Tunnel Beach, Dunedin, OTAGO

Tunnel Beach is one of Dunedin’s worst kept secrets. For good reason. It’s a great spot, although it’s a steep (but short) walk back up to the car from the beach.

The highlight of course is the tunnel down to the secluded beach where you can hunt for fossils and explore caves (at low tide) Don’t miss this beach if you’re visiting Dunedin!

Track facts:

  • 2km return
  • 1 hour (although I did it in 40mins while carrying a baby)
  • Easy-medium. Some fitness required as the walk back up is steep
  • This is not a pram-friendly walk. You could take older kids, but given the sheer cliffs I wouldn’t recommend bringing littles (unless they’re small enough to stay in the carrier, but it is pretty hard work carrying them)
  • Keep to the track! This is for your safety (as there are sheer cliffs) and to respect the private farmland, which the track crosses by way of a public accessway.

Getting there:

From Dunedin you want to head out south to the coast on Blackhead Road. Turn left onto Tunnel Beach Road ( it’s well marked) at the round about and drive to the end of the road. Here is a great car parking area, and a portaloo (portable toilet).

The track basically continues straight on from the road, and it looks like your heading to the edge of the world.

The track

The walk to the beach is a kilometre and is basically straight down. Watch the edge of the cliff, and your footing (it can be hard going on the way down!)

From the track you get awesome views of the sandstone cliffs both north and south, and to the sea archway/natural bridge.

When you get to the bottom of the track, follow the fence around to the left to find the tunnel. It can be hard to spot because there’s a wee bush hiding over it, and it’s a bit obscured until you get right to where the little fence is.

The tunnel is carved into the sandstone, with 72 steps down to the beach. You can see fossils the whole way down! Just watch your footings, it’s a bit slippery.

The tunnel was hand carved by pioneers as a birthday present to Cargill’s grandaughters. William Cargill was one of (or maybe the only one?) the founders of Dunedin, with Mt Cargill named after him, and his castle near this beach. His son John ordered the tunnel be built in the 1870s so his family could access the hidden beach.

The beach is such a great wee place to hang out. We use to fly kites here as students! It was so much fun. There are caves to explore at low tide, and plenty of big boulders to climb, as well as sunny spots on the sand to relax. And somehow, the beach is never really that busy. People come and go, but mostly don’t hang around so it still feels more secluded than lots of the beaches in Dunedin.

Happy beaching



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