Less than eight kilometres southwest of the centre of Dunedin, close to St Clair on New Zealand’s South Island, Tunnel Beach is hidden from view by rugged sandstone cliffs rising 150 metres above the waves. Shaped by the might of the Pacific Ocean over millennia, the beach is studded with naturally-formed rock arches, caves, and a hand-hewn sloping tunnel that gives the beach both its name and its access to this day.
Only open to the public since 1983, Tunnel Beach is accessed via the Department of Conservation Reserve. A path zigzags for more than a kilometre through publicly-accessible private farmland to the dimly-lit 72-step tunnel and on to the beach. It’s a journey that should take you around 20 minutes, and though it is generally suitable for all ages, it can be slippery after wet weather.
Passing fossil remnants of long extinct sea creatures along the way, Tunnel Beach’s unique approach gives it an atmosphere and romance all of its own. And although this isn’t a beach to consider swimming from due to the strength of the rip currents, its amazing views means you’re sure to linger for longer than intended.
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