The Pancake Rocks are a popular tourist attraction of the Buller district, on the Northern West Coast of the South Island. Midway between Westport and Greymouth, Punakaiki is one of the most visited conservation areas in New Zealand.
The Pancake Rocks are a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts though a number of vertical blowholes during high tides. Together with the 'pancake'-layering of the limestone, these form the main attractions. They were formed 30 million years ago from minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants landed on the seabed about 2 km below the surface. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify in hard and soft layers. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed. Mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes.
The area is explorable by a number of walkways winding through the rock formations, including some carved into stairways up and down the rock faces. Parts are wheelchair accessible.
There is a Department of Conservation 20-minute loop walk, signposted from the Visitor Centre.