Where: Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, West Coast
Distance & Time: 30 minute loop
Take: Camera, windproof clothing, insect repellent, sunscreen
Amenities on route: Carpark, bathrooms, cafe + info centre at the start of the walk
Cost of the walk: Free
I think most people have seen the famous images of Punakaiki, or Pancake Rocks. These unique rock creations towering at the edge of the Tasman Sea are an incredible sight. I first visited them when I was a kid, so to return more than two decades later to see what had changed and what was exactly as I remembered was pretty neat.
The first change that stood out to me was the entrance to the walk had been seriously upgraded! The car park area was loads bigger, with room for buses and campervans. Even though there were only a couple of stores and a cafe, I can’t remember them being there last time, although they could have been and I just didn’t notice them!
We had a stunning clear day for our walk with a calm sparkling blue sea. The sealed path is wide and easy to walk on, so it’s great for those who are in pushchairs, wheelchairs, or are unable to walk for long without needing to take a break. There’s lots of seats and places to relax and take in the (amazing!) view and read the many information boards that are dotted throughout the walk.
Amy’s Advice – if it’s a still day, take a few minutes to look at the ocean and see if you can spot dolphins frolicking!
The rocks are fairly impressive, as are the massive blowholes. It was a calm day when we were there but I could imagine on stormy days the blowholes are absolutely fierce and it would be fairly easy to get drenched if the wind was howling in the right (wrong!) direction.
Early on in the walk we were admiring the rocks when movement in the ocean caught our eyes. There was a pod of dolphins quite close to shore! We were able to watch them frolic for awhile and it was seriously cool. It was really neat to see them from this majestic place, and it was quite gratifying to point them out to some of the other visitors and see how stoked they were to be able to see them.
The walk starts through bush until you reach the rocks on the shoreline after about ten minutes. While the relatively flat walk is up on cliffs (you aren’t down it shore level), it would be amazing to have the opportunity to view these rocks from the water too. I don’t know if that’s something that’s available to do, but if it is, that’d be great! It really does look as though someone has just collected a pile of flat rocks and meticulously piled them on top of one another for their own enjoyment. It’s just neat that they are in a place that is fairly easily accessible so we have the opportunity to enjoy them too.
It was really neat having the opportunity to view this spectacular place with not many other people around. It felt much more majestic that way and we took our time exploring and really looking at the rocks rather than just acknowledging them and then wandering on. There are a few sections where you can get up quite close and can touch them rather than viewing them behind a barrier.
The next time I’m back here I really want to come at the end of the day as this would be an incredible spot to sit and watch a sunset from and to see the changing colours on the rocks during a stunning West Coast sunset. I think that would be sensational.
We spent some time looking at the rock formations below to see what creature they reminded us of – the one on the right reminds me of hippo!
After our walk we headed over to explore the couple of shops that are at the entrance to the walk. Of course one of them was capitalising on their location and selling pancakes, so we had to partake before we continued on our road trip south.
The photos were taken by Paul + I!
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