Pancake Rocks, Punakāiki, West Coast. © Shaycobs

Pancake rocks and blowholes: 30 million years in the making


Travel can be, well, strange, really, which is half the point.

Here at Punakāiki, you stop at a standard-looking car park just off the main highway. Lock up the Lada, enjoy a 20-minute sashay to the sea and then, ho-ly! What are those? Those are 30-million-year-old rock formations, sir, known as the Pancake Rocks because – well, look at them. Jam and cream would not go astray here!

With all due respect, even if you opted out of geology, these are an amazing sight.

The limestone has undergone a layering/weathering process which has formed it, over said blink of a millennial eyelid, into what truly look like great, thick pancakes.

They are strangely ridged, oddly shaped and almost Easter Island-like in their still power. And there are heaps of them, too, which only makes them all the more spooky.

Depending on the tide – just ask at the info centre nearby – the water surges through blowholes beneath the rocks and, man, the noise. Boom! It’s sonically unforgettable, visually captivating. If you thought you were getting jaded, this natural extravaganza of sound and vision will kick-start your weary being.

The nearby Paparoa River, within yet another brilliant national park, is well worth a kayak, too, a beautiful thing on a beautiful day. Like all West Coast rivers, though, it can be deceptive – keep your wits and preferably a few good mates about you, or get a guided tour – there’s bouldering, heli-hiking and heaps of other great activities in and around the big pancakes. A cool, slightly odd, definitely captivating stop.

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