Avonhead Gardens

Download files of the track for your GPS or smartphone gpx kml

The Avonhead Gardens leg of the Christchurch 360 Trail runs from Mcleans Island Rd to Riccarton Bush via the grasslands and the suburbs of Burnside, Avonhead and Ilam.   

Description of Route

You can find a Google Map of the route here.

The track is 27.3 km long between McLeans Island and Riccarton Bush, and will take a typical walker around 7 – 8 hours. 

The segment starts at the marker in McLeans Island Forest.  Using the Gordon Reid Track, walk eastward.  Cross the McLeans Island Golf Club access road, and continue walking eastward.  Turn hard right, walk southward down a gravel road towards McLeans Island Road. 

Cross McLeans Island Road, over a stile onto a gravel road, continue south.  At the turn in the gravel road, cross over the stile, and follow signage and stiles with the bund to the left and the fenceline to the right.  Turn sharp right, follow the fenceline, then sharp left.   At the end of the paddock, turn left.  More stiles and a water race come into view.  Cross over the water race by the culvert and continue in easterly direction across the grasslands to Conservators Rd.  When you reach the road, turn right and inside the paddock, walk parallel with Conservators Rd.  After the power pylon, cross Conservators Rd, using the stiles.

Trail Members walk the grasslands

Continue easterly across grasslands heading for the fenced conservation area.   Veer southwards, over a dry waterbed walking around the paddock to a fenced conservation area.  Turn left here, then left again at the end of the conservation area.  Head north towards the power lines, veer right at the fenceline & stile towards the bend in McLeans Island Rd.

Follow McLeans Island Rd, ignore Pound Rd, heading eastwards to the junction of State Highway 1 (approx. 4.5 km).   You walk around the top of Christchurch Airport. 

Follow SH1 southwards to Raeward Fresh on the right.  Cross under SH1 using the underpass at the roundabout emerging beside St James Church on Whitchurch Rd .  Turn right onto Waimakariri Road, left onto Harewood Road and, at the junction with Woolridge Rd, cross over into Nunweek Park. 

Walk diagonally across in a southerly direction heading towards the hockey fields.  Turn into narrow access area which leads into Wairakei Reserve.  At the end of the reserve, cross Wairakei Road and into Abross Place.  Enter Nepal Reserve, following footpath southwards.  Exit the reserve, continue south down Nepal Place.  At the junction with Everest St, turn right and follow Everest St to Whitby St.  Turn right through to Deepdale Street.  Turn left to follow Deepdale Street which becomes Burnside Crescent  Turn right into Winslow St, then left into Roydvale Avenue.  Cross Memorial Avenue, walk through Burnside Park parallel with Roydvale Avenue.  At the end of this avenue turn right onto Avonhead Road, then  left onto Hawthornden Rd.  At Westgrove Avenue turn right and follow this avenue to its junction with Merrin St.  Turn right at Merrin St which meets Hawthornden Rd again.  Turn left , then turn right (second entrance) into Avonhead Park.  Follow the path through the park.  Turn right onto a narrow exit reserve and between two houses access onto Arundel Gate.    Turn left onto Hatfield Place, then right onto Kedleston Drive.  At Apsley Drive, turn right.  Just past Tavistock Place, cross Apsley Drive to enter Crosbie Park.   Follow pathway, past public toilets on the left, exiting the park onto Woodbury St.  Turn left onto Staveley Street at the Withells Rd roundabout. 

Follow Staveley Street, past shops on your left, to Avonhead Road where you turn right.  At the junction with Parkstone Avenue, turn left and continue down to an alleyway between houses 31 and 33, then turn right.  Cross Ilam Stream and follow the pathway, with the stream on your left, out to Corfe Street, Turn left at Corfe St, left again into Brodie Street.  After the junction with Athol Terrace, cross Brodie into Peer Reserve and follow the footpath to Peer Street.  Turn left onto Peer St, and cross at the signalised crossing (signs at the crossing).

On the other side, Peer Street becomes Waimairi Road.  Keep going ahead on Waimairi Rd, with College House on the right.  Turn right at the first driveway, which will take you to University Fields.  Signs pointing right will take you down to a small path along the Ilam Stream and meander through the Ilam Gardens.  Eventually you will end up at Ilam Rd. Turn left onto Ilam Road, cross at the signalled crossing.  Continue going left, with the University on your right, crossing Science Rd, heading towards #114 Ilam Road (Security Building).  Signs take you right onto a small lane and then into various buildings of the University.  It is well signposted, so keep looking for our trail signs.


