IntroductionThe whole 46 km-long walkway and cycleway runs from Hornby in Christchurch to Little River on Banks Peninsula. The Motukarara to Little River section described here covers 20 km.
Easy grades makes this walk or ride suitable for young children and family groups.
Motukarara to Little River Description
This part of the track is on an old preserved railway embankment. The trail runs alongside both Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) and Te Roto o Wairewa (Lake Forsyth). The entire track is almost flat.
Beginning at the restored Motukarara Railway Station, the trail follows the line of the old railway through open paddocks. Near lakes Ellesmere and Forsyth the trail is on a raised embankment above both lakes and adjoining wetlands.
This offers easy walking or biking as well as magnificent views of the bodies of water, the distant Southern Alps, and also a good deal of 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.
The trail passes the Kaituna Quarry Reserve, the Kaituna Lagoon and Kaitorete Spit, the largest landform of its type in New Zealand.
Birdlings flat detour
Here there is a short detour to Birdlings Flat, where you can search the pebbly beach for small agates and rocks smoothed by the action of the sea. There are many features of 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 to explore.
Back on the track
Contininuing on the track there is Lake Forsyth and a picnci spot at Catons Bay. After this there's a short on road section just before Little River. Take care when crossing the road here.
The township of Little River offers a craft and information centre, pub, cafe, gallery and accommodation.
The original Motukarara station was restored and relocated on to the trail at the Fiddlers Road entrance by the Lincoln Rotary Club. This club was also responsible for landscaping the Station area.
Christchurch to Motukarara
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 for the rail trail on the Little River Rail Trail website.
This 26 km section is not maintained by DOC. It passes through rural areas and settlements on the Canterbury plains.
The Hornby (Christchurch) to Prebbleton section (3.5k m) is an off-road track that runs alongside Shands Rd and Marshes Rd. it then follows the railway corridor into Prebbleton.
The section between Prebbleton and Lincoln (7 km) is an off-road track adjacent to the old railway line that runs alongside Birchs Rd.
The section between Lincoln and Neills Rd (9.3 km) is still under development but follows Edward St, Ellesmere Rd and River Rd.
Neills Rd to Motukarara (6 km) is an off-road track that mostly runs adjacent to the Halswell Canal.
This is a shared-use track. Follow the mountain bikers code: respect others, respect the rules, respect the track.
There are a number of entry points onto the rail trail. The rail trail can be accessed off the Christchurch to Akaroa highway.
Toilets and parking are available at:
- Birdlings Flat
- Cantons Bay, and
- Little River.
- 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.
- No drinking water 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.