Walking & Hiking Trails in Punakaiki
Punakaiki on the West Coast is not just a place to check out the famous Pancake Rocks and move on. It’s the gateway to the stunning Paparoa National Park. It’s hiker’s paradise, with plenty of day hikes delving into the vibrant West Coast forests and even a couple of multi-day adventures including a Great Walk. But even if you’re not into full-on tramping, you can still enjoy short walks to photo-worthy limestone coast features. Find out where with this list of walks in Punakaiki.
While you’re here, check out the 10 Things to do in Punakaiki and 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Punakaiki.
1. Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes (20-minute Loop)
The most popular walk to do in Punakaiki, the Pancake Rocks & Blowholes Walk is an easy walk to see the intriguing pancake-like rock formations on the coast. The walkway is a sealed walkway and suitable for buggies and wheelchairs. The best time to visit is at high tide to see the blowholes in full force.
Location: Just off State Highway 6, 900m south of Punakaiki village.
2. Truman Track (30 Minutes Return)
An overhanging cliff with defined layers, a waterfall and a blowhole are what can be found along the Truman Track. It’s possible to fully explore the beach when the tide is out.
Location: State Highway 6, 1.8km north of Punakaiki village.
3. Paparoa Track (2-3 Days One Way)
The latest New Zealand Great Walk, the Paparoa Track is a multi-use track for hikers and mountain bikers. Hike over alpine mountaintops, past limestone formations and through lush rainforest on this multi-day adventure. The Paparoa Track has hut facilities to stay in along the way which must be booked in advance. Find out more in our Complete Guide to the Paparoa Track.
Location: Access is via the Pororari River Track car park on State Highway opposite Punakaiki village or from the Waikori Road car park on State Highway 6, 3km south of Punakaiki village.
4. Pororari River Tracks (1h30min, 3 Hours or 5-6 Hours)
Follow a limestone river gorge nestled in vibrant rainforest on a series of walks along the Pororari River. The Pororari River Track (1h30min return) is your shortest option featuring huge boulders and stunning forest. Make the walk a little longer on the Punakaiki-Pororari Loop (3 hours) which uses the southern section of the Inland Pack Track (see below). Finally, the Pororari River-Bullock Creek Road Track (5-6 hours return) continues into mature forest providing important habitat for kiwi birds and kaka.
Location: Off State Highway 6, in the Pororari River Tracks car park opposite Punakaiki village.
5. Punakaiki Cavern (15 Minutes)
Ok, this isn’t exactly a walk, but allow at least 15 minutes to explore this cavern just off State Highway 6. There are around 138m of caverns to explore, as well as limestone formations to see.
Location: A couple of hundred metres south of Punakaiki village.
6. Cave Creek (1h10min Return)
Find a deep stream gorge along the Cave Creek walk. After passing a stone memorial, you’ll descend into a gorge to a creek bed where the track ends. Check out the eerie and dry bed of boulders where, normally, you can see a stream emerging from under the rocks.
Location: Bullock Creek Road car park, 7km northwest of Punakaiki village.
7. Inland Pack Track (2-3 Days One Way)
Escape to the wilderness on the Inland Pack Track. This 27km walk goes through virtually undisturbed forest with spectacular limestone features. The track was formed by miners in the 1860s to avoid the treacherous rocky coast. Note that there are some river and creek crossings. There are no huts on the track, but you can camp at the Ballroom Overhang.
Location: Waikori Road car park on State Highway 6, 3km south of Punakaiki village.
8. Ballroom Overhang Track (4 Hours Return)
Check out this large limestone outcrop hanging over a campsite upstream of the Fox River. This walk is on the Inland Pack Track, at the furthest end of the track from Punakaiki, accessible as a half-day hike. The track features a magnificent forest and a few river crossings which should not be attempted after heavy rain.
Location: Car park by the main road bridge at the Fox River, 12km north of Punakaiki.