We investigated the role of the cell adhesion molecule NrCAM for axonal growth and pathfinding in the developing retina. Analysis of the distribution pattern of NrCAM in chick embryo retina sections and flat-mounts shows its presence during extension of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons; NrCAM is selectively present on RGC axons and is absent from the soma. Single cell cultures show an enrichment of NrCAM in the distal axon and growth cone. When offered as a substrate in addition to Laminin, NrCAM promotes RGC axon extension and the formation of growth cone protrusions. In substrate stripe assays, mimicking the NrCAM-displaying optic fibre layer and the Laminin-rich basal lamina, RGC axons preferentially grow on NrCAM lanes. The three-dimensional analysis of RGC growth cones in retina flat-mounts reveals that they are enlarged and form more protrusions extending away from the correct pathway under conditions of NrCAM-inhibition. Time-lapse analyses show that these growth cones pause longer to explore their environment, proceed for shorter time spans, and retract more often than under control conditions; in addition, they often deviate from the correct pathway towards the optic fissure. Inhibition of NrCAM in organ-cultured intact eyes causes RGC axons to misroute at the optic fissure; instead of diving into the optic nerve head, these axons cross onto the opposite side of the retina. Our results demonstrate a crucial role for NrCAM in the navigation of RGC axons in the developing retina towards the optic fissure, and also for pathfinding into the optic nerve.