Sandwiched between the uninspiring towns of Westport and Greymouth are the extraordinary Pancake Rocks - the ocean sprays, pounds and bursts through fissures in unusually carved and layered rocks near the tiny village of Punakaiki.
Constructed of stratified limestone formed thirty millions years ago, this geological wonderland was formed on the seabed, kilometres underwater, with layer after layer of shellfish, plants and dead marine creatures mixed with mud and clay forming over time. The immense weight and water pressure gradually compressed and petrified into soft and hard layers. Earth tremors and seismic action uplifted the seabed where constant ocean surges and whipping winds carved bizarre and wonderful features and formations, while rainwater leeched into the rock eating narrow alleys.
Naturally, the softer rock has eroded much faster causing the unusual pancake stack appearance. The ocean surges in and out of pools, blowholes and caverns making deep hollow booms while seawater channels through narrow tunnels spraying into the air in a spray of rainbows and thin mist. Like limestone caves, the erosion allows imagination to witness all kind of animals and figures from the rock – a lion head staring menacingly out to sea.
A scenic half hour path meanders through native rainforest to the coast, high above the bluffs, arches and sea caves offering numerous views of Pancake Rocks. Natural staircases are carved from the historic seabed while vantage points look over surge pools and blowholes and offer panoramic vistas down the coastline.
With good planning, high tide is prime time with the extra height of the water powering sea water through tiny passageways shooting spray high into the air.
Pancake Rocks are a wonderful natural diversion driving down the New Zealand west coast offering stellar scenes of exotically shaped rock weathered and sculpted over millions of years.