Greymouth to Westport Road Trip via Punakaiki

greymouth punakaiki

When one thinks of the West Coast, visions of rugged and dramatic hills, acres of rainforest and spectacular surf spring to mind, but from Greymouth to Westport the scenery also has an almost tropical appeal with nikau palms sprouting from glistening white sands and clinging to rocky escarpments. In Punakaiki, a friendly holiday town made famous by its stunning pancake rocks, salty spray flies from blowholes, while nearby Westport, a town often overlooked, provides many unique activities for the intrepid traveller. Inland, avid anglers have the opportunity to try their luck on the internationally renowned waters of the Murchison/Nelson Lakes region, where some of the best fly fishing in NZ can be found on Lake Rotoroa, Lake Rotoiti, and up the Travers, D’Urville and Sabine Rivers. We spend three days driving the scenic route from Greymouth to Nelson. We visit a world renowned pounamu (jade) sculptor, admire Punakaiki’s pancake rocks, ride rapids aboard jet skis in Westport, enjoy indigenous cuisine, join a thrilling whitewater rafting expedition down the mighty Buller River, and angle for elusive brown trout!

Overnight Bob’s been doing his research on the famous pancake rocks in Punakaiki and he’s keen to get on the road.

We drive north to Rapahoe where the road joins the coast and offers fabulous views of rugged hills, dramatic headlands and rolling surf. From Barrytown the landscape changes: coastal plains dotted with nikau palms are flanked by bush-clad hills.

More palms cling obstinately to the layered rock escarpments in Punakaiki, creating a tropical backdrop to the green-blue sea. “It’s got a Hawaiian feel!” says Bob as we park the car and walk the Dept. of Conservation track to the blowholes at Punakaiki’s famous pancake rocks. The timing couldn’t be more perfect: it’s high tide and there’s a good ocean swell so salt-laden spray is flying. Bob gets some great shots and then after lunch at Punakaiki Tavern we walk along the beach and collect pieces of perfectly polished, pure white quartz.

There are several good hikes in the area including the Pororari River Track, the Truman Track, Fox River Cave Walk, Cave Creek / Kotihotiho Walk and the Punakaiki-Pororari Loop, but our legs have been stretched, and so we continue north. On the outskirts of Punakaiki we visit the Te Miko Glass Bead Studio, where we watch Carolyn Hewlett as she crafts each individual flame-worked bead, before we drive on to Westport.

After checking into our accommodation, we drive to Tauranga Bay (near Cape Foulwind) for a late afternoon stroll to the seal colony.

As the sun begins to set our mighty appetites lead us to Tauranga Bay’s acclaimed The Bay House. Here we discover a modern NZ menu featuring some of the country’s finest fare, in a beautiful setting overlooking the bay.