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Pancakes Rock @ Punakaiki New Zealand

June 15, 2010

Layers upon layers of pancake stacks sit at the top of the West Coast in southern New Zealand. There is no town of sorts around the rocks, just a mix of holiday cabins, a handful of cottages (where I dream of living a writer’s life), overpriced stores and galleries. Punakaiki or Pancake Rocks to the locals, is a tourist spot that rocks.

by Cate

This rocky location hangs above the West Coast’s rugged coastline and grey beaches. Punakaiki is a spot that has over the years grown to become a big deal in New Zealand tourism. Outfitted with gravel walking tracks and strong barricades, the occasional viewing platform and concrete steps, this place is very different from the place I knew as a stroppy kid.

Blowholes are included with this natural attraction. There is no perfect time to visit this spot, it’s beautiful on a sunny day as it’s powerful on a stormy day. Punkaiki just is…

Although it’s incredibly hard to photograph in the mid day sun. Photographer Ansel Adams would have appreciated the timing if he were still around.

by Cate

Punakaiki is a Maori word for Spring of Food. Centuries ago, Maori hunters knew this beach as a feasting place: seafood, bird life, plant life, there was plenty of bounty around.

For the tourist there is a choice between a couple of roadside cafés both of which overcharge and undersell. But hey, the view and location are worth spending money on.

If you Google the word Punakaiki, you won’t go wrong with information on accommodation and tid bits. I could easily spend a couple of days here during the stormy winter months when travellers are few and the locals are more relaxed. But during the summer time I’ll leave it to the hordes of tourists, their buses and their campervans, and to the backpackers.

by Cate

Solitude between the rock stacks is my pancake of choice.

Caffeinated Traveller

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  1. Catherine permalink
    June 15, 2010 2:40 pm

    what a perfect place and a perfect name too…love those rock structures – where is the nearest big town to here??

    • June 15, 2010 5:46 pm

      Hey Catherine! I would say the closest towns are Greymouth – south, and Westport – north. Both big enough to spend an overnight but not big enough to spend a week. The area also has beautiful national parks: Paparoa and Kahurangi famous for the Heaphy Track.

  2. June 15, 2010 6:39 pm

    Going through every line in your post is like viewing each layer of Punakaiki.

    Both are so amazing.

  3. June 16, 2010 9:12 am

    Yes Rainfield these rock are unique to this part of the country and do look amazing when you are up close. One to visit when you make it back to New Zealand.

  4. June 16, 2010 3:21 pm

    Very interesting! I wonder why the rocks have that layered appearance.

    • June 17, 2010 9:23 am

      as far as I know it is limestone sediment. I have suddenly remembered that these formations were in the hills around the area and not just on the beach. There isn’t much information about this area online. the limestone was formed about 50 million years ago and done so in cooling waters. When I find out more I’ll let you know.

  5. Jayne permalink
    June 16, 2010 7:02 pm

    Hi Cate, Love the pictures of Punakaiki and of course the blog. I bet Joe can tell us what all those layers mean. 🙂 I’m saving my money for a trip to New Zealand.

    • June 17, 2010 9:16 am

      Hi Jayne!!
      Nice to hear from you. I have Joe researching about these rocks as we speak. we both think it has something to do with lime sedimentation, but that means nothing to me. Keep saving, you will need all the extra cash you can find for NZ. Joe will make a good tour guide just make sure he takes you places that don’t have aircraft museums 🙂 Hi to Marty!

  6. travelforaircraft permalink
    June 17, 2010 8:28 pm


    The rock is limestone but I did not get a close look at it. I think it is a fine grained rock deposited in sedimentation cycles over the eons. The thicker sections represent a season or an averaging of an interval (a rainy interval). The thinner (i.e., what look to be the horizontal cracks) are the dryer times since the less water running off the less sedimentation. The craggy nature is due to exposure to wind and wave forces along the coast.


    • June 18, 2010 10:59 am

      Interesting how rocks form. The Paparoa national park is full of photogenic limestone formations but not layered as these ones. It must have taken years to get to reach the size they did. Thanks for letting us in on some geological insights Joe!

  7. June 18, 2010 1:59 pm

    Those rocks need some maple syrup!

  8. June 23, 2010 8:12 am

    I love the look of this. I’d imagine whoever named it was hungry!

    • June 23, 2010 5:15 pm

      And quite possibly originated from the US. I can’t imagine active Kiwis calling it this without some foreign influence.

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