What I have always found slightly confusing about Tunnel Beach is that it is there at all. As spectacular and interesting as Tunnel Beach is, it is hard to imagine the Cargill children getting excited by a visit. Let me explain. Tunnel Beach was commissioned to be built for John Cargill and his family in the 1870s. This was so that his family could visit a private beach, away from the ‘peeping’ eyes of the general public. To me, this is where the confusion starts to happen. To get to the beach his family would have had to go by either foot, cart or horse alongside the high, steep cliffs, which couldn’t have been a pleasant trip. The beach is shaded by the sun from the steep cliffs and is small and rocky with a small low tide window. Hardly a place you could spend all afternoon at while the kids built sandcastles! So, somehow I can’t imagine the Cargill children leaping with joy when their father would announce they are ‘going to the beach’ for the day.
According to Local legend, Tunnel Beach is the scene of a tragic drowning. The story goes that after John Cargill made the private beach for his family, one of his daughters drowned there on her sixteenth birthday at high tide. Overcome with grief, John Cargill was so heartbroken that he left New Zealand and never returned. However, there are no sources to prove this story is true.