A wild Otago coastline, a tunnel piercing the sandstone cliffs and crashing waves which foam like fireworks. On a sunshine and lollipops day the track is a great spot to explore. But it is most impressive in a south-west gale with big swells. Then the power of the nature’s sculpting forces can be realised and some sense of how the rock arches and offshore stacks are formed.
The track crosses private property and may be closed for lambing in spring.
The beaches through the tunnel can only be explored at low tide. Check times at http://www.metservice.com/marine-surf/tides/dunedin
From St Clair follow Blackhead Road to where Tunnel Beach Road is signposted. Continue 300 m to the parking area.
It is a steady and steep descent. Although the track is metalled, it is prone to slips and can be muddy. Once at the cliffs, use some common sense and don’t risk your life for a better photo. Follow the tunnel to the beach proper, which can be explored only at low tide.
The rock along this coastline is soft Caversham sandstone, an extensive thick sediment laid down around 20 million years ago. The sandstone was later overlain by other sediments. The Otago Peninsula is volcanic in origin and lava ejected around 12 million years ago covered the sandstone here. Fossils are also present in the stone, with species of brachiopod or echinoderm (sea urchin). Some of the cliff faces have vertical rusty streaks of iron rich veins.
When swells come from the south, fueled by intense winds, the sea can harness formidable power. The soft stone is eroded into caves and sea arches, which eventually collapse to form offshore stacks.
Although difficult to verify factually, it is said the tunnel was built in the 1870s at the request of notable Dunedin resident John Cargill. He required a secluded place for his daughters to bathe with modesty, to safeguard their privacy from prying Victorian eyes.
South Island ▷ Coastal Otago ▷ Dunedin
Showing 13 reviews of 29.
A really cool spot, well worth it.
Nice exit at Tunnel Beach. Good spot for pictures!! The descent is rather easy but the reclimb is far more difficult for the novice.
Save up to 70% on campsite fees! Support conservation and experience the natural beauty of NZ. 74 Department of Conservation campsites, one convenient pass.
Well maintained track and a little gem in Dunedin. Got there at low tide and spent a good while exploring. Would be cool to see why the tunnel was put there.
Only 30 minutes return, and we have seen a great view of the cliffs and ocean.
Access savings worth hundreds of $$ on Top Ranked NZ Accommodation and Activities for just $1 per day.
A really short walk and a great way to see a bit of Otago Peninsula's beauty.
This is one of my favourite walks. It is fast to the bottom and a slow return. The track is in great condition and we took an off road pram (with downhill breaking) down to the top of the tunnel stairs (this is a NO GO with a normal street pram). The views are amazing and enhanced on a sunny day. The stairs down the tunnel can be slippery but it is worth the walk. The edges (fenced) off should be respected as the geology is delicate. The track has no shade so wear sunscreen. It is a long hard walk back to the car but if I can do it pushing a pram you can walk it. Expect to spend longer at the bottom that you intend.
Beautiful beach with stunning cliffs, although a tough walk back up the track and might be difficult if you were older with poor knees.
Steep walk down (and back up!) but worth the views. Beautiful beach and fun tunnel to walk through. Also, FREE!
Is worth it if you are around the area. Stunning rocks in the sea, cliffs and wavy sea.
Short walk, there is a tunnel through the rock to go down the beach. Beautiful cliffs and waves.
Great walkway, beautiful coastline and also seals. Great spot for taking pictures.
A sometimes steep track to a beach, the end goes through a small tunnel. Stunning views over a spectacular, rocky coastline. The walk takes one hour return. Not many people and it is a free attraction you must visit! One of the absolute highlights!
A nice and short walk with few tourists. The view is beautiful and the tunnel access is fun. A good surprise close to Dunedin.
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