Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Exploring Punakaiki on NZ’s West Coast

When I read about New Zealand’s Pancake Rocks, I knew we needed to see them in person.

So, what the heck are the Pancake Rocks?

Located 40 minutes north of Greymouth, the Pancake Rocks are these remarkable limestone formations that were created about 30 million years ago when lime-rich fragments of dead sealife were deposited on the seabed and then covered with layers of soft mud and clay. Over time, the seabed rose above sea level because of earthquakes; then Mother Nature in the form of water and wind, transformed the rocks to what we see today. 

However, geologists can’t quite comprehend why the limestone decided to stack up on top of each other in pancake-like layers.
So you have this small section of the western coastline that looks like stacked pancakes!

You’ll need about 30 minutes to walk the paved path through the Pancake Rocks park and see all the limestone formations. If you’re lucky, at high tide, the sea is pushed through some of the rocks to create giant blowholes. Unfortunately, we missed the blowholes even though we visited twice and around high tide the next morning. We still enjoyed listening to the roaring Tasman Sea pounding against the ancient rocks.
The park and surrounding cool-climate rainforest area is populated by the tall Niaku Palm, NZ’s only native palm tree. The trees produce these strange-looking berries/fruit, which the Maori used to eat. The Naiku’s leaves also were used to wrap food for cooking and to make baskets and waterproof thatch for buildings.
Do you see the different faces/shapes in these rocks? You can't miss the wombat or crouching tiger-looking rock on the right side!

Where to stay in Punakaiki

After taking our TranzAlpine train journey, we decided to stay the night in the tiny, seaside village of Punakaiki, which means “a spring of food” in Maori. We had a 5-hour drive the next day, so this seemed like a good spot to linger. Punakaiki is only about a 10-minute walk from the Pancake Rocks.

We stayed in one of the cozy “cabins” at the Punakaiki Beachfront Motel. Our cabin was about 50-meters from the rocky beach, making it a perfect location for wine o’clock.
We chose having some local wine and cheese over hiking some of the nearby trails in the Paparoa National Park because the day had been filled with rain off and on again. Even if gray clouds peppered the western coastline, we simply enjoyed sitting outside and admiring our view.
Later on, we took a walk along the pebbled beach where I collected some green rocks. However, I don’t think my rocks were the precious jade-greenstone (Pounamu) this coastline is known for.

One thing to note is that Punakaiki contains very, very few food options. We ended up eating at the local pub, which stopped serving dinner around 8 p.m., and it was fine for standard pub-fare. Our cabin had a small kitchenette, and we wished we had stocked up on some groceries before we left Greymouth.
Drizzling evening view of Punakaiki Beach.
Luckily, our morning view at Punakaiki featured these brilliant blue skies!
At least, we remembered to buy some wine. Priorities!

If you find yourself near Punakaiki, be sure to visit the Pancake Rocks and enjoy your beautiful drive along the Western Coast. 

My Traveling Joys

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BacktoBodrum said...

Amazing scenery. I bet the wine was good too.

Unknown said...

Looks like you had an amazing time in NZ. I love the pancake rocks. Even with the rain it looks like you had an awesome time.


Joy said...

Thanks Annie! Oh yes, the wine was divine. More about that in another post soon. ;)

Joy said...

Thanks Stephanie! You know us, we always try to make the best of any given situation! :)