There is not many roads that lead to Punakaiki, and ours was a little complicated. We arrived straight from Fox Glacier, where we were stuck because of the slide on the mountains. Our plan to stay at Franz Joseph Glacier and visit both glaciers failed miserably. The road to the Fox glacier was closed due to cyclone and the drive back to Wanaka was way too long to do. Luckily, we found ourselves a hostel to stay at (this is where campervans have a huge priority). We also accidentally made some amazing sunset pictures and chatted to a lovely local farmer about farming sheep, deer and cows, the damage from the cyclone, life in Fox and much more. The next day we took a lovely walk around the Lake Matheson and after lunch, when the roads opened again, we continued to Punakaiki.
We stayed in Punakaiki for less than 24 hours, but we loved every bit of it. We stopped at the grocery store in Greymouth so we could cook some food later. On the way to our accommodation we visited Pancake Rocks.
These formations were created by water and are the main attraction in the area. Honestly, we didn’t find them so impressive, but they are worth a visit if you haven’t seen anything like it before.
When we reached our hostel, we fell in love with it right away. The Punakaiki Beach Hostel is located right next to the sea; in fact, you can see the water from the kitchen.
Our tips to spending 24 hours in Punakaiki:
1) Stay at the Punakaiki Beach Hostel and watch the sunset.
It’s a great place equipped with everything you need on the road, the choice of dorm or private rooms, kitchen, laundry and variety of board games. Since the location is right by the sea, you don’t have to drive anywhere to watch the sun going down right from the beach. Check out their website.
2) Have a drink at the Punakaiki tavern.
It’s pretty much the only place for food and drinks in the area, so the choice might not be so great – but the company will be. In the end of 2017 they started a map of their visitors and you can put your pin to the place you come from (love putting pins in Estonia!).
3) Rent a kayak at Punakaiki Canoe.
Kayaking up and down that river is such a special experience! You get beautiful views and a little workout too. The guy who rents out kayaks is very friendly, will give you lots of recommendations and he is also a wonderful painter. Check out their webpage HERE.
If you are driving from Punakaiki to Nelson or the other way around, take a few stops on the way. There is a place where you can see whales, penguins, and if you drive further, you can find a seal colony.
5) And the last one:
Just enjoy your time at the West Coast – it can be as relaxing as you make it.