Tumbledown Bay

Summer is in full swing here in Christchurch. We’ve had several days in the high 20s and I’ve never been more thankful for the discovery that heat pumps also blow cold air. This weekend I took full advantage of my last moments of funemployment and did what every Kiwi does when the weather gets above 27…hit the beach.

The beaches around Christchurch are packed on a hot day. Luckily I’m friends with a few locals who knew about a great spot just an hour South towards Akaroa called Tumbledown Bay. Getting there is pretty much a straight shot, turn left just before hitting the town of Little River and follow the windy road up and over the hill til’ you see the beach.

We stopped in Little River for an ice cream and let me you, New Zealand produces some damn fine ice cream. While my friends were getting excited about the Ben & Jerry’s cups that have finally made their way this far South, I was partaking in a boysenberry cheesecake cone. Boysenberry is a popular flavor in New Zealand and I have yet to find an iteration that doesn’t make my tastebuds want to cry tears of joy.


The drive to the beach was, for lack of a better word, stunning. Before leaving the city, I’d asked if the drive down would be scenic – I’d had a late night the day before and was weighing the pros and cons of a nap. I’m starting to realize many people who’ve grown up here don’t even realize how mind-bogglingly beautiful this landscape is to an outsider. They said not particularly and I beg to differ! I was too busy taking in the countryside to take a ton of photos but here are a few from the road on the way down to the parking lot. Pictures don’t even do it justice.

The beach itself is tucked into the bay, protected from the gusting wind. For almost half a mile, the water is shallow and warm from the sun. While we were hanging out in the water, seals were sunbathing on the rocks and occasionally joined us for a swim. Birds of all sizes were swirling overhead searching for their fish dinners. Someone even saw a dolphin further out.

My friends thought this beach was crowded. Maybe I’m still operating under U.S. standards but I thought they were nuts. When we arrived around 1:00pm there were cars in the parking lot but we found a spot straight away. There were huge chunks of unoccupied sand to lay our blankets on and not a single pre-teen was blasting obnoxious pop hits through a travel speaker. It was paradise.

Pro Tip: If you think you’ve applied enough sunscreen, you haven’t. Reapply. The UV Index in New Zealand is crazy high because the hole in the ozone sits just above it. I wouldn’t use anything less than SPF 50 and reapply every couple of hours. 

Even the walk to and from the carpark was picturesque. Beach access requires an easy walk through a paddock. As you walk down to the water sheep are in the fields and surrounding hills, munching on tall grass in every direction. The bar has been set very high for my New Zealand beach experience.

The next time I’m back, I’ll be sure to bring some fish and chips. Apparently, it’s a Kiwi staple not to be missed.

Summers here are fleeting so I’m planning to take advantage of this warm weather while it lasts. Let me know of any other South Island beaches to check out before the swimming togs head back into storage!

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