Walks, Tramping & Hiking in Punakaiki
Please check the DOC website for track alerts and more information.
Short walks (less than 1 hour):
- Pancake Rocks & Blowholes
- Truman Track
- Punakaiki Cavern
- Pororari River Track
Longer half and full day walks:
- Pororari–Punakaiki Loop Track
- Pororari River Track
- Cave Creek
- Ballroom Overhang
- Inland Pack Track
- Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial Track
- Mt Bovis Route
For more information contact Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre, telephone 03 7311 895.
Pancake Rocks and Blowholes
Located on Dolomite Point, the Pancake Rocks walkway is a loop track that winds from the main road, through the native rainforest and into flax and coastal vegetation as it nears the rugged coastline.
Dolomite Point and its Pancake Rocks are predominantly limestone, worn and sculptured by the weather and sea, leaving unique stacks resembling pancakes layered on top of each other.
The sealed track is very well maintained and is suitable, with some assistance, for wheelchairs. The Department of Conservation has installed information boards at locations of interest along the track.
At the coastline the track has many lookouts and areas for fantastic photos to be taken of the Pancake Rocks, blowholes and beautiful views of the coast and mountains.
The blowholes, the main attraction of the walkway, are active at high tide – check in at the Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre for times. When a heavy sea swell is running, saltwater is pushed at great force through holes in the limestone rock, exiting as a fine spray mist many meters above sealevel. The blowholes at full blast are an amazing sight.
Allow approximately 45 minutes to explore and take photographs.
Truman Track is another very popular short walk in Punakaiki. Car parking is available opposite the track starting point, a few minutes drive north from Punakaiki, at Te Miko.
The track begins in the beautiful sub-tropical rainforest of ferns, nikau palms, rimu, etc. Nearing the coast it passes through typical West Coast coastal flax flats before emerging onto a coastal headland with stunning views up and down the local coastline.
A stairway leads down on the north side of the headland to a fine gravel beach featuring cliffs, caves, a waterfall and amazing rock formations. The beach is accessible at low tide where you can walk north and further explore the rugged coastline.
Allow approximately an hour return, to fully explore the track and the beach.
Five minutes walk north from the Pancake Rocks walkway is the Punakaiki Cavern, hidden away on the eastern side of the main road. Car parking is available on the sea-side of the road, slightly north of the cavern. Take care when crossing the road.
A very short walk from the main road leads to the stairs up to the cavern entrance. Make sure you take a torch to explore the cavern and wear suitable footwear.
The cavern features glow worms, the larvae of a large mosquito-like fly. In order to survive they build traps consisting of vertical hanging threads of silk. The silk thread is studded with sticky droplets of mucous to catch small insects that are attracted by the light. In actual fact they are not worms at all.
There are also stalactites in the cavern, formed when calcium carbonate and other minerals, drip from the cavern ceiling over time, eventually creating hanging formations tapering down to pointed tips, resembling solid cones.
Pororari–Punakaiki Loop Track – The most beautiful half day walk
A popular walking track combining the southern section of the Inland Pack Track with the Pororari River Track.
It crosses the Punakaiki River via a footbridge, and then follows an easily graded climb through mature rain forest over the ridge dividing the two rivers.
When the Pororari River Track junction is reached, it is worth carrying on along the Inland Pack Track for a short distance to the Pororari River, a perfect place for a rest and something to eat. Return to the junction and then follow the Pororari River Track down river to the car park on SH6. From there it is a 1km walk south along SH6. to the Visitor Centre.
Suitable footwear should be worn to complete the track, and you should allow 3 hours.
Pororari River Track
The Pororari River Track starts at the bridge crossing the Pororari River, one kilometre north of the Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre. Car parking is available at the bridge.
The track follows the Pororari River upstream into the Paparoa National Park. The lower section of the track passes through the Pororari River Gorge – a valley lined on both sides by dramatic limestone cliffs and bluffs towering over the gorge and river.
The track passes through a dense sub-tropical forest of coastal broadleaf plants, nikau palms, tree ferns and towering rata. 15 minutes walk from the bridge is a picnic spot and popular swimming hole during the warmer summer months.
Bird life on the Pororari River Track includes native Weka, a large, brown flightless bird that has a famously feisty and curious personality. Also Tomtits, New Zealand Bush Robins, native Pigeons, Tuis and Bellbirds.
At the end of the gorge, the track emerges onto the open Pororari River flats where it intersects with the Inland Pack Track.
Suitable footwear should be worn to complete the track. To complete the walk you should allow 2.5 hours return, however, if you’re just out for a short walk, the lower section is very enjoyable for a stroll to stretch the legs.
From the gate at the end of Bullock Creek Road, follow the farm track to a T-junction. The road branching right from the junction leads beyond the Inland Pack Track turn-off, to a signpost indicating the Cave Creek Kotihotiho track.
Across a couple of ridges, the track descends into a deeply incised gorge. The creek bed where the track ends is normally bouldery and dry. In normal conditions the stream emerges from underneath rocks in several places. However, during and after heavy rain, a torrent rages past the foot of the track, barring further progress.
