The proud Scottish heritage of Dunedin city points to the hardy breed of pioneers who worked the land and triumphed over adversity.
Today rugged, slow-talking, ‘Southern Man’ types show similar fortitude in conquering ‘giant-killer’ surf breaks in the deep south, both summer and winter. Southerly winds off the Antarctic iceshelf drive the huge swells that sweep in from the Southern Ocean.
Fortuitously, these gnarly monsters wrap around rugged headlands and roll into some Otago Peninsula bays as perfectly formed tunnel waves. You have a choice of over 40 breaks within a one hour drive of the city. For those who brave the sharp winds and chilly waters, this coast can deliver the best surfing in the South Island. You just need to be outfitted in a complete neoprene wardrobe to survive.
St Clair is Dunedin’s main beach where most swimmers and surfers hang out. Large sandbanks produce good beach breaks in swells up to 2 metres. The right-hand point break works well if big southerly swells coincide with high tides and strong winds. On a good day St Clair beach can produce matchless hollow waves. St Kilda, just north of St Clair has heavy beach breaks as well. Be aware that both these beaches have recorded great white shark activity.
Fast, hollow and powerful beach and point breaks can be found down the south coast including Brighton (19 kms south of Dunedin). These and numerous other breaks work consistently in the summer months when continuous swells carry in cold, clear and clean waves.
North of St Clair are several good beach breaks such as Allans Beach, Sandfly Bay and Smails Beach. Across the harbour entrance is Aramoana Spit, where The Mole breakwater acts as a stepping off point for the excellent peeling waves running parallel to it.
Murderers Bay (25 kms north of Dunedin) is reached via Port Chalmers and will give you a thrilling ride on a right-hand point break in 1 metre swells from the north-east. Further north are good breaks at Warrington, and Karitane Point.