Bizarre but Beautiful Pancake Rocks & Blowholes in New Zealand National Park

July 18th, 2014 Permalink

On the edge of the New Zealand’s Paparoa National Park, you can walk among bizarre rock formations, many that resemble stacks of pancakes. The Tasman Sea surges into undercut cavities, booms, and then seawater geysers shoot through blowholes, making the spectacular natural attraction of blowholes in Pancake Rocks a “must see” at high tide and/or storms. [45 Photos]

Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki

The west coast of New Zealand is famous for its unique natural attractions of “Pancake Rocks” and blowholes, making Dolomite Point in Punakaiki “a must see” when visiting the southern island’s coastal region. Photo #1 by Christian Mehlführer

Blowhole at Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki

Blowholes, or shooting geysers of sea spray, are located among the rock formations that resemble stacks of pancakes. Photo #2 by Kai Lehnberg

Birds and crashing waves of Tasman Sea at Pancake Rocks, New Zealand

Birds and crashing waves of the Tasman Sea at Pancake Rocks. Photo #3 by Kai Lehnberg

Punakaiki, Pancake Rocks and rainbow sprays

The photographer noted, “The south-westerly swell was running up into the rocks and creating these sprays of rainbow.” It’s said that the layered limestone formed 30 million years ago from tiny fragments of dead marine creatures and plants. Seismic activity eventually raised it above the seabed. Photo #4 by dubh

Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki (New Zealand) approximately one hour before high tide

The bizarre layered rocks eroded in places to form surge pools and blowholes. This shot was taken about one hour before high tide. Photo #5 by Christian Mehlführer

Tasman Sea caused some violent and spectacular bursts of water at the Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki

When high tides coincide with westerly swells, seawater geysers shoot dramatically toward the sky. The photographer noted that the “Tasman Sea caused some violent and spectacular bursts of water at the Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki.” Photo #6 by Brian (bdearth)


The amazing rock formations at Punakaiki make it one of the most beloved natural attractions within New Zealand’s Paparoa National Park. Photo #7 by Stephan Roletto

Black-fronted Tern waiting to be fed on the Punakaiki Rocks

Black-fronted Tern waiting to be fed. Photo #8 by Jocelyn Kinghorn

Great scene of Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki, West Coast of New Zealand

It only takes about 20 minutes to walk the Pancake Rocks and blowholes loop. Photo #9 by Jocelyn Kinghorn

Spouting blowhole on a stormy day at Punakaiki, New Zealand

The photographer wrote, “One of the many blow holes that were doing their thing on a stormy day.” Photo #10 by Sally (Quiltsalad)

Aerial of Pancake Rocks, Bing Maps

Let’s zoom out. Aerial of Pancake Rocks as seen via Bing Maps. These rocks are located in Punakaiki, a small community on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Punakaiki community is on the edge of Paparoa National Park. Photo #11 by DigitalGlobe / Microsoft

Tilt aerial of Pancake Rocks, Google Maps

Tilted aerial view of Pancake Rocks. Paparoa National Park was established in 1987 to protect the limestone karst area, but it has “diverse geology and a variety of landforms including mountain, lowlands and coastal terrain.” Photo #12 by Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, CNES, Astrium, TerraMetrics, DigitalGlobe, Landsat, Google Maps

Beach at Punakaiki

Beach at Punakaiki is on the edge of Paparoa National Park. The Paparoa coastline “is characterized by high cliffs cut away by waves from the Tasman Sea, with indented coves and sandy beaches. There are small islands off shore and rock pillars. These terraces were once islands, which became part of the mainland when New Zealand was uplifted quite recently in its geological history.” Photo #13 by Ville Miettinen

Mists of time on the Punakaiki Coast

Coastal forests, caves and mountains, there’s much to see in addition to fantastic rock formations and blow holes. “Mists of time.” The photographer added, “Taken during my honeymoon, above Meybille Bay on the Punakaiki Coast.” Photo #14 by The Q Speaks

Panorama with Pancake Rocks in the far background and view over Pancake Rocks

Top: Panorama with Pancake Rocks in the far background. Bottom: View over Pancake Rocks. Photo #15 by Tremlin & #16 by Christopher Crouzet

Dolomite Point, Pancake Rocks, Paparoa National Park, Westland, New Zealand

Dolomite Point, Pancake Rocks, Paparoa National Park, Westland, New Zealand. Photo #17 by Gary Sauer-Thompson

Punakaiki, New Zealand

Pancake patterns in the rocks as seen by the Russian “Virus Pope” when he was not fighting malware, botnets or uncovering cyberweapons like Stuxnet. Photo #18 by Eugene Kaspersky

Pancake Rocks near Punakaiki

“The magnificent Paparoa National Park landscapes along the coast behind the Pancake Rocks lure the visitor into spending more time in the area. Punakaiki is the locality, and its coastline, lagoons, rivers and lush sub-tropical forest have a special aura – distinct, even on the rugged West Coast.” Photo #19 by Anke Lüdtke

Walkways around the pancake rocks area

Walkways around the Pancake Rocks area. “There are two easy, coastal walks available; the most popular is the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes walk, suitable for families (20 minutes return), the other is the Truman Track (30 minutes return).” Photo #20 by Ingolfson

Pancake Rocks Punakaiki New Zealand Blowhole

Blowhole by the walkway. The first blowhole is the Sudden Sound Blowhole named for the noise it makes when the sea surges through. Photo #21 by Alexander Klink

Among the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki

Among the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki. Photo #22 by Su Yin Khoo

