Punakaiki Marine Reserve surrounds the pancake rocks and blowholes at Dolomite Point, one of the most distinctive landscapes of the West Coast. It covers much of the coastline at the edge of Paparoa National Park.
Punakaiki Marine Reserve covers more than 35 square km from Perpendicular Point to near Maher Swamp, and out to two nautical miles from shore. Paparoa National Park and the marine reserve combined, protect heavily forested land and water catchments from the mountains out to sea.
The sea is still working on this natural sculpture, rasping through spectacular blowholes in the rocks.
Visitors to the rest of Punakaiki Marine Reserve will find a representative slice of wild West Coast life – rocky and gravel shores giving way to forests of bull kelp and other seaweeds, and vigorous waves rolling in from big, windswept seas.
On stormy days, plankton (microscopic floating plants and animals) are whipped up by the frenzied sea, washing up as a frothy band of sea foam that is sometimes a metre or more deep on the beach.
Offshore, beyond rocky reefs, the seabed is mostly a rippled surface of sand and mud that provides habitat for burrowing surf clams and worms, as well as fish like stargazers, gurnard and sharks.