Top 12 Beaches in and around Dunedin


Dunedin, known for its rich history and stunning landscapes, is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand. For one of the country’s most southern cities, stunning beaches may not be the first attraction that comes to mind. Be amazed by the sandy shores and rugged coastal spots that are nestled around Dunedin. Some are popular beaches for morning strolls, and others are hidden gems. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, these top Dunedin beaches offer something for everyone.

1. Whareakeake (Murdering Beach)

Whareakeake or Murdering Beach, is one of those hidden gems in Dunedin. Despite its challenging access, the journey is worth the effort. Once a battleground between Māori and the British in 1817, it’s now a peaceful spot with pristine white sand and good waves.

The beach is framed by rocky headlands, offering a picturesque setting for a stroll. Its remote location and serene atmosphere make it a perfect retreat. Its proximity to attractions like the Orokonui Ecosanctuary makes it a great side trip. Whareakeake is a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and tranquillity, making it one of the top Dunedin beaches to visit.

2. Aramoana Beach

Aramoana Beach, located about 25 km from central Dunedin, is an ideal destination for a beach adventure. Offering opportunities to collect seashells, surf, watch wildlife, climb sand dunes, and explore interesting rock formations, this beach often provides a sense of solitude.

The beach is divided into sections by the Aramoana Mole, a massive breakwater, where you’re likely to encounter sea lions and birds. The eastern end of the beach is perfect for learning to surf, while the western end, known as Big Beach, is wilder with towering cliffs and unique rock formations. The Aramoana Mole itself is a wildlife hotspot and offers a unique walking experience.

3. Allans Beach

Allans Beach, located on the Otago Peninsula, is a wild, rugged, and beautiful beach that offers a unique blend of wildlife, scenic headlands, and surf breaks. The beach is a haven for wildlife, with seals and sea lions often spotted playing in the sand. The beach’s rough ocean is a delight for surfers, while those preferring calmer scenes can enjoy the shallow, still water of Hoopers Inlet.

The beach can be viewed from above at the Sandymount Recreation Reserve, offering stunning views of the beach and the inlet. Just a 30-minute drive from central Dunedin, Allans Beach is a must-visit spot for nature and beach lovers.

4. Sandfly Bay

Sandfly Bay, one of the most accessible beaches on the wild Otago Peninsula, is a must-visit spot in Dunedin. The beach is known for its breathtaking viewpoint that offers panoramic views of the bay, the dunes, and the ocean. The walk down to the beach is a bit steep but rewarding, with the chance to spot penguins and sea lions. Whether you’re looking for wildlife, a relaxing stroll, or a bit of adventure, Sandfly Bay offers a unique beach experience.

5. Smaills Beach

Smaills Beach, a short distance from Dunedin’s city centre, is a scenic spot worth visiting. The beach offers stunning views from the road leading to it and from the Karetai Road Track. The beach is separated from its neighbour, Tomahawk Beach, by a hill that offers a series of viewpoints. The beach itself is one of the best in Dunedin, with small sand dunes adding a unique element to the landscape. The beach can resemble a tropical lagoon at low tide, offering picturesque views. If you’re keen on a scenic walk, a beach day, or a spot for stunning photos, Smaills Beach is a great choice.

6. St Clair Beach

Spend hours gazing out to the South Pacific Ocean and towards Antarctica. St Clair Beach, just minutes from Dunedin’s city centre, is a popular spot for a variety of beach activities. Facing the Pacific Ocean, the beach boasts New Zealand’s most consistent surf break, making it a playground for local surfers. The St Clair Esplanade, lined with cafes and bars, is a popular destination during the day and night. The beach is also home to one of the only heated seawater pools in New Zealand, the St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool. Whether you’re a surfer, a swimmer, or someone who enjoys a leisurely walk along the beach, St Clair Beach offers a great beach experience.

This strip of sand continues on to become St Kilda Beach, followed by Lawyers Head Beach before the headland where you can find the Sir Leonard Wright lookout.

7. Tunnel Beach

Tunnel Beach, one of Dunedin’s most iconic sights, offers a unique beach experience. The beach is accessed through a 140-year-old tunnel, commissioned by William Cargill in the 1870s, leading to a private paradise backed by sandstone cliffs and boulders. The beach features a massive slab of earth extending into the water, creating a stunning landscape. The walk to the beach is steep but offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the coastline. It’s worth checking the tides before visiting, as high tide can limit beach access. Whether you’re looking for a scenic walk or a unique beach experience, Tunnel Beach is a must-visit spot.

8. Ocean View Beach

Ocean View Beach, true to its name, offers stunning views of the ocean. The beach’s wide stretch of sand makes it a perfect spot for a leisurely walk or a picnic. The beach is also a popular spot for horse riding, with local operators offering beach rides. The calm and peaceful atmosphere of Ocean View Beach makes it a perfect spot for a relaxing day out.

9. Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach, located 20 km south of Dunedin city, is a coastal gem offering several bays and beach areas. The beach is perfect for long walks, surfing, and watching dramatic sunsets. The sand is hard and the beaches are wide, making it an ideal place for a long walk or run. The beach area closest to the main car park is a popular spot for surfing and is considered a safe place to swim. There are also a couple of viewpoints at Brighton Beach, offering stunning views of the city and Brighton. Whether you’re looking for a day of beach activities or a peaceful sunset view, Brighton Beach is a great spot to visit.

10. Kuri Bush Beach

Kuri Bush Beach, known for its rugged beauty, is a must-visit for those seeking a unique beach experience. The beach’s rocky shoreline and wild surf make it a popular spot for fishing and surfing. The surrounding bushland and the stunning views of the ocean add to the beach’s natural beauty. The beach’s remote location and serene atmosphere make it a perfect spot for those seeking a peaceful retreat.

11. Purakanui Beach

Purakanui Beach, overlooking Purakanui Bay is undoubtedly one of the top Dunedin beaches. Embark on a scenic drive through Port Chalmers, following the harbour out towards the coast. The windy road continues, past Long Beach, and alongside Purakanui Inlet. The car park is the end of the road, setting the scene for an exciting beach adventure. Walk through a canopy of trees and some great rock climbing areas before you reach Purakanui Beach.

This isolated beach is often uncrowded, making it a tranquil setting for a stroll. Fringed with green hills and undisturbed nature, Purakanui Beach is an outdoor lover’s paradise. The rope swing adds to the appeal of this top Dunedin beach. Scale the sandy headland and walk over to Canoe Beach, passing Mapoutahi Pā Site.

12. Canoe Beach

Canoe Beach neighbours Purakanui Beach. The two picturesque spots are divided by the Mapoutahi Pā site, a historic landmark on the Dunedin coast. The views from this headland are remarkable, with uninterrupted views out to the South Pacific Ocean. Feel like a true explorer as you climb down the sandy path to discover Canoe Beach. This peaceful stretch of beach is sheltered and surrounded by large cliffs. At low tide, beachgoers can enjoy a must-do walk between the arches at Doctors Point through to Canoe Beach and over to Purakanui Beach.

This article was created in paid partnership with Dunedin NZ.

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