Pancake Rocks

Top choice in The Great Coast Road

Two people look out over Punakaiki Pancake Rocks in Paparoa National Park, West Coast.

©Maridav/Shutterstock

Punakaiki's claim to fame is Dolomite Point, where a layering-weathering process called stylobedding has carved the limestone into what looks like piles of thick pancakes. 

Aim your visit for high tide (tide timetables are posted at the visitor centre, or look them up online). If the swell and wind are cooperating, the sea surges into caverns and booms menacingly through blowholes. See it on a wild day and be reminded that nature really is the boss.

Pancake Rocks geology

The foundations of the Pancake Rocks were formed 30 million years ago. Fragments of plants and marine life solidified into layers. Seismic movements lifted the limestone above the seabed, then over time the rocks have weathered by wind, rain and sea spray, eroding the softer layers, leaving behind the stacks you see today.

Pancake Rocks walk 

Allow 20 minutes for the straightforward (1.1km) walk, which loops from the highway out to the rocks and blowholes. Make that at least 40 minutes if you want to take photos. Part of the trail is suitable for wheelchairs. Keep children close by, especially at the end of the walk when it approaches the highway.