Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes...

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes


438 Rankers Reviews

400 Face-to-Face

6 Punakaiki

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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One of the Blowholes in action
Pancakes anyone
Wild coast


1.1 km return | 20 minutes return

Imagine a pile of pancakes piled up on top of eachother, then turned to stone. Place the formation in the path of persistent swells on a wild coastline and leave for millennia. The result is one of the most bizarre places in NZ. Impressive always, but especially so when a big tide is running and the waves are thundering into the blowholes.


The blowholes are most impressive at high tide with a big swell. For that National Geographic shot, make sure you are here for a West Coast sunset and an exploding blowhole.


Well signposted and unmissable in Punakaiki.

Several parking areas are signposted. Campervans make sure you use the one to the south, otherwise the place ends up like Calcutta central station at rush hour.

Be careful crossing the road. A hotspot for oblivious drivers.


The sealed track passes several lookouts, which become ever-more impressive. Admire the handy-work of the track builders on the bridges and platforms, which give the best vantage over the blowholes. Some are given names like the Chimney Pot, Surge Pool and Putai.

The angular limestone blocks have been placed into dry stone walls alongside the track and steps weave a sinuous path through the convoluted landscape/seascape. Wheelchair access ends at the steps.

As the track weaves around, more viewpoints of the bizarre formations open up until you rejoin the tar seal through the flax and nikau back to the road.


Pancake Rocks are still contentious among geomorphologists. No single theory is agreed upon for their formation.

The most likely scenario starts around 30 million years ago when the base rocks were laid down in shallow warm seas. Inter-bedded layers of calcareous marine creatures and softer mud and sand layers were built up, compressed and cooked. The fancy term is ‘stylobedding’ Later tectonic uplift brought these lasagne-like layers to the surface.

Wind, rain, salt and wave then combined in a weathering and erosion frenzy to preferentially erode the weaker mud and sand layers, leaving the more resistant limestone layers intact. Given the exposed nature of this coastline and prevalence of westerly winds and swells, the patterns of nature now etched onto the rock have created such a sight that they are on the must-do list of New Zealand visitors.

When arches collapse, they form blow holes and surge pools, exploited by the waves and constantly enlarged and re-modelled. Dolomite Point is one of the rawest places you can easily get to in NZ.


When the BBC filmed ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’, they chose this location for one of the habitats.


Feature Value Info


DOC West Coast

Central government organisation


South IslandWest CoastPunakaiki


  • Walking
  • Free


Showing 13 reviews of 400.

Kumar's avatar


Ranking: 10/10

Just do it!
99.99 percent you will not regret with views & stuff etc

Reviewed about 1 year ago

Richard Clapton's avatar

Richard Clapton

United Kingdom

Ranking: 9/10

Pretty amazing formations and really interesting information on theories along the short walk. Apparently best to go during high tide but not possible for us.

Also you can see seals further back down the coast at the seal colony which was really cool.

Reviewed over 2 years ago

Mike Fricker's avatar

Mike Fricker

Ranking: 10/10

17Oct18. What is there to say that has not already been said. Came here in 2006 and 2014 and will do again.

Reviewed over 3 years ago

Melinda Pyke's avatar

Melinda Pyke


Ranking: 10/10

Not to be missed. Hardly anyone there, arrived on high tide. What an experience. Great facilities provided by DOC.

Reviewed over 3 years ago

Thank You - to the thousands of travellers that have contributed to our Top Voted NZ Activities Map - it's free from Rankers.

Katrina's avatar


New Zealand

Ranking: 7/10

The walk is easy, with good viewpoints over fantastic geology. We shared the experience with a crowd of people with differing ideas about personal space and acceptable behaviour. Go early morning to avoid the tourist hordes and both the walk and your photos will rate 9-10/10. It's still worth a brief stop even when it is crowded.

Reviewed over 4 years ago

Hannibal Winther's avatar

Hannibal Winther


Ranking: 9/10

Easy walk. It did not disappoint at all! We even saw the blowholes!

Reviewed over 4 years ago

Shan's avatar


French Polynesia

Ranking: 9/10

Good amenities to see these wonders of nature. Easy to do with young children.

Reviewed over 4 years ago

Jan Christoph's avatar

Jan Christoph


Ranking: 10/10

Very nice view and lots of spraying water!

Reviewed over 4 years ago

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Romy de Boer's avatar

Romy de Boer


Ranking: 9/10


Reviewed over 4 years ago

Jocelyn Booy's avatar

Jocelyn Booy


Ranking: 10/10

Make sure you stop here. Although there were several tours and busses, do not let that stop you. Free/amazing rock formations, great walkway.

Reviewed almost 5 years ago and experienced in January 2017

Myriam Ackermann's avatar

Myriam Ackermann


Ranking: 9/10

Surprising view, impressive, a lot of people.

Reviewed almost 5 years ago and experienced in January 2017

Kevin Schlaarz's avatar

Kevin Schlaarz


Ranking: 10/10

The way to the Pancake Rocks was very beautiful. There are lots of rocks to see and they are all different. It is a short walk, about 20 minutes with many lookouts.

Reviewed almost 5 years ago and experienced in January 2017

Cornelia Timm's avatar

Cornelia Timm


Ranking: 9/10

Very impressive, very beautiful.

Reviewed almost 5 years ago and experienced in January 2017

DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick