Yip, you read the title right. There are over 25 beaches in Dunedin and they’re all special in their own way. From the wild beaches of the Otago Peninsula to the sheltered bays of the harbour as well as New Zealand’s nicest city beach, Dunedin is the place to go for beach exploration. Join me on this tour of Dunedin’s best beaches (and beach viewpoints) and I’ll also give you my top 10 if you’re overwhelmed by all the choice!
Dunedin’s Southern Beaches
This group starts with St Kilda / St Clair Beach and includes Dunedin’s southern coastline, all the way to Taieri Mouth.
St Kilda / St Clair Beach
This long stretch of beach spanning the suburbs of St Kilda and St Clair is, in my opinion, the best city beach in New Zealand. If you only visit one beach in Dunedin this should be it. You can get awesome views of the beach from above — climb up the dunes or walk drive along John Wilson Drive to Lawyer’s Head for the best of them.
St Clair Beach also features the remains of a pier (which is very photogenic at sunrise) and a little beach side area featuring some nice cafés, bars and restaurants.
Just around the corner from the main car park, Second Beach makes for a pleasant stroll from St Clair Beach.
Perhaps the most unique beach in Dunedin (and even New Zealand), Tunnel Beach is surrounded by sandstone cliffs and is accessed via a staircase carved from the rock. There are also some great views from the track leading to the beach. If you only have time for two Dunedin beaches, I’d go for St Clair / St Kilda Beach and Tunnel Beach.
Blackhead / Waldronville Beach
You can get some nice views of this beach from the road (just down the hill from the Tunnel Beach turnoff) and at beach level you’ll see basalt columns and probably some sea lions. Apparently you can walk further round the rocks until you reach the Roman Baths, but I’ve tried and failed twice to do that (the tide was too high one time and there were too many sea lions in the way the other!).
Brighton Beach is our favourite place to watch the sunset in Dunedin and the beach itself, which is broken up into several sections, is easily one of the best in Dunedin. There are lots of viewpoints to explore, it’s good for surfing and it’s the only patrolled beach in this area (in summer).
Taieri Mouth Beach
There are a few different sections of beach at Taieri Mouth as well as an excellent short hike. The beach ranges from the calm river sections to the wild ocean side. This place makes for a good little half-day trip from Dunedin or as somewhere to stop on the scenic route to the Catlins.
The Otago Peninsula
Some of the best beaches in Dunedin can be found on the ocean side of the Otago Peninsula. Most of these also attract yellow-eyed penguins (go just before sunset) and sea lions.
This is the next beach over from St Clair / St Kilda Beach in the peninsula direction. You can easily reach Tomahawk Beach by public transport and it’s another solidly scenic Dunedin beach. You can also get a great shot of the beach from the road above it.
Next up is Smails Beach, which features highly on my top 10 list below. There are some awesome views of it from above (from the car parks on the road above it as well as the Karetai Road Track) and it’s stunning at beach level as well. Again, you can easily reach this beach on the public bus.
You’ll need to walk down one of several tracks to reach Boulder Beach and its definitely worth it. The views from above are great and the small boulders towards the back of the sand give it a unique look. Also keep an eye out for penguins and sea lions.
The viewpoint above Sandly Bay is one of the best coastal views in Dunedin, but it’s a bit of a task to get down to the beach. You’ll have to walk down (and back up) some big sand dunes, but it’s a fun walk. People also sand board down these dunes from time to time.
You can see Allans Beach from the Sandymount Track or Mount Charles, and it’s an interesting place for a beach stroll. The wild ocean side of the beach gives way to an almost tropical scene as you walk around the edge of Hoopers Inlet.
The view from across Papanui Inlet, overlooking Victory Beach, is one of my favourite in Dunedin and there is a bit to see at ground level too, including the Pyramids (small pyramid shaped hills).
The Harbour Side
The harbour side of the Otago Peninsula has some small beaches and the water is far calmer on this side.
MacAndrew Bay Beach
This tiny stretch of sand is perfect for a family day at the beach. The water is calm, the beach is decent and there are shops and cafes just across the road.
Broad Bay Beach
This is another tiny beach featuring calm, clear water. It doesn’t have any shops nearby though, so MacAndrew Bay could be a better option.
Harrington Point Beach
Harrington Point Beach is broken up into a couple of different sections and is a nice place for a beach stroll. The water is clear and calm (this is the harbour side after all) and there’s a cafe nearby (as well as Wellers Rock and the Monarch Wildlife Cruise office).
Head down to Pilots Beach near sunset (you’ll have to take a tour) and you’ll see lots of little blue penguins making their way home for the night. At other times of the day you can walk down yourself — you may see some then (I saw on relaxing under the wooden steps which take you down to the beach).
READ MORE: Taiaroa Head and Harrington Point, Dunedin
Dunedin’s Northern Coastline
The northern coastline of Dunedin doesn’t get the same level of love that the Otago Peninsula enjoys, but the beaches (and viewpoints above them) are just as good.
There are a few different sections of Aramoana Beach, from the relatively sheltered harbour bit to a long stretch of beach featuring some interesting rock formations. You can also get an awesome view of Aramoana Beach from the Heyward Point Track.
You’ll see this beach from the Heyward Point Track — I have no idea how to get down to it but it looks nice from above.
Murdering Beach has the best name of all Dunedin’s beaches and it’s an interesting off the beaten path spot. It’s a bit of a dodgy drive down but it’s worth it!
Long Beach is home to some large caves, which occasionally played host to parties. It’s a fun place to explore and the beach itself is great (and, as the name would suggest, fairly long).
This is another beach with an “inlet side” featuring calm, clear water. It’s scenic as well, with two big headlands at either side of the main beach. You can climb up the northern one for awesome views — combine a trip to Purakaunui Beach with the two beaches below.
Canoe Beach is best seen from the headland which also looks over Purakaunui Beach. It’s a great spot and is fairly off the beaten path.
Doctors Point Beach
The main feature of Doctors Point Beach is the set of sea caves known as the Arches. It’s a unique spot but you’ll have to visit at low tide if you want to walk through them.
Warrington Beach is a 25-minute drive from downtown Dunedin and is a great place for a long beach walk. I’d recommend walking right around to the back of the beach where you can enjoy the calm waters of Blueskin Bay.
Karitane is a small beach side community around 30 minutes’ drive from the city. If taking the scenic route between Dunedin and Oamaru (which you should) you’ll drive right past it. It’s a pretty little beach and there’s also a fun coastal walk nearby.
This is the last beach on my best beaches in Dunedin list — there are more beaches further north, but you can’t really call that Dunedin anymore! Waikouaiti Beach is another pristine slice of sand and, again, there are some awesome views of it from the headland. Also check out the Matanaka Farm Buildings, which are just up the hill.
So, which are the best beaches in Dunedin?
You can’t go past St Clair / St Kilda Beach. There is heaps to do and there are great views to be had from the dunes / road. Next up I’d go for Tunnel Beach (it’s pretty unique) and then Smails Beach (lots of viewpoints), Victory Beach (viewpoints + the Pyramids) , Aramoana Beach (great scenery), Warrington Beach (clear blue water), Pilots Beach (penguins), Doctor’s Point Beach (interesting rocks / caves), Brighton Beach (viewpoints and sunsets), Allans Beach (viewpoints, clear water) and Karitane Beach (cool seaside town and an interesting hike). Seeing all of the above will satisfy most travellers, but as you can see there is so much more to explore.
What are your favourite beaches in Dunedin? Let us know in the comments below!
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