It takes a while to make a pancake on the West Coast of New Zealand - 30 million years actually! The Pancake Rocks at Dolomite Point near Punakaiki are a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts through several vertical blowholes. They are the most visited natural attraction on the West Coast with good reason. These ancient formations are a true wonder of nature - and they really do look like pancakes!
The foundations of the Pancake Rocks were formed 30 million years ago when minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants landed on the seabed about 2 km below the surface. Immense water pressure caused them to solidify into layers of more resistant limestone and softer, thin, mud-rich layers. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed where water, wind and salt spray eroded the softer layers leaving a "pancake" like stack of harder limestone.
Part of the Paparoa National Park, the Pancake Rocks are accessed by the easy Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Walk right in the centre of Punakaiki. Allow 20-45 minutes to do the whole track. The first part of the track is wheel chair accessible and offers some good interpretation panels to learn about the geology of the area.
Carry on and you will head up and down stairways cut into the rock faces and cross over a natural limestone bridge and Surge Pool. Trust us - your camera will get a full workout.
Along the way, there are some impressive blowholes. These are best viewed at high tide, check at the local DoC visitor centre for the times. Be ready, when they are pumping they provide a loud "whoosh" and can get you with some sea spray. Kids love them.
Keep your eyes open as Hector's Dolphins like to play close to shore. Today might be your lucky day. This is one of the West Coast's most impressive natural wonders, so allow more time than you think you'll need - you won't regret it. There's always more to see than you think.
While you are here see if you can make out the 'faces' described on one of the interpretation panels near the end of the Pancake Blowhole walk - if you are good at spotting things it won't take you or the kids long to see it.