Punakaiki rocks, in more ways than one

Me beach bouldering near Punakaiki

The stretch of the 6 that passes through the center of New Zealand's west coast resembles Califorina's famous 1 with steep cliffs and stretches of blue ocean, framed by winding roads. With the exception of a few small towns, the area's open and relatively unpopulated. We spent a night camping a couple miles south of Punakaiki, on a beach. We built a driftwood fire with a couple locals and heard stories about feeding meat to the eels in the nearby river. By 11 pm, we had the entire stretch of sand to ourselves except for wauva, a flightless bird that calls much of the west coast home.

Chris bouldering on the beach

The reason we picked the spot in the first place was for some potential bouldering along the cliffs that outline the beach. In the morning, we woke up and hit the limestone. Although disappointed by the early morning's wet, slippery rock that crumbled and poked our hands a little too roughly, we still got to enjoy the beautiful sites and a refreshing rinse in the freezing water.
Me about to jump into some ice-cold water

Punakaiki sits near the north side of the West Coast. A couple kilometers north of our campsite, visitors crowd the area known for it's "pancake rocks," flat rock formations that resemble stacks of pancakes. There's also a "blowhole" where rough waves splash up through holes in the rocks. 
The Punakaiki pancake rocks

After leaving Punakaiki, we headed about 20 kilometers north to Charleston, a spot on the West Coast that attracts rock climbers from all over. The climbing routes sit directly on the water, a short 15-minute hike from the first carpark on the left after the motor home. The routes are full of cracks and mostly trad climbing. While we did spot a few helmeted climbers (much of the rock in the area is loose and crumbly), the climbing site was far from crowded.
Climbers in Charleston


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