Ilam rhododendrons in spring

You will end up on Arts Road, turn right alongside the main University Car Park between Arts Road and University Drive.  Find the University Directory at the end of the walkway, look towards Clyde Road. Signs are visible on the walkway that goes diagonally towards Clyde Road. Turn right on Clyde Road.

Continue down Clyde Rd to the crossing point near Hinau Street. Follow Hinau St to Miro St. Go down Miro St to Totara St. Turn left on Totara St to the end of the road, and right into Ngahere St. At the end of Ngahere St is an entrance into Riccarton Bush and Riccarton House.

Follow the path into Riccarton Bush toward Riccarton House. On your right you will see an historic cottage, the oldest building on the Canterbury Plains. A path branches off to the right here, to the fenced off part of Riccarton Bush. This reserve is protected by predator-proof fencing to keep out mammals that prey on the native wildlife. Follow the path to do a loop through Riccarton Bush. You will enter and exit via a double-interlocked-door system that forms part of the predator defenses.

On leaving the fenced part of Riccarton Bush, return to the path alongside the Ilam Stream. You will pass the historical Riccarton House. Continue down the driveway’s avenue of trees to the gate on Kahu Rd. Turn right into Kahu Rd, then right into Titoki St, where this leg of the Christchurch 360 Trail ends.

Download these route directions here.

Access Points

You need not tackle the entire leg in one go, if you do not have the time or the strength. Much of the Avonhead Gardens leg runs closely to the road network, and there are several places where you will be able to park up and start the walk at intermediate points.

Here are a number of natural segments for the walk, with approximate walking times between these points.

Start: There is residential street parking in Chesterfield Mews and Karnak Crescent.

1.2km 35 mins

Crosbie Park: There is a carpark inside Crosbie Park, off Cutts Rd.

2km 50 mins

Corfe Reserve: Park in the residential streets Corfe St or Parkstone Ave.

2.3km 65 mins

Canterbury University: There is public carparking off University Drive.

2.8km 1 hour 10 mins

End: There are car parks in Rimu Street adjacent to Riccarton Bush Park, and residential street parking in Ngahere St.


Route Options


Things to see

You can find a Google Map of Things To See here.

McLeans Grassland Park

The dry, shallow waterways are a reminder of when the Waimakariri River flowed across the area unconstrained. (See also Waimakariri Braids section.) The holes in the banks of the waterways reveal the presence of rabbits. Introduced to New Zealand for both food and sport as early as the 1830s, they bred much more prolifically than in Europe and the first of several rabbit plagues occurred in the 1870s. As a result, rabbits have cost New Zealand many millions of dollars through the direct cost of controlling them and the loss of production from farms. In some of the drier parts of the South Island, the vegetation grazed by rabbits has never recovered. Attempts at control have included predation (ferrets, stoats and weasels), hunting, trapping and poisoning.There are also small fenced areas across the reserve, protecting the natural vegetation, including native broom (Carmichaelia australis), one of the shrubs adapted to the shallow and stony soils.

McLeans grasslands: native broom

McLeans grasslands: native broom

Avonhead Park

At the end of Chesterfield Mews, there is an access path into Avonhead Park. The trail resumes beneath high voltage power lines, which are part of Christchurch power distributor Orion’s network, transmitting electricity from national grid operator Transpower’s sub-station at Islington through to Bishopdale. Beside the path, there is a swale that is the start of one of the tributaries that forms the Avon / Ōtākaro River.

Crosbie Park

Named for the Crosbie sisters, Agnes (1851-1933) and Jane (1854?-1936), both dressmakers, who, in 1894, bought a small farm of 30 acres including what is now the park. Along the Burnside Road (now Memorial Avenue) frontage of their farm they planted 200 trees and shrubs. Today the park features an attractive mix of exotic and native trees. Wandering through the park, and crossed by a bridge, is a small stream, being a tributary of Ilam Stream, which after subsequently going underground and re-emerging, joins the Avon River at Ilam Gardens (see below, Ilam Gardens).

Source of the Avon / Ōtākaro

Spring-fed but initially piped underground, the Avon River emerges into a narrow creek about a metre wide in a suburban backyard on Nortons Road in Avonhead. It then winds through a couple of backyards before passing beneath Balrudry Street. The stream can be seen along the trail by taking a short side trip down Balrudry Street to number 41 – turn right off Staveley Road after passing Staveley Park and Nortons Road.Although in a straight line from here to the estuary is only 14 kilometres, the river actually meanders for nearly 26 kilometres through Hagley Park, central Christchurch and the eastern suburbs to where it enters the estuary at Bexley. The name was officially altered to Avon River / Ōtākaro by the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998.


