I lived in Dunedin for three years before I came across the beauty of Tunnel Beach. As soon as I discovered it, I more than made up for the oversight, spending hours enjoying its glorious landscape. Now, having moved on from Dunners, the beach always near the top of my list when I return.
A 10-minute drive from Dunedin city centre, along Blackhead Rd, there's a dead-end turn signposted to Tunnel Beach Road. Before leaving your car roadside (because the road is also the carpark), make sure your backpack has everything you might need for a couple hours. Having once lugged down a quiche lorraine in a ceramic dish, I recommend you pack light, and essential.
At the start of the path you'll see spectacular views - nothing but the sea beyond. Panic and doubt might snatch at you because it looks as if the cliff face just drops away. But behold, you're not going abseiling - the walk down is manageable on a wide gravel path that hand rails in places. Winter will give you mud and summer will give you dust, so make sure you have appropriate shoes. The views on the way down will take your breath away and you'll find a lot more than just beach before you.
Initially, the most impressive thing about Tunnel Beach is the headland. The chalk-white
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
cliff beckons you, sitting golden and proud on a sunny day, and dominant and
peaceful on a cloudy one. You'll find yourself drawn to it and effortlessly clamber to the top for views all the way to Antarctica. Or Argentina if you really squint your eyes and tilt your head to the right. If you're lucky enough to be the only one up there - which isn't that rare at all considering the remoteness of the place - you'll feel on top of the world.
Wandering around the grass areas at the top, you'll find nooks and crannies to
explore, seagulls to say greet and sealife to peer over the edge at. If you take a coffee
or a picnic, you can sit and slip into a quiet period of zen as the sea breeze washes over you. Soak up that deep blue scenery and take your wandering thoughts through the muddles of life until you get to the inevitable question, "But where's the tunnel?".
If you missed it on your way in. it's because you walked over its roof in your rush to reach the beach. The tunnel houses a flight of stairs down to a secluded bay with sheer cliffs for walls, big boulders to scramble over and a pristine white beach if the tide is out (and maybe a sea lion or two if you're lucky). The sheerness of the rocks is accentuated from here - prepare to feel small. Water trickles down in mesmerising channels.
Around the corner, to your right, you'll find a large cave - effectively a tunnel under the tunnel you just came through (see how a walk turns into an afternoon here?). On a stunning day, the beach will make you want to swim, but even though the water looks tropical, it's going to maintain the classic Southern brrrr. Before you jump in, make sure you have a mate nearby.
This is a place to chill out and gaze into the open, and right now we have this stunning landscape to ourselves. It's not a walk in the park but, like most good things, you have to earn it. Then the fresh sea air will clear your cobwebs. Tunnel Beach will stay with you a while.