Situated just south of St Claire, Dunedin, this beach is a must for anyone in the area. Tucked neatly away among the cliffs, it offers a picturesque, secret paradise, unlike any New Zealand beach I’ve seen before.
The beach secured notability in the 1870s after John Cargill, a local politician, had a tunnel commissioned under the cliffs in order for his family to have access to the secluded beach. A trail track was opened on the site in 1983, and has since become a popular destination among locals and tourists.
The trail down to the cliffs from the car park offers some spectacular sea views as seen in the image below. The underfoot conditions could be better on this route, as it was found to be fairly slippy. Once you have reached the cliffs there are some benches for a spot of lunch or some comfortable viewing, and from there you can either go left to the beach through the tunnel, or climb to the cliff edge further right.
We chose the tunnel route, and descended into the neatly chiselled cavern. As we came through the end threshold, we surprisingly encountered a small(ish) sea lion. Both of us were perplexed at how, and why, the little rascal chose this spot, as it would have had to climb some uncomfortable boulders, but we left the lion of the sea to it, and searched on.
Turning right, you are then brought face to face with the open ocean and the stunning beach. It’s main features include mossy boulders, smoothed rocks, waterfalls and mussels. If you are a handy climber, or just a child at heart like myself, this beach is ripe with rocks to ascend, which give much better picture opportunities. A word of caution, though, as they are slippery. Following the beach to the right will bring you to another waterfall, depending on the amount of rain that has fallen. Going to the left you will see a small underpass which you can crawl through, and brings you to a large open cave. You can also access this by following the beach round, alas, we did not know this, and got some rather muddy knees.
Going back to the cliffs you will come across some awe inspiring views of the sea, and of the beach you had just been exploring. Ascending the cliff can be dangerous, as we both simultaneously slipped on the clay-like mud. It seemed very slapstick and certainly gave the locals a hearty laugh at my girlfriends muddy bum. The only blip on wonderful experience would be the steep incline for the walk back up to the car. However, for anyone that walks frequently it would offer no issues.
Out of all the Dunedin beaches I have explored so far, this has certainly been my favourite, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Just be careful not to slip off and become seal fodder.
Walking Conditions: 2/5
Walking Difficulty: 3/5
Finding Difficulty: 1/5
Overall Rating: 4/5