Autumn colours, Parkstone Avenue

Teachers College

At the junction of Parkstone Avenue and Solway Street, on the NE corner, is what was the Christchurch Teachers College, now the University of Canterbury College of Education, Health and Human Development. Beginning as what was called a training school, it was founded in 1877 and became a teacher’s college in the early 1900s. From 1930 it was located in the central city in what became the Peterborough Centre in Peterborough Street. By the 1980s, teacher’s colleges had become colleges of education and in the 21st Century have merged with the relevant university. As with the University as a whole, see below University of Canterbury, the Teacher’s College re-located to Ilam, completing its move in 1975.

Corfe Reserve

Opposite the junction with Solway Street is the entrance to Corfe Reserve. The trail crosses the Avon River, now a free-flowing stream between two and three metres wide, to emerge on Corfe Street,  named for Charles Corfe (1847-1935), headmaster of Christ’s College 1872-88.

College House / Bishop Julius Hall

At the crossing point on Waimairi Road, one is confronted by the austere white and grey of College House. From 1873, College House, at that time located in the city centre, became a residential hall for students of the University of Canterbury and from 1882 was at the corner of Rolleston Avenue and Cashel Street. When the university moved to Ilam, College House followed suit, moving to the Warren and Mahoney designed building in 1966.

[Archive: Up to August 2020, the trail then turned right and at the corner of Waimairi Road and Homestead Lane went past Bishop Julius Hall. The Hall was founded as a result of the vision of Bishop Churchill Julius, the second Anglican Bishop of Christchurch. On the 23 August 1917, what was known as “The Bishop’s Hostel” came into being for young women bent on teaching and university work. In 1924 the hostel moved to 10 Cranmer Square, and in 1974 the Hall moved to Ilam. The first “guests”, in January 1974, were Commonwealth Games competitors. The hall also included male students from 1993.]

Ilam Gardens

However, after crossing Waimairi Road, the trail now goes left and soon turns into the Ilam playing fields and from their SW corner enters the Ilam Gardens. These were established in conjunction with Ilam Homestead. This two-storey house can be seen across the Avon partway along the meandering trail through the native forest section of the gardens. Ilam was named by John Watts-Russell (1826-1875) for Ilam Hall in Staffordshire, England, his birthplace. Watts-Russell came to Canterbury in 1850, and purchased 500 acres at Riccarton. In 1858 he built the lower storey of the house. After a succession of owners it burnt down in 1910 and was rebuilt by Edgar Stead, a distinguished horticulturist and ornithologist. Stead established the world-renowned azalea and rhododendron gardens. When he sold Ilam to Canterbury College in 1950 he requested that the gardens be maintained in perpetuity. Ilam Homestead then became the home of the Rector (nowadays Vice-Chancellor) of Canterbury College. After further reconstruction, it was opened, in March 1971, for the use of the University Staff Club.


Ilam rhododendrons in spring

[Archive: Ngaio Marsh Theatre

Emerging onto Ilam Road the trail, up to August 2020, crossed the road and unofficially went via University Drive, passing on one’s right the University of Canterbury Students’ Association building, incorporating the Ngaio Marsh Theatre. The original students’ association/theatre complex was demolished following the 2011 earthquakes, and has since been rebuilt. The theatre is named in honour of Dame Ngaio Marsh (1895-1982), New Zealand’s most famous crime fiction writer. Dame Ngaio also, from 1942 until 1969, directed many productions of the university’s Drama Society (now Dramatic Society), and mentored many actors.]

University of Canterbury main campus

The trail now turns left on entering Ilam Road and crosses some 100 metres or son to the north to enter the campus grounds beside Okeover Stream.

The university was founded in 1873 as Canterbury College, the first constituent college of the University of New Zealand. Its original campus was in the central city, but in 1961 when it became an independent university it also began moving out of its original neo-gothic buildings, which were re-purposed as the Christchurch Arts Centre. The move to Ilam was completed on 1 May 1975. As of 2017 it has a roll of 10,838 students and offers degrees in Arts, Commerce, (physical) Education, Engineering, Fine Arts, Forestry, Health Sciences, Law, Music, Social Work, Speech and Language Pathology, Science, Sports Coaching, and Teaching.

