Located on Otago Harbour on the southeast coast of the South Island, Dunedin is a rich city with fascinating Scottish and Maori heritage and a spectacular natural landscape with dramatic cliffs, lush forests and sandy beaches. Located on harbours, bays and the wild ocean, Dunedin beaches offer everything from thrills on the water to wildlife sightings and quiet areas for families. The beaches draw visitors for hiking, surfing, fishing and other activities with the family. Whether you want to explore the coastal wilds, engage in adrenaline-pumping activities or relax and enjoy some quality family time, check out the best Dunedin beach areas to plan your trip.
St Clair Beach for surfing
Located south of central Dunedin along the Pacific Ocean, St Clair Beach is a stunning white-sand beach with excellent surf breaks. This beach has consistent waves that offer opportunities for surfers to hone their skills in any season. You can also book surfing lessons and hire a surfboard to learn to surf for the first time or give the kids fun memories. Nearby, you’ll find an esplanade with a walking area, bars and cafes for refreshments.
Aramoana Beach for wildlife sightings
Located on Otago Harbour, Aramoana is a tranquil beach with a backdrop of dramatic cliffs and an abundance of wildlife. The beach has an artificial breakwater that keeps the water clean and calm, making it perfect for families with children to swim. The salt marsh nearby has a viewing platform to check out wildlife and the ships passing by. The area is surrounded by a nature reserve that is home to penguins, sea lions and birds.
Brighton Beach for beach activities
Brighton Beach is a quiet bay beach near a charming community that’s ideal for families. The beach is patrolled by lifeguards from the Brighton Surf Life Saving Club and offers calm waters for swimming. Offshore, the swells are excellent for surfing. Visitors can also take advantage of excellent surf fishing as well as sea kayaking, horse riding on the beach and combing for shells.
Tomahawk Beach for dune hiking
Tomahawk Beach is known for its rugged, windswept scenery and white sands. The beach is surrounded by dramatic cliffs and a vast network of sand dunes to explore. You can hike on the cliffs to see the views of the beach and its surroundings from lookout points. If you want to swim or let the little ones wade, Tomahawk Lagoon is close and offers quiet waters. You’ll also come across a lot of shorebirds that call the lagoon home.
Blackhead Beach for fun with the kids
Blackhead Beach is a gorgeous beach that’s home to the Te Angiangi Marine Reserve that stretches between Blackhead Beach and Aramoana Beach. You’ll have numerous rock pools to explore with unique marine creatures that appear at low tide. You can swim and fish at Blackhead Beach, but it’s also close to Shelly Bay and Stingray Bay, which offer more chances to swim and snorkel.
Tunnel Beach for wilderness exploration
Surrounded by sea-carved sandstone cliffs, dramatic rock arches and mysterious caves, Tunnel Beach is the best beach for exploring. You can hike to the massive headlands that provide views of the coast and explore the rock tunnels before heading to the secluded and sheltered beach area. Along the way, you may come across fossils and shells to collect with the kids for souvenirs.
Sandfly Bay for family picnics on the beach
Sandfly Bay boasts incredible scenery with coastal rock formations and headlands that give it a remote feel and quiet waters. The beach has sand dunes with walking trails and smooth, wide beach areas for sunbathing, games with the kids and picnics. Many native species live near the beach, including yellow-eyed penguins, sea lions and fur seals.
Taieri Mouth Beach for fishing with the kids
Located in the charming fishing village of Taieri Mouth, Taieri Mouth Beach is a quiet beach that’s nestled between the serene Taieri River and the Pacific Ocean. You can sunbathe and swim in the calm areas or have a beach picnic to enjoy the scenery. Hiking is popular at Taieri Mouth Beach in the gorge and native forests. You can also boat in the river to fish. The landscape provides a habitat for a lot of New Zealand wildlife, including wild pigs and native wood pigeons.