Walkway at Pancake Rocks

“The surge pool is called the Devil’s Cauldron and at high tide it lives up to its name as the waves gush in from the sea channel and break against the rock sides of the ‘cauldron’, getting bigger and higher as the tides rise. After this it is across the bridge to the Chimney Pot Blowhole which is named for the seawater that shoots through the air like smoke from the narrow rock channel. Next is Putai – the largest blowhole – where on stormy days the seawater swells upwards from the rocks in a giant wall of spray.” Photo #23 by Sally (Quiltsalad)

Punakaiki on the Pororai River

Punakaiki on the Pororai River. “This track follows a spectacular limestone gorge with two main features – a river with huge rocks in deep pools, and beautiful forest featuring subtle changes from sub-tropical to temperate.” Photo #24 by joinash

Punakaiki between the rocks, west coast of New Zealand

One reviewer said, “Awesome … amazing … wonderful. Superlatives etc. The first views of the rocks are slightly underwhelming …. but man, do they get better as you walk! I’ve never seen anything like it – thoroughly recommended. A place that will stay in your memory for a long time.” Photo #25 by thinboyfatter

Waves crashing at Pancake Rocks near Punakaiki, New Zealand

Waves crashing near Pancake Rocks. Photo #26 by Alexander Klink


Another review states: “It doesn’t cost you anything – that was the first pleasant surprise! Our first visit was a bit disappointing as it was low tide and not much was going on, though the rocks themselves were geologically fascinating. We came back the next morning at around high tide and were rewarded by spectacular displays from the various blowholes, complete with booming soundtrack and rainbows.” Photo #27 by ~ Pil ~

Finding shapes in the rock formations of Pancake Rocks

Finding shapes in the rock formations. Photo #28 by yooperann

Part of the fantastic shapes carved by the waves and wind at the Pancake Rocks in Punikaiki

“Lions Head or some large cat?” The photographer added, “Part of the fantastic shapes carved by the waves and wind at the Pancake Rocks in Punikaiki on the west coast of New Zealand.” Photo #29 by yooperann

More interesting rocks at the Pancake Rocks

More interesting rocks formations. Photo #30 by yooperann

Punakaiki coast and pancake rocks

Limestone along Punakaiki coast. These geysers come from the blowholes – water worn passages through which jets of seawater are forced in high seas. Quite awesome displays of rushing spray can be seen on many days of the year – because of the Tasman Seas’ powerful wave action. Photo #31 by Stefano Costanzo

Pancake Rocks Punakaiki, South Island New Zealand

Layered limestone rock formations aka Pancake Rocks. Photo #32 by Dan White

Looking south, Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki

Looking south, from Dolomite Point. Photo #33 by Alan Liefting

Pancake rocks natural bridge, west coast of New Zealand

Natural bridge over an angry sea. “At high tide during stormy weather the atmosphere is very different with the seawater forced into the holes and cracks and then erupting out in explosions of spray and mist, the display is unforgettable.” Photo #34 by Diego Angel

Punakaiki Cavern

Punakaiki cavern: “Behind Punakaiki there are accessible limestone caves – you’ll need a torch. Local caving companies can help you to explore the deeper cave systems in the park, including the five kilometer Xanadu cave.” The photographer added, “Taken on our 4-day long weekend trip to the West Coast of New Zealand which included visiting Paparoa National Park and the Pancake Rocks, and the Oparara Basin in Kahurangi National Park near Karamea.” Photo #35 by Nathanael Coyne

Blowhole on the Punakaiki Coast. Photo #36 by Harald Selke

Rough sea fountain near end of Truman Track in Paparoa National Park

Rough sea “fountain” near Truman Track’s end. Truman Track “is a walk through unspoiled sub-tropical forest where podocarp and rata trees tower above thickets of vines and nikau palms. The track emerges on a spectacular coastline with cliffs, caverns, a blowhole and a waterfall which plummets straight onto a rock-strewn beach. A stairway provides access to the beach, which may be safely explored when the tide is out.” Photo #37 by Birger Hoppe

Truman Track and waterfall in Paparoa National Park

Truman Track and waterfall in Paparoa National Park. Photo #38 by Jeff and Neda Fields

Punakaiki Rocks on the West Coast, New Zealand

West Coast, New Zealand. “Paparoa National Park, 38,000ha of varied landscapes from mountain tops to sea level. The tracks in this area range in duration from 15 minutes to a couple of days. Many of the tracks pass through densely forested karst limestone areas, which are the essence of the park. As these places contain many hidden dangers it is important to stay on the tracks.” Photo #39 by Jocelyn Kinghorn

Paparoa National Park made famous by Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki

Paparoa National Park offers a wide variety of adventures such as: “Walk one of the many sub-tropical rainforest and coastal tracks. Take a horse trek through the scenic landscapes. Tour with a local guide and learn the history of the area. Paddle the Pororari River by canoe. Watch a spectacular West Coast sunset. Explore one of the many unspoilt deserted beaches. Swimming, surfing, fishing, and kayaking. Rock climbing, bouldering and caving in the limestone formations.” Photo #40 by Christian Michel

New Zealand - Punakaiki, Dolomite Point

Dolomite Point. Photo #41 by vtveen

Pancake Rocks and rushing water

Live a little. Have adventures. As Oprah Winfrey said, “The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” Photo #42 by Su Yin Khoo

Blowholes at Punakaiki

Don’t forget, high tide is prime time for viewing the the spectacular Blowholes. Photo #44 by Paolo Faustini

The famous Pancake Rocks at Paparoa National Park

“Nature never hurries. Atom by atom, little by little she achieves her work,” ~ quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Photo #45 by Christian Michel

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