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Paparoa National Park
Paparoa National Park Review
Paparoa National Park, which is based loosely along the Paparoa Range, is a long rugged chain of mountains running parallel to the coast. With craggy summits, serrated ridges, and cirques carved out of ancient granite and gneiss, it's a formidable environment. But its sheer cliffs, flood-prone rivers, dense rain forest, and extensive cave systems spell out paradise for hikers. The major entry points—Bullock Creek, Fox River, and Pororari River—open onto an otherworldly zone of jungly green, striking nikau palms, rushing streams, and sweeping coastal views. Much of this area is serious outback country, requiring either a guide or considerable bush experience. There are several short day hikes, canoeing, and horse treks, though; drop by the Paparoa National Park Visitors Centre for maps and information.
Pancake Rocks. One of the stars of the park is the Pancake Rocks & Blowholes. The huge swells that batter this coast have eroded the limestone cliffs, carving them into fantastical shapes. A paved walkway leads you through the windswept cover of tenacious New Zealand flax and nikau palms to see the most dramatic points, including the broiling cauldron called the Surge Pool (once a sea cavern before the roof collapsed in) and the pumping fissure of the Chimney Pot. In the right conditions, at high tide three blowholes spout a thundering geyser of spray. Aoraki (Mt. Cook) is sometimes visible across the sea to the south. To reach the rocks from the highway, take the easy 10-minute walk from the visitor center. Keep turning left along the path so you don't miss the best bits out around the Surge Pool. High tide on a southwest swell under a full moon at midnight is an outstanding time to visit, if you dare. Otherwise, try for high tide and a big westerly swell.
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