Another beach review coming at you here. This one was a particular favourite of me and the girlfriend, and we’ve been here twice (so far). Sandfly Bay offers everything you could possibly want in a beach: views, excitement, dunes, wildlife, and, if you’re into it, a pretty difficult walk back to your car.
Around 15km outside of Dunedin, up the glorious Otago Peninsula, you will find Sandfly Bay. Now, don’t let the name alarm you. The bay is not known for the irritating sandfly, that causes such distress in the summer months for Kiwi’s, it is actually called such because of the way the sand moves among the dunes. The sand does indeed dance majestically among the desert slopes, and I can confirm it is a must see.
Walking to the beach is pretty steep, but once you get onto the sand further down this becomes very fun. The more agile among you will have a great laugh skidding down here. The last time we came we brought my girlfriends parents, though, and it was more difficult than amusing for them. (I won’t mention the way back up just yet, we were very nearly in trouble though). On your way down there is a lookout where you get an excellent lookout of the bay, and a chance for a great picture.
Once you get to the beach it is likely you will then come across a multitude, and I do mean multitude, of Sea Lions. The first time we came to this beach we could not believe it. They were HUGE. All along the bay. Coming in. Coming out. Sleeping. Playing. There were more the first time we came but still plenty to observe the second time. I really would advise to go no closer than 20 meters when they are awake, as they are territorial, and a healthy dose of respect seems to go a long way with them.
The Sea Lions make for an exhilarating experience, but the rest of the beach would still be worth the trip without them. The soft sand and picturesque views make for a great picnic spot, and a few beers to drink in the specialness of the place. The beach is fairly long, but the addition of the dunes along the back of the beach make it a full afternoon trip. We have yet to fully explore the dunes, as we had a rather terrifying experience where a sleeping Sea Lion that was hidden away jumped out at us as we approached. However, if you are cautious as you walk there will be no issues. The real gem of this beach would be the huge dune you can see to your left from the lookout mentioned earlier. There you could do some sand surfing. We haven’t had the foresight to bring a sledge or ski’s yet, but I would advise this is a must and something that you would not be able to do anywhere else in the area. Furthermore, at the end of the beach there is meant to be an underground lookout bunker to view the wildlife. However, we have not seen this either of the times we visited the bay. If anyone spots it, give me a message!
As mentioned earlier, the only bad note I can leave for the bay is the walk back to the car. A case of what steeply comes down, must come up. It would be fair to say the girlfriend’s parents were slightly annoyed by the effort needed to get up the sandy hill, but we all made it up fine in the end (I think). The first time we came my friend decided to run up it, and being the foolish boy I am I decided to join him… for about 20 seconds. Never again.
All in all I must say that this beach is a fantastic chance to experience New Zealand. You will struggle to find a beach that has both excellent dunes and so many Sea Lions. It really brings you face to face with nature, and it is exhilarating (if not a bit terrifying).
Walking Difficulty: 4/5