Pororari River Track connects with some other tracks in Papamoa National Park, but the section from the car park to the “junction” where it meets the other tracks seems to be the most scenic part. It takes around 75 minutes to reach that junction and it’s fairly easy going.

The track starts off with nice views of the surrounding limestone peaks, but once you reach the river things get really interesting. There are so many shades of green — from the clear, shallow water of the Pororari River to the ferns and peaks that crowd around it. I’ve never seen such an exotic, tropical looking area anywhere else in New Zealand.

The Pororari River Track mostly hugs the river and there are some areas where you can get right down to the water. You might see some kayakers making their way along the river, but mostly it’ll be you and the nature (and some other hikers as this track is starting to get popular). There’s a viewpoint with a seat around halfway along the track and it’d be a decent place to turn around if you’re tired or in a hurry. If you do continue you can probably turn around at the small cave — there isn’t much to see further along but the track still goes for another 20 minutes or so.

However far you go I’m sure you’ll be as impressed with the Pororari River Track as we were. It’s a unique place in New Zealand and the ease of the track means it’s suitable for almost anyone. It also seems like a fun area to kayak through, so consider that option.

The Paparoa Track

The Paparoa Track will be New Zealand’s newest “Great Walk” when it opens in late 2019. I have no idea what it’ll be like but if the scenery is anywhere near as good as The Pororari River Track on a consistent basis it could become an iconic multi-day hike.


Punakaiki is, of course, home to the Pancake Rocks, a place that has (deservedly) become very popular over the last few years. There is also another nice coastal track (The Truman Track), some beaches and a cave. Punakaiki is one of the best towns to stay in on the West Coast. We stayed in the camping ground but there are also some hotels in town — check out!

Getting to Punakaiki / Pororari River Track

Punakaiki is located on the West Coast, around an hour north of Greymouth / an hour south of Westport. It takes around four hours to drive there from Christchurch. The Pororari River Track is located a kilometre or so north of the Pancake Rocks (near a bridge).

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.