From snow-dusted volcanos to dewy rainforests bashed by ocean swells – that’s what the trip across the Cook Strait from North Island to Punakaiki is all about. Even the road trip in from the port in Picton, through the Wild West-style center of Murchison and deep into the old-growth Victoria Forest Park (where kiwis roam), is one laden with amazing hiking paths. However, there’s really nothing that can prepare you for the visions of the coast that unfold down Route 6. That’s where you’ll discover little Punakaiki itself. A few lodges hide in the coastal forests, with lookout points jutting over black-sand bays. Choose one of those and you might just wake to sightings of wild penguins and waterfalls crashing straight into the Tasman Sea. For hikers, there are untrodden paths wiggling into the bluffs of the Paparoa National Park. Meanwhile, shoreline treks can take you to caves held sacred by the Maori and the so-called Pancake Rocks, where curious limestone formations create natural blowholes.