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Waikawau beach & tunnel: an odd, quirky entrance to a North Island beach

  • 3 minutes

Waikato, North Island

Visited the Waitomo Caves and wonder what else there is to do nearby. Click on the handy map route and find a tunnel that leads you to a wild remote beach.

Waikawau Bay Beach sunrise, Coromandel, North Island, New Zealand
Waikawau Bay Beach sunrise, New Zealand

Waikawau beach – highlights

  • Walk through a tunnel originally cut for cattle to transverse the beach as a short cut to pasture
  • Look for evidence of pick marks on the tunnel walls. The tunnel was excavated by hand
  • Explore a wild remote west coast beach, raw with atmosphere in spades
  • The tunnel opens to iron black sands, sandstone eroded cliffs, piles of driftwood and the constant surge of the sea relentlessnessly pounding the sand

Difficulty: Easy MUST bring: Tide chart

Waikawau tunnel story

The tunnel was constructed in 1911 by three employees of the Works Department to allow the pastoral lease, Nukuhakari Station access to the beach to move stock along the beach as land access was difficult (hills, ravines).

The men’s equipment to excavate the tunnel were picks and shovels. Look carefully at the dripping walls for marks of picks and wonder at the sheer effort involved. Government records for the workers Jim Scott, Charlie Christofferson and Bert Perrett are scarce. Due to the difficulty of the work they were housed in temporary accommodation (built by the employees nearby). The tunnel is 80 metres in length.

The tunnel was constructed with picks and shovels by Jim Richard Scott, Charlie Christofferson and Bert Perrett. They were all employees of the Government Works Department. It was excavated wide enough for the widest horned beast and tall enough for the tallest horseman.

Once the tunnel was completed, stocks were driven to the beach and up the coast.

Waikawau tunnel @AR Live Coverage

The floor can be wet and muddy due to condensation on the tunnel roof and walls. You do not need a torch as the tunnel is 80 metres in length.


The cliffs are wind and weather beaten with crumbling rocks littering the beach. Care is needed and do not get too close to the cliff faces.  The beach is only accessible at low tide. High tides bring the surf close to the eroding cliff faces.

Getting to Waikawau Tunnel and Beach from Marokopa

34km, 1 hour winding, narrow gravel road

Waikawau beach hand cut tunnel provides public access to the coastline between Marokopa and Awakino. Waikawau Beach is signposted on the unsealed Waikawau Beach Road. The road has a number of hair pin bends (very tight corners). Be careful of wild goats grazing or even stock animals. There is parking and a compostable toilet by the tunnel entrance.

At the roadside tunnel entrance are dunes and streams to explore while waiting for low tide.


Remember to check out Waikato Regional Guide for more ideas what to do and see, lace up the hiking boots and enjoy the Waikato.

Marokopa Falls on North Island New Zealand
Marokopa Falls on North Island New Zealand

What to do nearby Waikawau Beach

Explore nearby Waikawau Beach, Marokopa & the best things to do. Find the Mangapohue Natural Bridge for a fascinating glimpse into odd geological formations.


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