Waiutuutu / Okeover Stream and environs

The trail now follows both sides of Waiutuutu/Okeover stream through native woodlands crossing it, by way of small bridges, and passing on the left Waiutuutu Community Gardens. In 1998 a project involving University of Canterbury staff, Kakariki Club and the Christchurch City Council, began to restore the ecological functioning of the stream using three main techniques: native plants, tocks and watercress.Along the ways the trail passes, in succession, the Ernest Rutherford building, the School of Forestry and Te Ao Marama.Opened as recently as 2018, the Ernest Rutherford building is part of the Regional Science and Innovation Centre and has state of the art teaching, learning and research spaces for science. Self-guided maps for this building are available in its foyer. It is named for Sir Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), perhaps the most famous alumnus (1893-95) of the university, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908, for investigations into the disintegration of the elements and the chemistry of radioactive substances. His discovery that heavy atoms have a tendency to decay into lighter atoms heralded modern techniques of carbon dating. In 1917 he added to his fame with the splitting of the atom.Adjoining the Rutherford building and completing the Regional Science and Innovation Centre is the Beatrice Tinsley building, opened in 2019. It is named for another famous alumna (1958-62) of the University. Beatrice Tinsley went on to achieve acclaim in the United States of America where she proved that the universe was infinite and would expand forever. Dubbed the ‘Queen of the Cosmos’, she also synthesised research and observations by others to show that galaxies evolve and interact with each other, pioneering a new field of research.

Science buildings

Beatrice Tinsley building (left), Ernest Rutherford building (right)

The School of Forestry is notable as the University of Canterbury is the only university in New Zealand to offer professional degree programmes in forestry. The school was opened in 1971. Behind (east of) the School of Forestry is Te Ao Marama, the centre for the Aotahi School of Maori and Indigenous Studies. Te Reo Maori has been offered at the university since the mid-1970s and its study is now part of a comprehensive programme incorporating the wider culture.Departing Te Ao Marama by way of its entrance path there is, on the right, the Macmillan Brown library. Established in 1935, it is a separate collection within the university, consisting mainly of items relating to the history of New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. It was created through the philanthropy of Professor John Macmillan Brown who was one of the first academics at Canterbury College in 1874.


Entrance to Te Ao Marama from Arts Drive

Kate Sheppard House detour

From the library building the trail departs the university campus via Arts Road. However, on reaching Clyde Road a left turn detour can be made along Clyde Road to number 83. This is the address of Kate Sheppard House, a Heritage New Zealand category 1 building. It was while living here that Kate Sheppard organised the women’s suffrage campaign which resulted in women obtaining the right to vote in parliamentary elections in 1893. The house was acquired by Heritage NZ in September 2019 and is expected to be open to the public by the end of 2020.

Returning back along Clyde Road to the Avon River, the trail crosses Clyde Road. As an un-named stock route, the road first appeared on a map in 1864. In 1890, it was re-named from Office to Clyde Road in keeping with the theme of naming Riccarton streets after places in Ayrshire, Scotland where the Deans family originated.

Riccarton Bush / Deans Cottage / Riccarton House

Riccarton House and Bush is administered by the Riccarton Bush Trust, which was established by an Act of Parliament in 1914. The Trustees are appointed by the Royal Society, the Deans family, and the Christchurch City Council. The trust administers:

  • Riccarton Bush, preserved through the foresight of the Deans family, is a 7.8hectare predator-proof reserve, and is the sole remnant of the kahikatea forest that clothed much of the Canterbury coastal floodplains. Besides 400 to 600 year-old trees such as matai, totara and hinau, the bush is used by the Department of Conservation as a crèche for juvenile birds, including great spotted kiwi. The trail includes a two-kilometre loop through the bush reserve.
  • Deans cottage, built in 1843, by the first settlers to farm successfully on the Canterbury plains.
  • Riccarton House, completed in 1900, was the home of the Deans family for 80 years. The modest home of 1856 was expanded in two stages to the imposing structure seen today.

Riccarton House

On passing Riccarton House, the trail continues down the driveway’s avenue of trees to Kahu Rd, and turning right, finishes at the junction of Kahu Road and Titoki Street.

Thanks to Stuart Payne for text and photos

Flora & Fauna

Over 300 species have been identified in the North West of Christchurch on Mataki Taiao – iNaturalist.

Over 60 species have been identified in the McLeans Grassland Park.  Some of the NZ natives there are listed below.


Cloak fern  (Cheilanthes sieberiSpecies photos and info

This fern  photographed  in McLeans Grassland Park.

Cladia aggregata  Species photos and info

This structured lichen  photographed  at Conservators Rd

Geranium brevicaule  Species photos and info

This geranium  photographed  in McLeans Grassland Park.

Sky lily  (Herpolirion novae-zelandiaeSpecies photos and info

This Grass lily  photographed  in McLeans Grassland Park.

Patotara  (Leucopogon fraseriSpecies photos and info

A beard heath  photographed  with Racomitrium in McLeans Grassland Park.

