Waitākiri/Bottle Lake Forest Park

This extensive pine plantation runs alongside the coast in the north-east of the city and offers a myriad of tracks for mountain-biking, horse-riding, and walking. As a working forest, tracks may change at any time.

Bottle Lake mountain biker

Visit

Getting there

The main entrance and car park is off Waitikiri Drive, off Burwood Road, via either Marshlands or Burwood.

You can reach the park on foot from Spencer Park and from North Shore along the Southern Pegasus Bay track.

Metroinfo(external link) has up-to-date bus information.

Motorised bikes and vehicles are not permitted in the forest. 

Opening hours and gates

Waitikiri Drive gates are open between 7am and 9pm year-round.

Gate closures are administered by ADT security. Ring ADT on 0800 766 700 to release a vehicle. A callout fee will be charged to release vehicles at owner's expense.

Facilities

Coastal and forest walks, mountain-bike tracks and horse-riding trails. 

The Visitor Centre, located at the Waitikiri Drive entrance, has track maps, brochures and displays about the park's history and ecology.

There are public toilets in the car park.

Dogs

Dogs under effective control are allowed in the park.

For safety reasons, please ensure dogs don't get in the way of mountain bikers.

Walking, mountain biking and horse riding

Download a map [PDF, 188 KB] showing all recreational tracks and park facilities.

Walks

From lengthy wanders to shorter meanders, check out the blue and green tracks below.

You can also create your own walking track by mixing the walks with the grid pattern of working roads.

Mountain biking

The Bottle Lake Forest Track is suitable for everyone - from beginners to the more advanced.

Be sure to follow the markers and obey any detours or closures for your own safety. 

Horse riding

Bottle Lake Forest has a dedicated track for horse riding. 

Find out where else you can go horse riding in Christchurch.

How not to get lost

Bottle Lake is organised in a grid-like pattern of roads, which can be confusing.

The north-south roads are named alphabetically Apple, Bravo, Charlie etc across to the beach. The east-west avenues are numbered sequentially, starting from 10th by Spencer Park to the 28th by Parklands. Most junctions are signposted.

Download a map, or collect one on site.

A working forest

Commercial forest

Operational logging areas are usually clearly signposted and marked 'out of bounds'. For your own safety please obey these temporary restrictions.

Please take note of the fire risk. If you see smoke or fire please phone 111 immediately.

Burwood Resource Recovery Park

An area of the central Bottle Lake Forest Park is being used for the Burwood Resource Recovery Park(external link) operation following the Canterbury earthquakes in 2011.

Rubble and silt from the earthquake is being recycled at the park. To reduce congestion, travel time and distance, trucks are using two additional entrances to the resource recovery park, via Bower Avenue and Putake Drive in Tumara Park, as well as the normal Landfill Road entrance. 

An exclusion area is in place for public health and safety. Closed tracks and roads are clearly signposted and barricaded.

Environment

Forming the coastal margin

The Bottle Lake Forest lagoons, wetlands and sand dunes were formed as silted stone and washed down the Waimakariri River from the Southern Alps. Soil and dust blown by the nor-westerly wind was deposited over the lagoons, wetlands and sand hills, providing an environment for scrub and grasses to grow. The original ‘Bottle Lake’ is now a wetland and part of the golf course adjacent to the forest. Until the 1930s the lagoons and wetlands were frequently flooded with salt water washed in by high tides and storms from the sea. Fences along the sand dunes were constructed to trap the sand and increase the height of the dunes along the coastline, providing better protection to the land from coastal waves and storms.


Plant life of the forest and wetland

The majority of land is used as a commercial pine forest. Under the more pine trees a dense carpet of moss and lichen can be found with regenerating native ferns, orchids, fungi, grasses, small trees and shrubs. Small communities of salt tolerant plants such as oioi, sedges and rushes occur within the wetland areas. On the edge of the wetland areas cabbage trees and flax can be found. Weeds, such as grey willow trees are a significant management problem within the remnant wetlands.


Wildlife in the forest

Blackbirds, sparrows, finches, silvereyes (tauhou) and thrushes can readily be seen around the edges of the forest. California quail are a common sight amongst the more established shrub areas in the forest. Occasionally, little owl, fantails (piwakawaka), plovers and grey warblers (riroriro) can be heard and seen around the forest.

The katipo spider, feared by some for its venomous bite, can be found in the sand dune grasses. The spiders eat the hard-backed beetle, which feeds on the roots of sand dune grasses.

History

Mahinga kai

The people of Ngāi Tahu and their ancestors used the Waitikiri wetlands, near what we call Bottle Lake Forest, as an area for gathering eels (tuna) and other fish. Māori also used native coastal plants for medicine, building materials, weaving, footwear, and weapons.

The wetlands around Bottle Lake Forest also provided a natural defence barrier against attacks from other tribes approaching from the coast.


From farming to forestry

Bottle Lake aerial; photo Bruce King.

Bottle Lake Forest was originally purchased on behalf of the New Zealand Company and called "The Sandhills Run". In 1851 farming was attempted on the Sandhills Run, but was unsuccessful due to the sandy soil.

In 1878 the City Council bought the land for disposal of toxic waste and sewage. Five years later, in 1883, the first block of trial forestry was planted using Corsican (Pinus laricio) and Monterey pine (Pinus radiata). 

A trial area was also introduced for commercial tree crops and over seven different species of pine were trialed. Remnants of these early tree trials can still be seen, which include poplars, sycamores and macrocarpas. By 1935 all available land had been planted in forest except the swamp and wetlands. The first clear felling started in 1938, removing the trees that had been planted from 1913 to 1915. Today, Christchurch City Council still owns the Bottle Lake Forest land, while the management and operation of the felling are now the responsibility of Raynoier/Matariki Forests who log in a 30 year rotation.In 1909 the Council resumed planting Bottle Lake Forest in an attempt to stop the sand drifting across the wetlands to the fertile soil areas that were used for market gardening.


War history

Since 1867 Bottle Lake Forest has been used extensively as a military training ground, initially by the Mounted Calvary units of the Canterbury Yeomanry and Canterbury Mounted Rifles.

During World War II the Home Guard West Battalion used the forest as a defence post. Along the foreshore an intricate system of trenches, machine gun positions, command bunkers and firing ranges were established in readiness of a Japanese invasion.

In 1940 the Council established a piggery in Bottle Lake Forest, in an effort to "do its bit" for England by providing meat to the New Zealand Home Guard. The piggery, known as the Burwood Municipal Piggery, was very successful with usually five hundred pigs in the pens at any one time. After the war the piggery was leased to a private operator, who continued operating until the mid-1950s, when it closed down.