Incredible Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach cab be found roughly 8 km southwest of the city centre of Dunedin, New Zealand. It is located just south of St Clair. Tunnel Beach has numerous incredible sea-carved sandstone cliffs, rock arches and caves. Besides being able to boast the beauty of the rugged sandstone cliffs, this beach is famous for it’s tunnel leading down to the beach. A local politician, John Cargill, had commissioned for this tunnel to be built for his family in the 1870s.
Access to the beach is via a track across private farmland, so please respect the property. The track was opened in 1983, and is a popular walking track. It descends from 150 meters above sea level at its start, a short distance off Blackhead Road, winding for some 1200 metres to the top of the tunnel close to a natural sea arch.
The above image (and all of the rest in this post) show you the view of Tunnel Beach from the ground, but to really appreciate the awesomeness of this place, here is an aerial view of it (below). The image below was taken from the DOC website — a great resource for hiking/ tramping information!
“This short walk goes through an excavated tunnel kids will love, to a secluded beach and a spectacular, rocky coastline.”
We walked along the edge of the large rock that you see jutting into the ocean. As you can see, there appear to be no way to get from the top to the beach below, and that is where the tunnel through the cliff brings all the magic together.
Tunnel Beach Walking Track
This short walk goes through an excavated tunnel kids will love, to a secluded beach and a spectacular, rocky coastline. The track is a distance of 2k return and can be done in about an hour, but we generally take a lot longer than the estimated tramping times since we stop smell the flowers, take a gallon pictures and often sit down for a while to admire the views.
We found this track to be a little more than “easy” (which is how it was described online). In fact, we were huffing and puffing like crazy but the time we made it back to our car. The track is VERY steep and quite slippery, especially with a toddler on your back/ front. The journey down was slippery, and the journey up was tiring. Be prepared – it is best to just take your time, but I was absolutely BURSTING on the way back, and desperate to find a restroom! Not a great time to be walking up a very steep incline.
The Famous Tunnel
The tunnel descends 72 steps to the beach, and is dimly lit with natural light from both ends. Take note: The path down is steep and can be very slippery following wet weather. The walls are damp and there is no handrail, so take your time and walk carefully. As you can see, Justin was almost the height of the tunnel! I have to admit, I felt a little nervous walking down this tunnel. There is something weird about hearing the waves crashing on the beach at the bottom of the tunnel, and not knowing what you are walking towards.
The tunnel opens onto this beach…
(You can see the tunnel exit to the left, in the image below). You walk out of the tunnel, behind a large boulder, over some rocks, and then onto the sand. When you turn around and look up, and around, the views are truly incredible!
Next We ventured Up!
After some time on the beach, we returned to the tunnel and made out way up to the top of the sandstone cliffs. From there the views are EVEN BETTER.
lt did feel quite bold to be standing on the edge of those cliffs. Now, looking back at these photos I can see why we felt that! The ground is rough, but one wrong step and you would be down in that water surrounding the cliff.
This was definitely one of my favorite spots in New Zealand. I can’t believe that it isn’t on more of the “must-do” lists for this country. And especially for the South Island. We highly recommend adding Tunnel Beach to your South Island itinerary!