Compared to the arduous Routeburn Track hike a couple of days prior, this is more of a stroll rather than a hike. We’ve moved from Queenstown to the Otago Peninsula for our second week in New Zealand, staying right next to Allans Beach. A fairly remote and wild beach, it’s accessed via a short walk from the end of Allans Beach Road, across a meadow of long grass.
The beach itself has some pretty rough surf, and unless you’re a strong swimmer or competent surfer I’d stay out of the water…
…as the real attraction of the beach is its wildlife. At almost any time of the day, you’re likely to spot a New Zealand fur seal or sea lion.
Sea lions are brown, bark loudly, “walk” on land using their large flippers and have visible ear flaps, while seals have small flippers, wriggle on their bellies on land, and lack visible ear flaps.
We observe a pair of sea lions in the evening, who eventually make their way into the water and swim elegantly away. The New Zealand sea lion population is around 10,000 and it’s considered to be the world’s rarest sea lion species.
Another common Allans Beach resident is the variable oyster catcher, a coastal bird with a long, bright orange bill. It’s a rather vocal bird that makes a loud piping sound as it runs around the beach probing the sand for food.
At the eastern end of the beach, under the overhanging cliffs, is a yellow-eyed penguin nesting area. If you’re lucky, you might see the penguins heading into the ocean at dawn or back to their nests at dusk as they feed their nesting chicks. (We didn’t see any!)
At the western end of the beach, Hoopers Inlet meets the the ocean, with a small stream connecting the two. Compared to the rough surf beach, Hoopers Inlet is a sheltered lagoon that makes a safer swimming spot. On the opposite side of Hoopers Inlet are some of the impressive coastal rock formations at Sandymount, which I explore on the following day
An “aerial view” from Mount Charles gives you a good perspective of Allans Beach and the stream that connects Hoopers Inlet. (I did the walk to the top of Mount Charles a few days earlier, with the permission of Sam and Christine Neill from Allans Beach Farmstay.)
At sunset there’s a great view over Allans Beach from the large dune at the eastern end, which is Covered in pīngao, or golden sand sedge. You can scramble up the back of this vantage point.
To the west is Allans Beach, and Sandymount Recreation Reserve.
Looking east you can see down the Otago Peninsula coastline to Matakitaki Point, part of Cape Saunders. About 250m offshore is Wharekakahu, a small, steep-sided island or stack which is a valuable refuge for indigenous vegetation and bird species.
You can make this into a circular walk by returning via a track through the dunes (near Hoopers Inlet) and back across farmland to Allans Beach Road – but this traverses private land so seek permission first from the nearby Allans Beach Farmstay.
Accommodation near Allans Beach
We stayed at Allans Beach Farmstay, in one of the two rustic cottages. They are basic but comfortable, and just a stone’s throw from Allans Beach in a secluded location. Perfect if you want to escape and get back to nature – but not so convenient if you prefer to eat out, as it’s a 30min drive into Dunedin. There’s a wide range of accommodation in Dunedin and on the Otago Peninsula, which is known for its wildlife.
More information on Allans Beach
- Peter Janssen, Excellent Short Walks in the South Island, p.155
- See The South Island – Allans Beach, Dunedin
- DOC Dunedin walks brochure [PDF]
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