Trail Sections

Check out our Little River Rail Trail brochure

Christchurch to Prebbleton

Section Distance: 4km

Fitness level and Skill: Easy

This section of the Railtrail, opened in September 2009, starts about 400 m south of the Shands Road/Halswell Junction Road intersection on Shands Road where a small car park is available.


With the extension of the Southern Motorway a route from Cathedral Square to Marsh's Road is open. The route uses the Little River Link cycleway established by Christchurch City Council.

Prebbleton to Lincoln

Section Distance: 7.7km

Fitness level and Skill: Easy

This section of the Rail Trail, which opened in November 2006, starts at the Birchs Road/Trices Road intersection and is a seven kilometer off-road ashphalt pathway alongside Birchs Road to the township of Lincoln. It runs alongside the original railway line through pleasant rural surroundings and is wide enough to enable cycling in both directions. 

Public Toilets are at the Prebbleton Reserve (by the children's playground) and Lincoln. Visit the Prebbleton Nature Park on Springs Road.
For those driving to Prebbleton there is adequate parking along Birchs Road between Springs Road and Trices Road or alternatively at the Prebbleton Reserve.

Lincoln to Neills Road

Section Distance: 9.3km

Fitness level and Skill: Easy

From Lincoln the route follows Edward Street before entering Liffey Spring Drive and emerging into the wetland areas. From the wetland areas the trail exits onto Moirs Lane before crossing Ellesmere Road and after a short off road section joins Collins Road East. From Collins Road East the trail joins River Road with this section of trail being on road. This is a rural road and safety is encouraged.

Neills Road to Motokarara

Section Distance: 6km

Fitness level and Skill: Easy

This section of the trail is off-road and the surface is hardpacked gravel. The route is adjacent to the Halswell Canal but deviates away onto farmland for a approximately 1.7 kilometers to reduce the impact of disturbance on the visiting bird life. The bird life will be a key attraction of this unique wetland area. The Waihora Ellesmere Trust (WET), Rail Trail Trust and Environment Canterbury are working together to develop a planting plan, that will enhance the wetland for wildlife, and provide interpretation signage to promote the importance of this wetland ecosystem and inform Railtrail users of its sensitivity and value to the environment.

Motukarara to birdlings flat

Section Distance: 13.3km

Fitness level and Skill: Easy

This section, plus most of the section between Birdlings Flat and Little River, were the first to be opened to the public in May 2006. The Railtrail, from Motukarara, is on public land managed by the Department of Conservation (DoC). The area is also pursuant to a unique Management Plan administered by the Te Waihora Management Board (Department of Conservation and Ngai Tahu).

Most of this section of the Railtrail runs alongside Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere), where the railway embankment is raised above the lake and adjoining wetlands, affording magnificent views of the surroundings and the prolific birdlife.

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. Kaituna Valley and Kaituna Lagoon are of particular importance to many Canterbury Papatipu Runanga.

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.

At the Ataahua Reserve (Kaituna Quarry) the car park and landscaping were provided by the Hornby Rotary Club. The car park is accessed directly from State Highway 75. DoC has installed a toilet on the approach path between the Railtrail and the Kaituna car park.

Birdlings Flat to Little River

Section Distance: 9.7km

Fitness level and Skill: Easy

This section traverses along the old railway embankment until closer to the Little River township. In places where the old railway ballast is loose, a new surface of compacted gravel was installed.

In 2009 the Christchurch City Council (CCC) extended the Railtrail to Kinloch Rd, a few hundred meters from the Little River township. In the long-term the CCC will complete the Railtrail and it will finish opposite the Little River Railway Station (now an information and craft centre) in the township.

Much of this section travels beside Te Roto o Wairewa (Lake Forsyth). The Wairewa Runanga is developing a Mahinga Kai Cultural Park in this area and has established the Takuahi Research and Development Company to oversee this work. This group has been the lead organisation in the development of this section of the Railtrail.

There are toilets at Catons Bay and in the Little River township.