Near Little River, on the Christchurch - Little River Railtrail

Image: Laura Honey | DOC


The whole 44 km-long walkway and cycleway runs from Hornby in Christchurch to Little River on Banks Peninsula. Easy grades makes this walk or ride suitable for young children and family groups.


The rail trail route follows much of the old railway line that was last used in the 1960s and has gentle easy grades. See a description, maps and updates on the Little River Rail Trail website.


Track overview

20 km one way

Walking and tramping

Easy: Walking track

Mountain biking

Easiest: Grade 1

Dog access

No dogs

About this track


The 20 km section of the walkway/cycleway runs between Motukarara and Little River travels on the old preserved railway embankment. The trail runs alongside both Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) and Te Roto o Wairewa (Lake Forsyth).

The railway embankment is raised above both lakes and adjoining wetlands. This offers magnificent views of the bodies of water, the distant Southern Alps, and also the prolific birdlife. There are 166 species of birds recorded on Te Waihora, including 133 indigenous species. With up to 98,000 birds on the lake at one time - there is always something interesting to see!

  • Neills Rd to Motukarara (6km) is an offroad track that mostly runs adjacent to the Halswell Canal.
  • The section between Lincoln to Neills Rd (9.3km) is still under development but follows Edward Street, Ellesmere Road and River Road.
  • The section between Prebbleton and Lincoln (7km) is an offroad track adjacent to the old railway line that runs alongside Birchs Road.  
  • The Hornby (Christchurch) to Prebbleton section (3.5km) is an offroad track that runs alongside Shands and Marshes Rds before following the railway corridor into Prebbleton.

The trail passes the Kaituna Quarry Reserve, the Kaituna Lagoon and  Kaitorete Spit, the largest landform of its type in New Zealand. There is significant natural, cultural and historical interest along this section of the route. A small brick building near the Kaituna Quarry was used to store explosives, and there are the concrete remains of a WWII radar station near the lake edge.

The original Motukarara station was restored and relocated on to the trail at the Fiddlers Road entrance by the Lincoln Rotary Club, who were also responsible for landscaping the Station area.

Mountain biking

This is a shared-use track. Follow the mountain bikers code: respect others, respect the rules, respect the track.

Getting there

There are a number of entry points onto the rail trail, accessed off the Christchurch to Akaroa highway.

Toilets and parking are available at Prebbleton, Lincoln, Motukarara, Ataahua, Birdlings Flat, Cantons Bay, and Little River.

Know before you go

  • The rail trail is built around a historic railway, take care around relics and past infrastructure.
  • The trail goes through some active farmland so be aware of stock (mainly sheep) and stay on the track. Do not leave any gates open.
  • The trail is exposed and the weather can change quickly. Check weather forecasts and be prepared.
  • Horses are strictly forbidden on the Railtrail, and dogs are not allowed on the Motukarara to Little River section.
  • Some sections involve cycling on roads.
  • In summer clouds of lake flies can be an issue. Riders are advised to protect their eyes with sun glasses.
  • Carry drinking water with you as none is available on this track. 
  • Public toilets are available at Motukarara, Ataahua, Birdlings Flat, Cantons Bay, and Little River.
  • This is a shared-use track. Follow the mountain bikers code: respect others, respect the rules, respect the track.


Ōtautahi / Christchurch Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 379 4082
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   31 Nga Mahi Road, Sockburn
Christchurch 8042
Postal Address:   Private Bag 11089
Christchurch 8042
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