Dominant theories of hippocampal function propose that place cell representations are formed during an animal's first encounter with a novel environment and are subsequently replayed during off-line states to support consolidation and future behaviour. Here we report that viewing the delivery of food to an unvisited portion of an environment leads to off-line pre-activation of place cells sequences corresponding to that space. Such ‘preplay’ was not observed for an unrewarded but otherwise similar portion of the environment. These results suggest that a hippocampal representation of a visible, yet unexplored environment can be formed if the environment is of motivational relevance to the animal. We hypothesise such goal-biased preplay may support preparation for future experiences in novel environments.