Pancakes and Blowholes on the West Coast…

Pancakes and Blowholes on the West Coast…

The West Coast’s state highway 6 is arguably New Zealand’s best coastal road with wild, blustery beaches scattered with rocky limestone outcrops lining the highway.

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We drove up SH6 to Punakaiki, an area renowned for the ‘Pancake Rocks’. The Pancake Rocks are a heavily eroded limestone area where unique layering has been created by immense pressure on alternating hard and soft layers of the rock.

Another key feature of the Pancake Rocks comes alive at high tide when the sea bursts dramatically though a number of vertical blowholes. We went to the DOC Visitor Centre to find out when the tide would come in so that we could time our visit just right.  It turned out that we still had a few hours to spare so we went off to do a couple of walks in the surrounding area.

First we went to the Truman Track, a 30 minute walk which passes through rainforest and flax flats towards a dramatic beach, where we watched the huge waves surging into the bay.

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After that we took on a slightly longer walk – the two hour return Pororari River walk. The track passes through the Pororari River Gorge – a valley lined on both sides by dramatic limestone cliffs and bluffs towering over the gorge and river.

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Soon, it was time to go back towards the DOC visitor centre and walk round to the pancake rocks.

We timed it just perfectly and we could hear the pounding of the waves as we neared the rocks. The ‘pancake’ stacks themselves were striking and we could only imagine how many years it must have taken to layer them so perfectly.

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The blowholes were absolutely fantastic – we couldn’t believe the heights that the waves and sea spray could reach as they burst through the crevices in the rocks. We got completely soaked with salt water several times but it was worth it!

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Once we had made the most of the high tide we went to Punakaiki Cavern – a cave accessed from the side of the highway where you can get a great insight into amateur caving! We took our torch and had a great wander through the dark, damp passageways.

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We had a fantastic day in Punakaiki – made even better by the great weather, but it was soon time to leave and head further up the coast towards Westport. We decided to stay there for the night before our journey towards the Abel Tasman National Park the next day.

Before beginning our search for an overnight parking spot we took a slight detour towards Cape Foulwind. This is the home of the Tauranga Bay Fur Seal Colony and we went to watch the seal pups playing for a while.

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Whilst there, we stumbled across a big signpost with arrows pointing towards far-away lands – showing us just how far away from home we really were… 16,285 km from London!

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That night, we were lucky enough to find an ‘unofficial’ campsite to park up in. It was right beside North Beach by the Westport harbour lighthouse. There were loads of camper vans there, of all different shapes and sizes and we managed to get a great night’s sleep listening to the waves outside…

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