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National Parks

Punakaiki Marine Reserve, what to do & see — trip guide

  • 1 minute

South Island, New Zealand


  • Walk through sub-tropical lowland forest to witness an extraordinary landscape of natural sculptured, layered rocks.
  • Explore the wild meets west ocean beaches
  • Relax in the cafe and watch the world go by
  • A must stop destination. A pocket sized reserve packing a very big punch in an extraordinary marine landscape as well as on the edge of Paparoa National Park.

Getting there

State Highway 6 45 km from Greymouth


Weather Punakaiki tomorrow hourly

Best time to visit (Pancake Rocks reserve only)

Year round


Punakaiki Marine Reserve surrounds the pancake rocks and blowholes at Dolomite Point, one of the most distinctive landscapes of the West Coast. It covers much of the coastline at the edge of Paparoa National Park. Limestone weathering over the millennium created rock pancaked layers. The sea is not done yet, constant water pressure is eroding the rock faces forming new geological forms for visitors to marvel at. The tidal movement surges in rock pools forming a caldron where the rocks are sculptured with the violent upward wave action. Capping off the spectacular natural show of force is the sonic boom of jetting sprays of seawater metres into the air through blowholes. The ocean pressure value released is visually captivating. Although the reserve is small the exhilaration of watching nature’s display is a must do highway stop.

Punakaiki, New Zealand
Punakaiki Pancake Rocks in Paparoa National Park, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
Punakaiki Pancake Rocks in Paparoa National Park


Directly from roadside car park is the entrance to the 1.5km loop walk around pancake rocks. Parts of the walk are wheelchair accessible. There is signage denoting areas that are flat. The walk commences with an attractive stroll through sub-tropical lowland forest opening up to panoramic views of the coast and raised boardwalks above the geological displays. There are a number of steps carved into the rock faces, there are wide handrails to assist going up or down stairs.

Duration 1 hour (most of the allocated time is for photos). The walk is 30 minutes.

Punakaiki Marine Reserve covers more than 35 square km from Perpendicular Point to near Maher Swamp, and out to two nautical miles from shore.


  • No fishing of any kind.
  • Don’t take or kill marine life.
  • Don’t remove or disturb any marine life or materials.
  • Don’t feed fish – it disturbs their natural behaviour.
  • Take care when anchoring to avoid damaging the sea floor.


The official DOC website is Punakaiki Marine Reserve: West Coast places to visit.

Punakaiki rocks, New Zealand
Punakaiki rocks

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The journey is worth it.

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