Nearest town: Dunedin, Otago
Type of track: there and back
Official distance: 2km return
Official time: 1 hour return
Jenny’s time: about 1 hour
Tips: Aim for low tide, or at least not right at high tide, or you might find that there’s not much beach to walk on.
Dunedin has a great coastline, but the thing is, when you’re in the city it’s pretty easy to not even remember that the sea is right there! To access it you need to get yourself out to the gorgeous Otago Peninsula, or to one of the local beaches like St. Clair.
Or to Tunnel Beach. This place is accessed by a short drive through the suburbs of Dunedin, then past a bit of farmland to a car park at the end of a road. You would never know anything interesting is here until you start down the short, steep path, and suddenly in front of you a magnificent vista opens up, of green cliffs, a spectacular rock arch, sea stacks, a sandy beach and pounding waves.
From the bottom of the path you could go walk out onto the top of the arch, but the signs clearly tell you not to, because who knows just how strong that arch is? I didn’t go, because falling into that water didn’t seem like much fun.
Instead I took the tunnel, the one cut in the 1870s by John Cargill, with little steps right through the rock down to the cove and its lovely sandy beach. The idea was that his family could bathe in privacy, but unfortunately his daughter drowned in the beach’s strong rip current, so think twice before swimming!
Tunnel beach has huge boulders, rock formations and all kinds of little nooks and crannies to explore if you want, and a cave that gave me refuge when it started raining for a while.
Careful! Without knowing it, I walked right past a sleeping sea lion. And although that doesn’t seem like a big deal, they can be aggressive if you get too close (if they’re conscious, that is…) so look out for them. They tend to get a bit covered in sand and are not too differently coloured than the rocks, so they blend right in!
The weather cleared up as I made my way back up the tunnel steps, and I spent a while admiring the massive brown bull kelp swaying in the waves, and re-taking all the photos I’d taken before when the weather was grey. Because that’s just the silly kind of thing I do.
So for a short walk and some stunning coastline in Dunedin, head for Tunnel Beach!