New Zealand, Dunedin, ‘Feel-good’ Walks

Dunedin’s ‘feel-good’ walks will surprise and delight you! We were astounded how many there are to choose from. These are of course are just a few – there are so many more, which sadly, we didn’t get to explore.  

They are all walks that practically anyone could cope with, from littlies to oldies – even those whose hips are going (that was me!). None of them are longer than a couple of hours. So you will ‘feel good’ afterwards, rather than feel shattered! Many of them are dog-friendly too, so our son’s adorable Golden Labrador, Ivy, accompanied us wherever possible. 

Unfortunately though, St. Clair is the only one that you could do if in a wheelchair. But I hope that all you armchair travellers out there can enjoy them too, through my descriptions and photos. Happily, there are many other walks/trails in South Island NZ that accommodate wheelchairs, which is highly commendable.. 

Summertime is probably best!

We did all Dunedin’s ‘feel-good’ walks described below between the end of December 2022 and early January 2023, which is officially summertime and so we had the bonus of wild flowers. We were also blessed with some truly lovely days, but Dunedin’s weather is rather inconsistent, so some days were less than perfect. But if it is a ‘feel-good’ walk’ it doesn’t really matter does it?  

There is Variety….

I’ve described these as Dunedin’s ‘feel-good’ walks, because in my opinion they are just that in their different ways. A lot of them are beach walks; Aramoana, Smaill’s, Tomahawk, St. Clair’s and Tunnel. Some are more wild and unpopulated than others (those are my best!), but all of them are beautiful in their own way. Then there’s a lakeside walk; Purakaunui, and a loop walk with views overlooking the sea; Lovers’ Leap. 

Getting there

Starting points for all of them are within easy driving distance from the city of Dunedin. I’ve not included maps or lengths of these trails, because everyone these days seems to use Sat Nav, Google Maps, or Waze, so you should have no problem getting to your starting points. Lengths of the walks are also not included, but some signs at the start of the walks give some info.   

Here are our 7 of Dunedin’s ‘Feel-good’ Walks:

1. Smaill’s Beach


We did this walk on Christmas Day – what a fantastic way to start the day. The weather was beautiful too. There were hardly any people about – but a big seal was enjoying a sand bath and a walk on the beach! It’s safe for swimming too. No need for more words – the photos say it all – go and try it for yourselves. Dogs are also allowed; on a leash east of the middle track and off the leash to the west of the track – probably because of the seals? 

2. Aramoana


From the car park, you can walk left along the wild beach, which is what we did. We saw oystercatchers (my photo is not very good – I’ll blame it on bad lighting,,,and bad photography!) and other birds. You might also see seals or maybe even a penguin?!

We saw a Little Blue Penguin on this beach, but sadly it was dead. You may be lucky enough to see a live one? They are the smallest penguins resident to New Zealand and ever so cute! I’ve included a photo of live ones from this website and you can also read about other NZ penguins:

We were amazed at the shells on this beach. We only walked as far as the spectacular rocks you see in the photo. But you could go on for a much longer walk if you feel so inclined – and if the tide is right?

You can also go right from the carpark, along the pier, where you can apparently see plenty of seals. We didn’t do that.

3. St. Clair


This is quite a bustling little suburb of Dunedin. Where you park your car is quite busy as this is where the main beach is where the swimming, surfing and socializing happens. But you can then walk right going ‘out of town’ along the tarred road, where the coast becomes much more wild and rocky. This is what we did. You can also walk left and down onto the beach where you can walk a long way and get far away from the ‘madding crowds’. You can see this in the first photo. The bonus of this beach is that there are places to eat and drink! We had a couple of good meals at The Esplanade, which is situated just as you come onto the main beach road. It gets very busy, so it’s advisable to book if you’re able. 

 4. Tunnel Beach


This is an out and back walk. Check the tides for when you should go. No doggies allowed!

It is called Tunnel Beach for the simple reason that there is a ‘tunnel’ to go through, which takes you onto a beautiful ‘secluded’ beach – well it would have been secluded when it was first created! It was hand-hewn in the 1870’s at the instruction of John Cargill, son of William Cargill, the founder of Otago, allegedly so that the family could have a private place to bathe. There is a  legend too, that one of John’s daughters drowned there, but there is no proof of the truth of this. It was opened to the public in 1983 and not surprisingly, it is a very popular tourist attraction. 

As you can see, one starts at the top of the cliff and it’s quite a way down – and then, of course, this necessitates the climb up again! You can rest on benches to catch you breath – there are a couple of these along the path. But my husband, who isn’t particularly fit, opted not to go all the way down. I did though and I am very glad as it was so worthwhile. We were blessed with a glorious day. Not surprisingly then, It was crowded, but it wasn’t unpleasantly so. 


5 Lover’s Leap (also called Sandymount Recreation Reserve)


This is a circular walk. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on this one.

I absolutely loved this walk, I think one of the reaons being that it felt the wildest. I can’t remember seeing anyone else on the trail. It is probably the longest of all the ones in this blog.  My husband doesn’t do well on steep bits and there were a few of those, but it’s easy to just rest up for a bit and then carry on. The views are spectacular. I loved the variety in it. And we were lucky to have a gorgeous sunny day again. Some interesting and surprising flora and fauna too.

6. Purakaunui


This walk, for us, was an out and back to the right from where we parked the car, and then an out and back to the left. Dogs are welcome apparently, but must be on a leash. We hadn’t taken Ivy because we were planning to go somewhere else and then discovered it was closed, so went on to explore this hidden gem instead!

It’s a bit more of a drive to get there from Dunedin than most of the others in this blog, but so worth it.

The trail to the right winds quite a way along the edge of the lake. Our grandson had a swim in the beautiful clean water in front of a fir tree backdrop. Later, he shimmied like a baboon, up the steep rocky hill on our right – very confident, until he turned around to come down and suddenly it seemed a lot more scary! His Dad went up to steady his nerves and all was well. 

Then we retraced our steps and walked left from where we had parked the car. This part is more forested and has many pretty homes on the slopes on either side of the road. How blessed are they to be living in such an idyllic spot. 

7. Tomahawk


We loved this beach for its wildness and lack of people! The photos again say it all. It is simply a long stretch of beach sandwiched between rocky cliffs at each end. It’s just pristine, clean and lovely. Do it!


So there you have it – just a few of Denedin’s ‘feel-good’ walks! Do them for real (how lucky were we and how lucky you are if you can!), or simply enjoy from the comfort of your armchair!

If you are wanting to explore a bit more of South Island New Zealand, I have also posted a blog about the 8 day tour that my husband and I did in January 2023, which you might find informative and helfpul. It includes many of the prime destinations and attractions of South Island:…-8-day-road-trip/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.