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The approx 38,000 hectare Paparoa National Park is a spectacular place of breathtaking cliffs, lush rainforest and limestone rocks that look like pancakes. There is something for everyone here, from wilderness to fun family activities. The park is beautiful, rugged, dramatic and memorable. The Punakaiki Marine Reserve covers much of the coastline at the edge of Paparoa National Park, protecting heavily forested land and water catchments from the mountains out to sea.
The Pancake Rocks are a strange and world-famous limestone formation inside the National Park, near Punakaiki township. Amongst the curiously layered rock stacks are blowholes that shoot water skywards when the Tasman sea is rough. The Pancake Rocks can be viewed at any time, but the best time to see the blowholes in action is at high tide when the waves are coming from the Southwest.
Much of Paparoa National Park is limestone that has been shaped by water- and the land contains many mysterious underground streams, caverns and passages. For this reason it is important to stay on the walking tracks in the area. Some caves are easily accessible, the closest being just 5 minutes’ walk from the Visitor Centre. Due to a unique mix of limestone country and varied forest types Paparoa has a mysterious sub-tropical atmosphere. Nikau Palm trees are one of the first special features you see, as they line the coastal road trip you follow when driving to the area.
Paparoa has a special bird, the Westland petrel or tāiko- a large black sea bird that only breeds high in the coastal foothills south of Punakaiki. It is possible to view these large sea birds in their hundreds between April-November flying between the Tasman Sea and their colonies inland. It is also possible to take an arranged tour to view the birds close-up, when staying overnight.
The cheeky Weka- a flightless brown bird, is also found inside the national park and around the Punakaiki township. Taking some of the spectacular day walks in the area is a great way to meet some of the local wildlife such as the Weka and to soak up the spirit of the area.