Please take care to avoid trampling the mosses and liverworts growing on rocks and banks. Do not enter the creek bed if it is raining as water levels can rise dramatically with very little warning.
Allow 40 minutes walk, one way.
Access begins at the end of Bullock Creek Road (a 6 km gravel road), which leaves the main road 2 km north of the visitor centre.
Caution: This road is prone to flooding during heavy rain.
Some of the park’s finest limestone features can be seen in this area. The track follows the Fox River and continues up the gorge to a point where the river branches. The large limestone overhang, known as the Ballroom Overhang is about half an hour up the left or main branch of the river.
Allow two hours walk, one way. Caution: Several river crossings – dangerous in flood.
Access starts at the Inland Pack Track, sign posted by the main road bridge at Fox River, 12 km north of Punakaiki.
Inland Pack Track
The Inland Pack Track was created in the mid 1800’s for gold miners to move through the area. It is recommended you take two days to walk it, starting at the southern end of the track nearest Punakaiki, and walking north towards Fox River.
There are no huts along the 25km track, and it is recommended that you take a tent and stay overnight in the Ballroom Overhang, where there is shelter from the worst the weather can throw at you. There are many river crossings along the Inland Pack Track, so a fine weather forecast is a must. New Zealand bush rivers and streams can rise very quickly following rainfall, and a swollen river should never be crossed.
Punakaiki River to Bullock Creek.
From the main road (SH6) 1km south of Punakaiki, follow the gravel road to an area where you can park your car. Look for signs for the beginning of the track.
The first section is an easy grade and well formed, starting with a swingbridge crossing the Punakaiki River. Continuing on, the Inland Pack Track intersects with the Pororari River Track and crosses the Pororari River via another swingbridge and continues north towards Bullock Creek. The track passes through the Bullock Creek Farm (managed by the Department of Conservation), and passes the end of the Bullock Creek Road and carpark, and crosses the Bullock Creek River.
In the Bullock Creek area is the start of other local walks including Cave Creek (55 minutes return) and Mount Bovis. There are numerous tomos (vertical shafts), chasms and sinkholes hidden amongst the vegetation, with the area being underlain by literally kilometres of intricate cave systems. If you’re going to leave the track you need to be confident that you’re following a well-worn path, and it’s best that you don’t go on your own.
Bullock Creek to Ballroom Overhang.
The second section of the Inland Pack Track continues on towards Fossil Creek and enters the Dilemma Creek Gorge, where there are many river crossings. This is the nicest part of the track as you follow a clear stream through a forested limestone canyon.
When you reach the Fox River/Dilemma Creek junction, follow Fox River east and upstream for 30 minutes until you reach the Ballroom Overhang and shelter for the night. Food should be secured, away from the local possums and rats.
While at the Ballroom take a walk up Welsh Creek, which flows into the Fox River just downstream of the Ballroom. After crossing Welsh Creek via a large fallen tree, follow the slippery bedrock upstream for about 10 minutes, whereupon you’ll find the creek emerging from a cave.
Ballroom Overhang to Fox River Mouth.
From the Ballroom Overhang, the Inland Pack Track follows the Fox River downstream heading west towards the coast.
The track follows the Fox River valley with a couple of river crossings required before reaching the carpark and the main coastal highway (SH6). It is an easy grade walk out through the valley and along the flat river bed.
Arrangements can be made with local businesses to pick you up from Fox River to return to Punakaiki via road.
Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial Track
Paparoa Track crosses the Paparoa Range. It takes you through alpine tops, limestone karst landscapes and thriving rainforests, and provides breath-taking views.
Time: 3 days walking, 2 days mountain biking (no e-bikes)
Distance: 55 km walking, 56. 2 km mountain biking (no-e-bikes)
Explore the spectacular Pororari River Gorge with dramatic limestone cliffs, beech forest and glades of subtropical nīkau palms. Sit back and enjoy in incredible sunsets over the Tasman Sea from the Moonlight Tops Hut. Follow in the footsteps of gold miners on the historic Croesus Track. Take a side trip to Garden Gully to see gold-mining remains. Enjoy the stunning views. You’ll spot the Lone Hand rock formation on the way to Pororari Hut.
Places to stay
There are three Great Walk huts on the Paparoa Track: Ces Clark Hut, Moonlight Tops Hut and Pororari Hut. Huts have bunks, mattresses, heating, gas cooktops, toilets, and a water supply. A DOC ranger may be present. The huts do not provide food, cooking utensils or showers. Backcountry Hut Passes can be used at Ces Clark Hut but not at Moonlight Tops or Pororari Huts. There are no campsites on the track.
You’ll need accommodation the night before your walk – camping at Smoke-ho car park is not permitted.
Fees and bookings
Fees are charged per person, per night to stay in huts on the Paparoa Track. There are no fees to complete a day walk/ride on the track or for entry into Paparoa National Park.
See the DOC website for full details and how to book.
When tramping in the New Zealand bush, make sure you stay safe. Information is available from the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council.
Paparoa National Park Maps
Topographic maps of the Paparoa National Park are available for purchase at the Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre.