Little River Rail Trail


A disused railway line between Christchurch and Banks Peninsula provides the perfect route for a cycle trail. It passes one of the most important bird habitats in the South Island at Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora.

Distance: 21 km one way

Ride time: 2–3 hours

Route Description

From Christchurch, drive towards Akaroa on Highway 75 for 24 km before turning right down Duck Pond Road. Take the next left down Park Road, following ‘Rail Trail’ signs to Motukarara Station, 1 km away. From the historic Motukarara railway station, a rail trail heads southeast, past Lake Ellesmere and almost all the way to the coast at Birdlings Flat.

It is well worth taking a 1 km diversion to experience the raw Pacific Coastline. Continue on the rail trail as it passes Lake Forsyth and ends at a country road (Wairewa Road) just 400 metres from the centre of Little River. This interesting village has a museum, a gallery, a café and more. The Little River Station is a good place to be picked up from, or, if you are keen, ride back to Motukarara the same way.

Don’t Miss

Trains ran between Little River and Christchurch between 1886 and 1962, and were notoriously slow. It was quicker to bike into town. Bird watchers should not forget their binoculars. Up to 150 bird species have been seen in Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora, and the trail runs right beside it. The was traditionally known by Ngai Tahu as Te Kete Ika o Rakaihautu – the Food Basket of Rakaihautu. There is an interesting Gemstone and Fossil Museum at Birdlings Flat, just 1 km off the rail trail.

Cafes: The famous Blue Duck Café is beside Highway 75, only 1.5 km from Motukarara Station. There are also a couple of excellent cafes in Little River, and an art gallery.

Bike Hire: Try Natural High, phone 0800 444 144,, based in Christchurch.

Nearby Rides

If you don’t mind some road riding you can follow the Little River Rail Trail back towards Christchurch. It passes through Lincoln and Prebbleton before ending beside Shands Road near Hornby. Sections will be taken off-road in future and it will be extended to Hagley Park in Christchurch.

Oysters Couple Salad

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