The Pancake Rocks are columns of heavily eroded limestone resembling stacks of pancakes and one of the West Coast's must see natural attractions. The rocks are dated at over 30 million years old. When conditions are right, heavy ocean swells thunder into the caverns beneath the rocks and huge water spouts blast skywards through the blowholes in a truly spectacular sight.
The Pancake Rocks can be best explored by a number of walkways winding through the rock formations and others have been carved into stairways up and down the rock faces .You'll pass through a coastal forest that has been battered and bruised through the relentless wind and lashed by the persistent rain. Nikau, New Zealand's only native palm, is abundant here. If it's clear, you might be able to make out the snowy peaks of Mt Cook in the distance.
The surge pool is where the mighty ocean forces it's way in to the blowholes. The biggest blowhole is called 'Putai' and is more of a fissure than a hole. A mixture of compressed air and water escapes upward in a spray that can be seen for miles when it's very rough. You'll hear the water surging through the blowholes before you see it. It sounds like a train in a tunnel!
The information boards provide everything you wish to know about the geological history of this fascinating sight. Because the return track suddenly emerges on the highway make sure children are not running ahead. A lifebelt near Sudden Sound Blowhole is a reminder that it's very dangerous to stray from the track and to take special care of children. Allow about 45 minutes return for the walk, more if you can't stop taking photographs!
Punakaiki, West Coast.