It takes a while to make a pancake on the West Coast of New Zealand — 30 million years, the experts say! You’ll see stacks of them at Punakaiki but that’s just one of the true wonders of nature waiting to be found along the Great Coast Road.
The blowholes are most impressive at high tide — ask at the Paparoa National Park visitor centre about tide times.
The Great Coast Road, between Westport and Greymouth, is one of the world's Top 10 Coastal Drives.
The Great Coast Road is one of the Top 10 Coastal Drives in the world, as Lonely Planet says. On the West Coast, we're lucky to use it for everyday travel!
The Great Coast Road traverses Charleston, Fox River, Punakaiki, Barrytown, Rapahoe and Runanga between Westport and Greymouth. It takes 90 minutes at the usual road speed limits, but most people prefer to slow down and enjoy the views.
It travels alongside the ancient limestone cliffs of Paparoa National Park, beside the Tasman Sea and past the nesting spots of the world's smallest penguins.
En route, experience underground rafting at Charleston, caving at Fox River and those famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki, of course.
Awe-inspiring coastal vistas, impressive natural wonders, sublime scenery, and outdoor adventures.
Galaxies of glowworms light up a cavern deep underground in the Te Ananui cave system on the Nile River, near Charleston.
Just south of Westport, Charleston once boasted a gold mining population of 5000 and more pubs than permanent houses. Learn about local history with a guided visit to Mitchells Gully Gold Mine.
The village is now best known for its extensive limestone caves and the Nile River. Guided caving tours range from eco-tours into a glowworm cave to full-on adventure caving.
The sheltered beach at pretty Constant Bay is a great picnic spot, and the walks to Constant and Joyce Bays have lovely coastal views. The Tiropahi Walk follows an old bush tramway.
For adventurers, there is mixed grade mountain biking on the Tiropahi Tram Track, and several rock climbing routes on limestone cliffs. Or walk from Fox River to caves and the impressive Ballroom Overhang — take a torch!
Historic places of interest at Fox River include the Fox River Bridge and Te Ana o Matuka, a sea cave once occupied by early travellers.
Follow an easy loop walkway around rocky Dolomite Point to watch the action at the famous Pancake Rocks & Blowholes.
Punakaiki is a village in Paparoa National Park and adjacent to the world-famous Pancake Rocks. It has several eateries and accommodation options from campsites to hotels.
The 20-minute loop track to Dolomite Point gives the best views of the fascinating, 30-million-year-old limestone formations. The blowholes are at their thunderous best at high tide – ask at the Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre about tide times.
This wild coastal landscape has attracted many artists and photographers, and not just because of the Pancake Rocks. Just north of the settlement, the easy (30-minute return) Truman Track meanders through a magnificent glade of shimmering native palms to a viewpoint over a pretty little beach.
There are many walks around Punakaiki and in Paparoa National Park, including the Paparoa Great Walk which finishes here. You can try your legs out on the Pororari River Walk which extends from a 15-minute stroll to a 2-hour walk or even a 3-hour loop back to Punakaiki.
Stop off for the day for a unique Barrytown experience crafting your own forged knife.
Barrytown was once a flax harvesting centre but its modern claim to fame is for knife-making. Over a day you can join a workshop to make your own hand-forged knife from red-hot steel and native timber – no experience required.
Rapahoe is a small coastal settlement on the edge of a picturesque beach. You can access one end of the Point Elizabeth Walk from here. The 2-hour walk has great views of the coastline and a large section follows an old goldmining water-race.
Pretty as a picture, when it gets hot, the Coal Creek Falls reward with a pristine little pool for a refreshing dip.
The roots of West Coast coal mining run deep in Runanga, and the historic Miners Hall is worth a stop.
The Coal Creek Falls Walkway is a lovely bush walk leading to a gorgeous fan waterfall with a great pool for a dip in the hot summer months.
Or, if you have a taste for mud, think about stopping for some off-road biking, carting or a thrilling Haglund ride.