Near Little River, on the Christchurch - Little River Railtrail

Image: Laura Honey | DOC


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


On the 20 km section between Motukarara and Little River, the Railtrail 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 which 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.

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.


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 44 km-long Christchurch to Little River Railtrail runs from Hornby in Christchurch to Little River on Banks Peninsula. This route follows much of the old railway line that was last used in the 1960s and has gentle easy grades. See updates on the Little River Railtrail website.

The 20 km section of the walkway/cycleway that runs between Motukarara and Little River travels on the old preserved railway embankment. 

The section between Prebbleton and Lincoln (7 km)  is an offroad track adjacent to the old railway line that runs alongside Birchs Road.  

The Hornby (Christchurch) to Prebbleton section (3.5 km) is an offroad track that runs alongside Shands and Marshes Rds before following the railway corridor into Prebbleton.

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 into the railtrail, 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

  • As much of the trail passes through farmland and important wildlife areas, horses are strictly forbidden on the Railtrail, and dogs are not allowed on the Motukarara to Little River section.
  • The railtrail is very exposed to bad weather. Be prepared.
  • Some sections still 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. 
  • The easy grade makes this walk or ride suitable for young children and family groups.
  • Public toilets are available at Motukarara, Ataahua, Birdlings Flat, Cantons Bay, and Little River.


Ōtautahi / Christchurch Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 379 4082
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   28 Worcester Boulevard
Christchurch 8013
Postal Address:   Private Bag 11089
Christchurch 8443
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