Seals and Pancake Rocks: Driving the West Coast of New Zealand
Westport > Tauranga Bay > Punakaki
Leaving the sandflies behind the West Coast of New Zealand just gets better and better.
Westport is the first decent town you’ll hit South of Karamea, it’s got a small town vibe, with markets, shops to wander and a couple of supermarkets to get necessities (like bug spray).
Just as I left Westport I saw a sign to Tauranga Bay: Seal Colony. Now, I’m not one to say no to spotting wildlife, even if I did have a big day of driving ahead of me! Onwards to see the seals!
The smell of seals generally hits you before the sight of them does… I should remember that from my time on the skeleton coast of Namibia… but it’s a small price to pay to see wildlife in their natural habitat and not stuck in a crappy zoo.
It’s only a short coastal walk from the beach car park along a well-created path. The black sand and rough waters are a stark contrast to the white sand calm beaches I’m used to on the east coast of the North Island.
The seals themselves blend in so well to the rocks it takes time to spot them and I’m sure many were hiding because the smell was so pungent for just the few I spotted.
I wandered further along to take in a bit more scenery and have a decent break from driving, but the seals were limited to the one main area with large viewpoint.
West Coast Driving
Wild and wondrous describes New Zealand’s West Coast well. The waters are rough but the nature is bold and bright and the coast delivers a stunning drive.
Punakaiki, Pancake Rocks
Punakaiki is an area in the Paparoa National Park, the rocks found here are free to visit, but I gave a donation because the area is so well maintained despite the vast amount of visitors it gets.
So what are the Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki?
Note: Videos are best watched in Fullscreen, HD
The Pancake Rocks are made from limestone, formed 30 million years ago with layers of lime, mud and clay from the seabed. Earthquakes raised the seabed and together with the sea, wind and rain these unique rock formations were created.
The ocean around the rocks is very strong and powerful. I wouldn’t want to go swimming here and luckily the extensive rails around the rocks and pathway keeps everyone safe.
The great fluke of mine was arriving at high tide. I highly recommend timing it right because you’re in for a treat…
Amongst the Pancake Rocks are blow holes, when the swells from the sea blast through the caverns below the rocks, water sprays high up above and smokes out the holes in the rocks.
Want to see it in action? Check out my video below! Definitely go for Fullscreen HD tho!
Punakaiki, in my opinion is a unique natural wonder that every South Island road tripper should enjoy.