“An epic sand dune descent to a wildlife-packed beach.
— Almonzo Wilder
Sandfly Bay is home to a wild and beautiful beach that is a great spot for wildlife viewing. The run to the beach descends an immense sand dune that begs to be run, rolled, or somersaulted down. The beach at the bottom can be explored in either direction before the long run back up through the dunes.
From the Sandymount carpark, look for the signed track to Sandfly Bay. The trail initially descends through flax and grass on a good trail. Shortly the trail reaches the top of a sand chute that becomes a massive dune below. Orange-topped poles mark the way, which essentially goes straight down the immense pile of sand. Heading down this giant dune is tremendous fun, with the soft sand blown into interesting patterns to admire. Near the bottom of the dune, the slope flattens a bit and a line of barrier dunes protects the beach. Follow the poles through these last dunes to the beach below.
Watch for wildlife on Sandfly Beach and give sea lions and fur seals at least 10 meters of space. After enjoying the beach, which can be walked to either end of the bay, you have to slog your way back up the dune to get back to the car.
Sandfly Bay is a great place to see wildlife. This is one of the few spots on the South Island where New Zealand Sea Lions can regularly be found, usually lounging on the beach or in the dunes. Smaller Fur Seals are often on the rocks at either end of the beach. Sandfly Bay is also home to Yellow-eyed Penguins, which typically come ashore in the evening. There is a viewing blind in the dunes at the east end of the beach to facilitate viewing. These shy birds are much less likely to swim to the beach if they sense humans are present.