Pancake Rocks (Punakaiki)

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If you are ever travelling down the West Coast of New Zealand, (itself one of the best drives in the world) between Westport and Greymouth, it is worth stopping for 2 or 3 hours at the Pancake Rocks (known as Punakaiki in Maori). Parking is opposite the Truman Track at Te Miko, north of Punakaiki and is well signposted on the main highway. There is also an information centre, a craft shop and cafes nearby.

The rocks themselves are made of limestone, worn and sculpted by the weather and sea, removing over the years the soft layers, leaving interesting stacks resembling pancakes layered on top of each other. The coastline they are on is known as Dolomite point. The route has lookout decks and interesting info boards along the way. It is quite a wide tarmaced track which is suitable for wheelchairs and for those with limited mobility for most of the way. There are also stunning views up and down the rugged coast and the mountains.

The best time to go is at high tide when the water comes in to the blow-holes and, if there is a good swell , they are spectacular. Check tide times with the DoC (dept of conservation). We were unimpressed with view at the first lookout we came to but were pleasantly surprised at the next and it just got better and better. There are plenty of photo opportunities along the way and we took a lot of photos and videos. When we came to the blow holes we had missed high water by about an hour but there was still some spurting with each swell with the spray forming rainbows when the sun was shining.

The nearby Truman Track takes you through the beautiful sub-tropical rainforest of nikau palms, rimu, ferns etc.As it nears the coast it passes through typical West Coast coastal flax flats, a relatively short and at times shady walk. At the end you can go down steps to the beaches and explore the caves.

A good rest point for us and became a good introduction to the varied landscape of South Island.

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