Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, West Coast
Image: Benhi Dixon | Creative Commons
1.1 km loop
This is an all-weather walk around the curious limestone formations of pancake rocks and blowholes. With the exception of an optional short section with steps, the walk is suitable for wheelchairs (with assistance).
Blowholes form from a mixture of compressed water and air escaping through the caverns below and being forced upwards, creating a huge wall of spray. They are at their best around high tide when there is a south-westerly swell.
Spectacular views, geological oddities, coastal forest, rich birdlife and marine mammals are highlights along this walk.
The walk is at Dolomite Point, near the little settlement of Punakaiki on SH6. It's 44 km north of Greymouth and 57 km south of Westport.
The Pancake Rocks are most spectacular in the Putai area. They were formed 30 million years ago from minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants landed on the seabed about 2 km below the surface. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify in hard and soft layers. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed. Mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes.
Because the return track suddenly emerges on the highway make sure children are not running ahead.
Keep to the formed path and don't go beyond safety barriers.
A lifebelt near Sudden Sound Blowhole is a reminder that it's very dangerous to stray from the track and to take special care of children.