Tunnel Beach, Dunedin: Selfie-taking tourists take crazy risks at a tourist hotspot

Signs, a barrier and even a forest ranger are not enough to make hordes of tourists taking selfie compete for that perfect holiday snap.

Every year more than 100,000 people visit Dunedin’s Tunnel Beach, with the area popular because of its dramatic cliffs, windy vistas and secluded beach reached through a tunnel carved in the 1870s.


But the photo opportunity that it offers has cost its costs.

Nataliia Bodnar / delivered

Tourist Nataliia Bodnar poses for a photo at Dunedin’s Tunnel Beach.

In 2018, a German backpacker broke her leg on a cliff edge and closely avoided a fall of 20 meters. Her injuries caused a dramatic rescue.

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The area was too windy for a helicopter, so a dozen firefighters saved her.

Soltice Morrison / delivered

An Instagram-worthy recording of Soltice Morrison on Tunnel Beach, Dunedin.

“Everyone has been so wonderful,” Johanna Langner Stuff told from her bed at Dunedin Hospital in November 2018.

A month after the incident, the Department of Conservation installed a 120-meter barrier, an addition to the 22-meter barrier that was already on the site.

Craig Wilson, operations manager of DOC on the coast, said a new sign at the entrance to the track warned of significant fall hazards.


French backpacker Morgan Goaziou, left, with friend Apolline Meghan Djn, on Tunnel Beach in 2019

Another ten warning signs along the barrier at 10m places were also installed.

And another sign went to the entrance to the tunnel, built 150 years ago, with a warning of wave and tidal danger and slippery surfaces.

But despite all those signs, visitors don’t seem aware.


Tourist Nataliia Bodnar poses for a photo at Dunedin’s Tunnel Beach.

On Sunday, dozens of tourists were seen climbing the ankle-high barriers to take selfies through the dramatic cliffs.

A search on Instagram reveals hundreds of similar selfies and photos, including some people doing handstands and yoga postures near the edge where Langner fell.

Wilson said that people were ultimately responsible for their own safety.

Hamish McNeilly / Stuff

Visitors to Dunedin’s Tunnel Beach ignore a barrier fence and signs to take pictures near a cliff edge.

“We recommend that people stay safe and stay behind the barriers, but we cannot prevent people from putting themselves at risk by stepping past the barriers and warning signs.

“Unfortunately, when people venture outside the barriers, this encourages other visitors to do the same and because of the challenging nature of the site when people injure themselves outside the barriers can put rescuers in a dangerous position.”

As part of a partnership between DOC and the Dunedin City Council, three community rangers have been deployed to provide information to visitors, including appropriate behavior on reserves and beaches, information on native wildlife and managing visitor pressure at key locations.


A German tourist was rescued after falling on Dunedin’s Tunnel Beach in 2018.

The program, now in its second year and running between peak tourism from December to the end of April, included Tunnel Beach.

Wilson said an evaluation of the site’s management, started in 2018, due to the large increase in visitors to the area.

Around 112,000 people visited the site between July 2017 and June 2018.

Hamish McNeilly / Stuff

Johanna Langner in the Dunedin hospital, after a rescue on a cliff in Tunnel Beach at the end of 2018.

Late last year, Stuff travel writer named Brook Sabin Tunnel Beach as the best hidden beach in New Zealand.

“Tunnel Beach is certainly not a hidden gem for people in the deep south, but the further you get into the country, the fewer people become aware of the remarkable beauty and incredible history,” Sabin wrote.

Meanwhile, Wilson urged all visitors across the country to be prepared, including planning their trip, packing the right equipment, and checking the weather conditions well in advance.


Tunnel Beach is a must-visit hidden miracle where a short lane and tunnel leads to a secluded beach.


Tunnel Beach has a beautiful waterfall.


Walk a little further down the path and you will see a hidden tunnel to access the beach.