Pancake Rocks and Blowhole, Punakaiki: A Famous West Coast Attraction

Pancake Rocks and Blowhole, Punakaiki New Zealand

The little “township” of Punakaiki is most famous for the Pancake Rocks and Blowhole.  One of the best parts about this short walk is that it is accessible to all.  Except for a short side track, the whole track is concrete so is suitable for those in a wheelchair, for people with disabilities and for strollers.

Why are they called Pancake Rocks?

Plain and simple, they literally look like lots of thin pancakes stacked on one another.  I’d liken them to crepes in fact.

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How were Pancake Rocks formed?

The Punakaiki Pancake Rocks are over 30 million years old and were formed two kilometres below the ground.  Plant and animal fragments created very thin layers over the years, and immense pressure underground solidified them.  Seismic activity caused the limestone to be lifted to the seabed and they are now the structures we can see today. The sea and rain is causing them slowly to erode, although you have some time, it’s a slow process. 

What is the Pancake Rocks walk like?

The walk is a very easy 20 minute loop track, but I would allow 30-40 minutes if you plan to take photos, read the signposts and let young kids stroll at their pace.  It is a well paved track, suitable for strollers and wheelchairs.

Hide Tide Punakaiki

You will want to be googling high tide in Punakaiki as this is the best time to see the blowhole.  When the tide is high, the water comes crashing in and shoots up out of the Punakaiki blowholes.  So if you are debating what time of day to visit, this might help you decide.

How to get to Pancake Rocks, New Zealand

You really can’t miss Pancake Rocks.  It is on the main West Coast Road on State Highway 6, about 35 minutes north of Greymouth or 50 minutes south of Westport.  It is definitely worth a stop if you are on a West Coast road trip!

The Coast Road in fact is a magnificent drive in itself.  We based ourselves in Hokitika (a bit over an hours drive from Punakaiki) and the stretch of road between Rapahoe and Punakaiki is just stunning.  Expansive beaches, cliffside drives… one a clear blue day, you really can’t beat it.

If you are heading across from Christchurch, the drive time from Christchurch to Punakaiki is about 3 hours, 45 minutes.

Punakaiki Accommodation

People often think that these Pancake Rocks, New Zealand are the only thing to do in Punakaiki and just do it as a quick stop on the way through.  But if you stay overnight, you will get to experience a number of these spots without the tourists, and it will give you time to explore the other little gems in the region.

Some other hidden gems include the Punakaiki Cavern (explore a cave deep in the mountain side) or the Truman Track (short track to find a secret beach and viewpoint)

Can you imagine standing at these Punakaiki rocks and seeing the sunset.  West Coast beaches are the best place in New Zealand to watch a sunset, so make sure you do it at least once while on your West Coast road trip.

So think about choosing some great Punakaiki accommodation and enjoy some of these off the beaten track experiences

Punakaiki Beach Camp

Punakaiki Camping at its best with only a 1 minute walk to the beach, campsites, cabins and holiday home accommodation onsite.  Click here to find out the latest prices

Punakaiki Resort

Just two minutes from the beach, the Punakaiki Resort has beautiful ocean and rainforest views, making this a very comfortable stay.  Check out these rooms here

Punakaiki Beachfront Motel

Great for those who are looking for cooking facilities, the Punakaiki Beachfront motels have motel rooms, a two storey holiday bach and even a classic kiwi bach on offer.  Book a room here

Te Nikau Retreat

Te Nikau Retreat’s Kowhai Cottage is perfect for families as it is a two bedroom cottage with cooking facilities.  Very close to the Truman Track, one of my favourite things to do in Punakaiki

Seascapes Punakaiki

Seascapes is the most luxurious of the Punakaiki accommodation options.  This four bedroom home is set up for comfort, with plenty of space to sleep up to 8 people.  A great place to relax.  Take a look at up to date prices here

If you are wondering what to do in Punakaiki, you definitely must visit Pancake Rocks, but make sure you stick around and visit some of those places that people don’t know are hidden in the area.

Other things to do in Punakaiki



Founder of Backyard Travel Family

Jen is a super organiser when it comes to travel. Having travelled extensively in Europe and Africa, has lived in London and the USA and holidayed in many parts of Asia, she is not a newbie to the travel space

Jen has three young children, 6 and under and travels around New Zealand with them.

Backyard Travel Family New Zealand. Lets share these articles and spread the love

what you need to know


- On the main road, State Highway 6
- From Greymouth to Punakaiki: 40 minutes
- From Westport to Punakaiki: 50 minutes

The rocks

- unique rock formations
- 20 minute walk plus time for exploring

Suitable for kids?

Yes! Easy track even for little ones to explore. Stroller and wheelchair friendly


- Free Parking
- Toilets
- Flat concrete walking path
- No shade
- Stroller and Wheelchair accessible
- Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre across the road

What to bring

- a camera, this is an easy track and you won't need much more

Food options

- Punakaiki Cafe just across the road

What the critics thought

The rocks really did look like pancakes. And the water whooshed up really high. But we didn't get wet. It didn't take long. We also went to the cave and that was reaaaaallly cool.
Backyard Travel Family / Your go to for practical advice for active families travelling around New Zealand
6 year old Leader
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