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Welcome to the West Coast of New Zealand´s south Island!
Hello Kiwis! Where in the world are you at the moment and what are you up to?
I am just thinking about having some delicious pancakes. 😉
Perfekt for this new post about another great destination in New Zealand´s south island.
Coming to New Zealand people are mostly blown away by the many stunning scenic drives that go all through the country. One of the most beautiful ones is the drive along the West Coast of the south island. You can drive it either way from Nelson in the north down south, or from Greymouth in the south up north. Now let me show you a place that will leave you speechless. That place might be tricky to pronounce (like many names in Aotearoa) but later you will remember it forever!
Welcome to Punakaiki!
Better known as the place of the famous pancake rocks!
People driving up or down the West Coast mostly just stop here for a quick break, to have some coffee and to visit the rocks. If you decide to stay for a few more days you will be rewarded with nature beauty and absolute peaceful places to explore. That might be also because the area is less hyped than other typical tourist destinations and has not lost any of it´s spirit of the wildness yet.
Why this place is so special
Driving along the huge cliffs of the coast gives you spectacular view of the ocean and the shore. Punakaiki lies in the middle of the 90km long scenic drive. No supermarkets, ATMs or gas stations for 45km either way.
It is not a typical town or village. It is more the area with amazing beaches and bush walks and a few houses and beach front lodges with ocean views.
Great place to stay at the Punakaiki Beach Hostel
During my three days in the wilderness I stayed at a beautiful and charming, beach front backpackers that was by far one of my best accommodations I had in NZ.
Did you ever sleep with the sound of the waves of the ocean in front of your open window? And waking up to it? Let me tell you that it is the most relaxing and peaceful feeling!
Having breakfast every morning at the terrace with other travellers and ocean view was another highlight and a good start into the day. And yes! Best thing, you can rent and sleep in a truck!
How cool is that?!
The Pancake Rocks and how to avoid the crowds
The pancake rocks are a natural formation of rocks and limestone that got its shape over thousands of years by the power of the ocean and strong winds. A walkway leads from the car park to the rocks and over huge stone arches. From there you get a fantastic view into the blow holes where the waves blows up dramatically during high tide. The ocean and the surrounding mountains look spectacular as well and show the rough nature from its best site. The walkway takes about 20 minutes to complete but i would recommend more time to seek in the nature and the beauty of this place.
When visiting try to avoid the peak times at midday, when the buses arrive here for a coffee break. During midday, between 11:30AM and 01:00PM the place can get very crowded, so try to go in the morning or afternoon.
After the walk of course I had to try the famous pancakes at the pancake rocks cafe. Let´s be honest, they were a bit pricey but soooooo delicious. No wonder the cafe is a success. After going to the rocks you just have to try one of them. Either with chocolate sauce and fresh bananas. Or strawberries and cream. Combined with a coffee or cappuccino it is so good and worth the money.
Next to the cafe you can also of course shop souvenirs or inform yourself about the area at the Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre.
In memory of the Christchurch victims
At the time I visited New Zealand the Christchurch attack just happened and the whole country was in grief. But on the other hand everywhere I went people would hold together and would help each other, talking about what happened, and would pay respect and honour to the victims by putting up signs in memories and flowers in nearly every place and every town. Even in a small place like Punakaiki. To see and feel this solidarity was very touching and heart warming. Also to experience something so terrible makes you think more about how value life really is and how much we should enjoy and value it every single day and that we should work hard for our dreams to come true.
A coastal drive you will never forget
Punakaiki is located in the middle of the West Coast scenic road and if you drive it would normally takes about 50 minutes to reach the next township. Not in my case of course, because driving up a coast means for me to stop at pretty much every corner, on every beach and every viewing point. Once I had to go up the coast road to Westport to buy some stuff from the supermarket and combined it with a scenic half day trip.
Stop number one was the beach at the end of the Truman Track, just a few kilometres away from Punakaiki. Easy walking through the forest, it makes you feel like being in Jurassic Park.
After reaching the beach take a moment to enjoy the view over the Tasman Sea, and walk along the beach and the big limestone blowholes.
Along the road there are many places to stop, which offer great views of the coast and the cliffs with its palm trees. Driving down the road you can stop on as many bays and beaches as you like. I would sometimes have a beach all by myself, feeling just happy and far away from the rest of the world.
Pororari River Track
The Pororari River Track is another great thing to do. A beautiful inland loop track that takes about three hours to complete. From the car park walk along the river, with big palm trees, through caves and through the forest.
I was surprised that some of the birds in the forest were not shy at all and came very close.
New Zealand is so famous for its birds, and their melody can be heard pretty much everywhere.
After completing the track you come back to the pancake rocks.
How to get to the Punakaiki and to the Pancake Rocks?
Hiring a car or van and driving by yourself is one of the best to see NZ. There are two ways how to reach Punakaiki and the pancake rocks. One way from the north – If you drive from Nelson on highway 6 it takes around 3.5 to 4 hours. From Westport around 50 minutes.
Second way is from the south – From Wanaka it takes up to 7 hours, from Hokitika 1hour and from Greymouth 45 minutes.
If you come from Christchurch you drive over the Arthurs Pass to Greymouth and from there up the West Coast to Punakaiki. I will not give you an estimated travel time as the scenery is to beautiful, so plan a lot of time just in case.
If you travel by bus Intercity www.intercity.co.nz goes to Punakaiki and the pancake rocks every day either from Nelson or from Franz Joseph Village, Hokitika and Greymouth.
The bus stop is right at the pancake rocks cafe. There is a walkway were you can walk along the road to your accommodation.
Pancakes and nature
The area around the West Coast is not so well promoted and well known yet, which gives this place a very special atmosphere. Surrounded only by the ocean and the natural wilderness.
And not only worth a stop for having delicious pancakes. 😉
Share or comment your thoughts on this post because this place has to be on your NZ bucket list!
Until next time! Love, Alice ❤