Leafless Pohuehue  (Muehlenbeckia ephedroidesSpecies photos and info

Colin saw this preposterous plant 20 years ago on Guys Rd and is still looking for it there.

This sprawling broomhead with tiny flowers  photographed  in Bryndwyr.

Racomitrium pruinosum Species photos and info

A rock moss  identified  in McLeans Grassland Park.    Global distribution

Prickly couch  (Zoysia minimaSpecies info

This grass photographed  in McLeans Grassland Park.


Sod Webworm  (Eudonia sabulosellaSpecies photos and info

This moth  photographed  in McLeans Grassland Park.

Common Bully  (Gobiomorphus cotidianus)    Genus photos and info

This fish  photographed  in McLeans Grassland Park.

Small native bee  (Lasioglossum sordidumSpecies photos and info

This Sweat bee  photographed  in McLeans Grassland Park.

Boulder Copper  (Lycaena boldenarumSpecies photos and info

This butterfly  photographed  in McLeans Grassland Park.

Genus Nysius  Genus photos and info

This Seed Bug  photographed  in McLeans Grassland Park.

New Zealand Grasshopper  (Phaulacridium marginaleSpecies photos and info

This grasshopper  photographed  in McLeans Grassland Park.

Jumping spider  (Family Salticidae)  Family photos and info

This spider  photographed  at Conservators Rd.

Red Damselfly  (Xanthocnemis zealandica)  Species photos and info

This damselfly  photographed  in McLeans Grassland Park.


Public Toilets

McLeans Forest carpark

Raeward Fresh, SH1

Avonhead Park, north-east corner.

Crosbie Park, off Woodbury Street.

Riccarton Bush, west side of Riccarton House

Food & Refreshments

Raeward Fresh, just before you cross SH1, has a store and cafe.

On Staveley Street,  near Withells Road, is a small shopping centre including a dairy.

The UCSA (University of Canterbury Students’ Association) has a café just off University Drive.

Riccarton House, has a cafe


Near the airport, especially down Memorial Ave, a number of motels provide accommodation at average to premium rates.

Near Riccarton Bush, especially down Riccarton Ave, a number of motels provide accommodation at average to premium rates.

Public Transport

Visit metroinfo.co.nz for bus trip planning, route maps, and timetables.

No buses run to Mcleans Island. You will need to make your own pick-up or drop-off arrangements.

Bus 130 runs near Avonhead Park, along Kedleston Drive.

Bus 130 runs along Kahu Rd with bus stops near the entrance to Riccarton Bush at the end of this leg.

Bus 130 runs bi-directionally between Hornby and Burnside, weaving crazily through Upper Riccarton, Riccarton, back towards Ilam, through Avonhead, before lurching up towards Burnside. So while it runs conveniently enough between (roughly) Avonhead Park and Riccarton Bush, you will almost certainly need to catch a connecting bus to get to anywhere useful.

Several busses run along Riccarton Road, besides the 130 – 100, 120, 140, 80, Orbiter, Purple (Airport to X), Yellow (Hornby (Rolleston) to X).

The 23 is a bi-directional link between Hyde Park in Avonhead and The Tannery mall in Woolston, via the central exchange.

Nearby Points of Interest

Orana Wildlife Park: Found on Mcleans Island Road, near the leg end point for the Waimakariri Braids and what should be the start point for the Avonhead Gardens. Orana Wildlife Park is the only zoo in New Zealand to feature open-range enclosures. There are giraffe, kiwi, a white rhino, gorillas, cheetah, zebra, hyena, gibbons, Sumatran tigers, and lions.  An adult’s annual pass is only $69 and a child’s is only $19. It is open every day except Christmas Day, 10am to 5pm.

Christchurch International Airport: This may well be your access point to and from the city, if you are an international visitor. Besides airport services, there are a number of café dining options available, as well as gift stores.

Ilam Gardens: The old Ilam Homestead is surrounded by gardens featuring rhododendrons and azaleas, and beautifully groomed lawns. There are a number of Japanese-style bridges crossing the Ilam Stream.

Okeover and Dovedale Community Gardens: These gardens are community spaces, providing fresh organic produce to those in the community. It was established as an informal recreation and learning space for students and staff, but anyone, those associated with the University, and those in the community with an interest, can be involved. For more information, see the Sustainable Campus website. 

Hagley Park: A massive 164 hectare (405 acre) park just to the west of the Christchurch CBD. It includes the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and the Canterbury Museum.

Westfield Mall, Riccarton: A large metropolitan mall, near the Riccarton Bush end of the leg. There are many options for dining and refreshment, with many additional retail options to explore.