New Zealand Destinations : Punakaiki

The last two nights have been spent at a wonderful location on New Zealand’s west coast ; Punakaiki. It is located 40km north of Greymouth and is a prime location to explore Paparoa National Park. The first impressions we had as we approached were how ‘tropical’ the vegetation looked and how variable the coastline appeared depending on the tide. There are many inland tracks along the rivers but due to the poor weather, we spent much of our time entertaining Charlotte indoors. Here’s a few pointers we can offer from our short stay.

South of Punakaiki, there is still easy access to Motukiekie. Given that we missed our previous opportunities to photograph starfish, I made a solo trip without Charlotte in the heavy rain. In order to photograph the starfish colonies safely, you should wait for a very low tide. For instance, a low tide of ‘1.1m’ was not something I considered safe in retrospect due to the belly high wading through surf at times (and the surf can get big on you).

Starfish searching  at a 'high' low tide is a potentially dangerous viewing experience

Starfish searching at a ‘high’ low tide is a potentially dangerous viewing experience

The major tourist attraction in the area is the ‘Pancake Rocks’ and blowholes. In order to maximise your chance of seeing spouts of water through the blowholes, you should try to time your visits with high tide and a southwesterly swell. Unfortunately the high tides we observed were not associated with large swell hence we didn’t get to see any huge spouts of water, just a few splutters here and there. It is nonetheless a stunning geographic formation that is worth visiting. Most of the accommodation in the area is based in Punakaiki village which is located right on the doorstep of Pancake rocks. There are no grocery stores, no petrol facilities though, so come prepared if you are self catering!

Pancake Rocks without the blowholes

Pancake Rocks without the blowholes

The coastline is dotted with incredible seastacks and rugged rocks. Due to the heavy rain, a waterfall was flowing freely at the end of the Truman walk to the coastline. Like many other locations on the coast, make sure you don’t get caught at high tide or you may be wading up the staircase back to the track. Our shooting was aided by an unexpected and most welcome break in the weather right on sunset.

Marianne among tropical looking 'epic-ness'

Marianne among tropical looking ‘epic-ness’

The inland tracks are plentiful as well and will probably be a reason for future visits. The Fox river caves route seems particularly intriguing! Our next stop is Golden Bay where we will be spending three nights. I hope this helps you plan your quick visit to Punakaiki!


Posted on April 21, 2013, in How we..., New Zealand, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Andrew Burgess

    love the starfish

  2. Great composition in this series. I especially like the first image and how the flowing water in the rocks draws your eye into the image. The contrast between the bright orange starfish clinging to the dark rocks also works very well.

  3. Beautiful photos as always. I enjoy viewing all your updates on here and Facebook on the news feed.

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