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Punakaiki

Home of the famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.

Punakaiki is best known for its Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. It is also the centre for Paparoa National Park, which features 30,000 hectares of varied landscape from mountain tops, rainforest and rugged beaches at sea level. It's easy to see why Punakaiki is one of the major tourist attractions on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. There are plenty of hikes in this area, as well as surfing spots and limestone caves to explore.

Pancake Rocks and the Blowholes

The Punakaiki Pancake Rocks are remarkable pieces of natural sculpture made of layered limestone columns carved by the sea. They are best seen after dramatic westerly storms when the sun is reasserting itself in the face of fantastic cloud formations on the horizon. If you time it right, at high tide with a heavy swell, sea water is forced up through the blowholes for a demonstration of the power of the sea.

The History of Punakaiki

Maori travellers knew it as a great place to pamper the puku, the tummy. Punakaiki literally means "a spring of food". Later came gold seekers, headed by the Sams Party ("Black Sam, White Sam, French Sam and another Sam"!) The boomtown of Brighton, complete with 53 pubs, flourished and vanished, and then there was the "Tin Man" - a real mystery of history.

Check out Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks on the following New Zealand tours:

Rimu14 day South Island adventure trip
Winter Rimu14 day South Island adventure trip
Kiwi14 day South Island adventure trip
Kea Family13 day South Island family trip
Manuka14 day South Island hiking trip

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    South Island trip of a lifetime

    An absolutely awesome adventure with fantastic guides Vanessa and Tory. Experiencing parts of the great tramps in New Zealand of Kepler, Routeburn, Mueller Hut, Inland pack track at Punakaiki and Angelus Hut are a great introduction to tramping in NZ. I will definitely be back to complete some of the tramps. The Angelus hut hike was one of the hardest I have done (I hike regularly in Western Australia) and I loved every second of it. I would do the Angelus hut Nelson lakes hike again in a heart beat. The cycle along the Hawea river was stunning. Every day was a highlight of the trip.
    Amie Culverson Review Image
    – Western Australia, Australia
    Rimu, May 2017
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)

    A Marvelous Exprerience

    This trip was worth every penny. We had marvelous lodging that we could not have accessed on our own. Our access to trails, parks and activities was all arranged and all we had to worry about was showing up for the experience. We were truly touched by the extent to which our guides went out of their way to respond to our special food needs. I felt truly safe, supported by the experience, training and good will of our guides. I came home stronger and with new confidence that as an elder I can still take on physically challenging experiences and succeed. What a gift that is.
    Wendy Ball Review Image
    – New York, United States
    Kiwi, December 2017
  •   4.64 out of 5 (from 565 reviews)

    I wasn't ready for the trip to end!

    I don't even know where to begin...so let's start at the beginning. I spent the last year dreaming about going to New Zealand, trying to talk just one friend into going with me, and finally, with some encouragement from family, booking this trip as a first time solo traveler. And let me be clear- that was the best decision I could have made! I enjoyed every single minute of my trip and wouldn't change the experience of traveling solo for anything. From the moment I met Gary and Mel, I knew that I had made the right decision. They were welcoming, to all, from the moment they met us. Right away I knew I had nothing to worry about, and worry I did prior to the start of the trip. I could not have asked for a better group of travel mates; it was as if you had hand-picked who should be on the trip together. They were amazing! The experiences on the trip would not have been nearly as amazing if it wasn't for these awesome people with whom I had the good fortune to travel.
    Gary and Mel were kind, patient, and so easy to be around. They answered every question a novice like myself asked, without ever making me feel like an idiot. Gary was witty, kept us going, and a super safe driver! ( I am not a big fan of mountain roads with cliffs on the edge that lead to instant death and not once did I fear for my life.) Mel's cooking...holy smokes was it good; so much so that the pounds I was so sure I would lose on the trip didn't happen. She has even inspired me to try to cook a couple of her dishes this winter. She made it look so easy, even with the varied diets of the group. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I had chatting with both Gary and Mel wherever we were: on the bus, hiking, eating or playing cards. They brought us all together.
    Now, for the adventures! Every day was different from the day prior. I saw and experienced so many new things that I can't stop talking about it. I loved the really challenging hikes (Sealy Tarns and Alex Knob) and the slower paced treks through the rain forest and valleys. The night sky at Mt. Aspiring Hut is indescribable! While we were unable to go on the second overnight hike due to weather, Gary and Mel didn't miss a beat. We were so busy and had so much fun, even in the rain, that you would never have known that we were doing almost 3 days of alternate activities. Major kudos to them for this! I could keep going on how much I enjoyed every aspect of my trip. This was the first vacation I have been on where I didn't want it to end and it truly was the trip of a lifetime. I can't wait to book my next trip with Active Adventures!
    Melissa Munno Review Image
    – California, United States
    Winter Rimu, August 2016
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    A Great Eight Days

    My wife, Shanen, and I had a goal of running a marathon on all seven continents and our seventh took place on March 18, in Rotorua, NZ. So two days after completing our goal, we returned to Christchurch and met up with our guides, Hillary and Dan, along with our fellow travelers. As good fortune would have it we all clicked as a group and off we went.

    For the remainder of our journey it was clear that both Hillary and Dan took great joy in what they do. Furthermore, and of great importance to us, they ensured meals had met our vegetarian and vegan needs. We were never made to feel our dietary needs were inconvenient to them and they were handled in such a way that all of us were able to enjoy our group meals.

    The actual adventure was well planned out and the expectations of each day were always explained. Our group was one that started together, made sure all finished and enjoyed the adventure.

    John Edmundson Review Image
    – Arizona, United States
    Tui, April 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Another Memorable Trip with Active!

    The Rimu trip was my 6th trip with Active Adventures and it again confirmed why I enjoy traveling with them. The trip was very well organized. The guides (local to New Zealand) were professional & FUN! We did so many activities that will forever be etched in my memory...kayaking Milford sound, hiking a section of the Routeburn Track, 3 day backpacking trip through Nelson Lakes. All amazing!
    Kristy Woodward Review Image
    – California, United States
    Rimu, March 2018

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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