What Are Pancake Rocks and How Can We Find Them?
The Pancake Rocks are shaped like pancakes stacked together in a giant heap which can be found in Paparao National Park, one of the most visited tourist destinations in New Zealand. The Pancake Rocks at Dolomite Point near Punakaiki are a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts through several vertical blowholes during high tides, creating a kind of geyser effect.
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. 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.
This is raw nature at its most accessible. There’s a well-made loop path through the bush down to the rocks, where you can walk along and around them to get some spectacular views up and down the coast foregrounded by these remarkable layered stacks.
You can admire it all as you wait for the blowholes to perform, and then carry on around the rim of the surge pool to watch in fascination as, far below, the waves pour in to break on the rock inside and foam up against the walls. There’s always an appeal in being perfectly safe, yet so close to what would be almost certain death.
Then, in spring, you can continue around and marvel at the tenacity of the terns, which manage to hatch their eggs and raise chicks on windswept flat rocks that seem the very worst choice for a nest.