The famed “Pancake rocks” are a Westland experience not to be missed!! Regrettably, hordes of travelers “miss” them every day. If you aren’t out at Dolomite Point—the Blowholes— at or near HIGH TIDE, then you’ve missed the whole point of visiting. At low/mid tide the rocks are a bunch of layered limestone only worthy of a 5-second photo-op. At HIGH TIDE though— watch out, as Punakaiki comes alive like a rumbling monster!
When the seas are running big, as you near the viewpoints on the short paved pathway, you’ll begin to feel the ground shake and the deep bass tones of underground cavern exploding with wave surge. Punakaiki has a tremendous “feel”…so much more than all photos can show! The sea whooshes as it surges into the corrugated limestone slots, hisses as it begins to blow, then BOOMS an eruption of cascading seawater! Seconds later a mist of salty spray will tickle everyone on the view platform with its briny kiss. Completely Fabulous…if you’re there at HIGH TIDE!!! Patience is a must at the blowholes since the waves come in sets—give yourself a minimum of 45 minutes out at the various viewpoints. The waves come in sets, and if you leave one view for another before the first one puts on its BIG BOOM, then all you’ll hear is the crowd behind you gasping in applause.
Photographers should definitely bring some sort of lens cloth and maybe a small towel to quickly cover your camera when the blowhole really blows. While you cover your lens from the hard-toclean- off salt spray… open your mouth and let your tongue taste Punakaiki’s salty mists. Yum.
PLAN YOUR TRIP AROUND HIGH TIDE! Wherever you’re coming from, check the news-paper for the high tide time at either Westport or Greymouth. There’s plenty to do nearby to Punakaiki at low tide—that’s when the beaches are good…and at mid tide it’s time to explore a river or cave. Don’t come all the way to Punakaiki and miss out on high tide. Plan ahead or all you’ll experience is a dull look at striated rock instead of an explosive spectacle of Neptune’s fury!