Punakaiki to Nelson

At Punakaiki Rocks

We continued our West Coast travel northwards. The weather was no better by the time we reached Punakaiki, and it was clear I wasn’t going on any horse trek here. I have only ridden a few times, but always thought that I’d like to learn to do it properly – some day. Probably never now. And then there was the scenic flight over the glaciers which quickly became an unfilled whim, but once we walked around the Punakaiki (or Pancake) rocks, we held no remorse for losing those dreams.

The wind was strong, whipping up the sea like nobody’s business, which added to the excitement of watching the sea thumping through the blowholes at high tide. The limestone rocks are vertically stacked, like pancakes, hence the name, and are truly magnificent. This was my first visit, and the sheer sound of that rushing water made me squeal in excitement. 


Stylobedding is the name given to this pancake layering. These rocks were laid down between 25-35 million years ago, and the pancake etching formed through the years of erosion by salt, wind and sea. These rocks sit at the edge of the Paparoa National Park.

Another view

It was a shame that the weather hindered our ability to see much of the wildlife that exists in the region, like the Hectors dolphin, which is often seen swimming beyond the waves, and penguins and seals which hang out nearby. Birds are plentiful in the bush too, and the likes of bellbird, grey warbler, fantail and tomtit keep walkers company, as there are many tracks to explore. If only.

But one little weka was in the carpark, probably looking for someone’s dropped lunch. Weka are rather handsome, but known for their cheekiness, and sneakiness.

Cape Foulwind lighthouse

The wind turned ferocious in the night, and hail drummed loudly on our hotel roof. A quick decision was made over breakfast (great food to be found at the Punakaiki Tavern) to continue north. So, wind, rain and a winding road, but that didn’t stop Kerry suggesting we visit Cape Foulwind, a few kilometres off the main road. I forgot to mention that the temperature had dropped, in allegiance with the already bad weather, and I just didn’t want to stop! All others did however, and not wishing to be left alone freezing in a carpark, I struggled out behind them. OMG. The wind! I couldn’t keep on my feet, and after being blown sideways into a matagouri bush at the top of the rise, I retraced my steps and found a place to hunker down. Kerry took the photos this time, braced against the slicing wind like a true Kiwi bloke.

The view I didn’t see from the bluff

We continued travelling north along Highway 6 before detouring around Westport, turning onto a secondary road leading to Motueka, west of Nelson in the Tasman region. Another winding road , and very hilly countryside, but soon we were passing fields of hops and green pasture. The weather was clear now, and the sky quite blue – ye ha! So, blue skies above, and freezing everywhere else. We carried on into Nelson, to stay one night with family, before Kerry and I headed back to Motueka to stay with old friends. Lucky us. The first day dawned very frosty, but perfect for walking, and soon we were heading off on a circular track around the estuary. So lovely being able to watch the herons, shags and spoonbills, and to stand and look out to the snow-clad mountains – at last!

view of mountains from Motueka

Thanks for following my South Island travels. It’s been fun having you along.

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