If you like awesome coastal views and rocks stacked like pancakes, you’d better add Punakaiki to your New Zealand itinerary. This small town on the West Coast is home to the surreal Pancake Rocks, a group of weathered rocks sitting by (and sometimes in) the Tasman Sea. It’s a unique piece of nature and has become a must-see for people road tripping around the South Island. Thinking about visiting Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks? Keep reading for more information and a glimpse at what else you can see in the area.
The Pancake Rocks
Punakaiki is located along the Great Coast Road, a scenic stretch of highway between Greymouth and Westport. You’ll know you’ve arrived at the Pancake Rocks when you see a hectic little car park / information area. There’s also a restaurant selling actual pancakes if all the pancake-looking rocks make you hungry. A visit to the Pancake Rocks couldn’t be easier. There’s a short loop track which takes you down to a series of viewpoints above the rocks — it only takes around 20 minutes and is suitable for all levels of fitness. Along the way you’ll see some great views of the rocks and the coastline both north and south of Punakaiki. There’s also a blowhole but you have to time your visit with high tide. Ideal times to see the blowhole in action are listed at the information centre.
The Pancake Rocks at Sunset
The Pancake Rocks Track is a cool place to watch the sunset. You’ve got the rocks as an interesting foreground with the misty coastline stretching out beyond. We were at the camping ground almost ready to go to bed when we decided the sunset could be worth a look. It was great decision! The sun sets at around 9.30 pm in the summer so if you’re staying in the area it’s a nice way to cap off your day.
Other Things to Do in Punakaiki
Punakaiki has heaps more to offer, including a cave (a short walk from the Pancake Rocks car park), another nice coastal walk (The Truman Track) and the Pororari River Track, one of my favourite short walks in New Zealand. You can also continue to Westport and do the Cape Foulwind Walkway or head right up to Karamea and see the Oparara Arches. You could easily spend a few days exploring this area.
Where to stay in Punakaiki
We stayed at the camping ground but there are several more upmarket options available too. Or, if you’re continuing north you could stay in Westport, one of the biggest towns on the West Coast. If you’re going to Westport check out the Cape Foulwind Walkway.
Getting to Punakaiki
From Christchurch you’ll need to drive through Arthur’s Pass. It’s a nice scenic drive with plenty of places to stop, including Castle Hill and Devil’s Punchbowl Falls. The drive between Christchurch and Punakaiki takes around 4 hours. From Hokitika it’s around an hour to Punakaiki.
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