What to do when the Great Walks are booked out
24 Oct 2022
So, you have decided to include one of New Zealand’s Great Walks during your holiday, but closer investigation reveals there is no space available. Don’t worry you are not alone! The popularity of the walks means spots in the huts and camping sites along these trails are hotly contested and booked out within minutes of going on sale each year.
WHY ARE SPACES ARE SO HARD TO COME BY?
Well groomed trails and some of the best-maintained huts in New Zealand make the Great Walks suitable hikes for all to enjoy. Offering unparalleled access to some of the most incredible landscapes, and culturally significant taonga (treasures) these walks are very popular. With 10 Great Walks in total, Fiordland is home to three of these, boasting the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn, all easily accessible from Te Anau.
To maintain the quality of the experience and to protect the natural environment, numbers are strictly limited on these trails. Hence with demand greatly outstripping supply, bookings are hard to secure. The Milford and Routeburn Tracks are very popular, and fully booked well within half an hour of opening.
GETTING A BOOKING – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The Department of Conservation (DOC) manages the Great Walks, including the booking system. You need to be organised to get a space, and this involves planning at least a year in advance. Monitor the DOC website to receive notices about when the reservations are going live, usually May – June for bookings in the following summer period between end October and April.
In reply to the many frustrations and disappointments, DOC has written a great blog titled ‘Great Walks myth busting’ which includes how the booking system works, tips for actually getting a booking, and dispels the false rumours about why it is so difficult to get a booking. I would recommend you read this if you are planning your vacation around walking one of the full Great Walks to have the greatest chance of success.
CONSIDER A GUIDED WALK OPTION INSTEAD
If this all seems too hard, or you are just too late, a guided walk may be the perfect solution to your predicament. A guided experience can take your hiking adventure to the next level, plus with more availability, less pre-planning is required. With everything taken care of, all you need to do is pack and show up! Having a knowledgeable, local, guide accompany you makes the most out of every moment. Your guide knows the trails intimately, including the native plants and birds you may encounter, all the while ensuring a worry-free and safe experience.
Guided options exist for multi-day overnight expeditions on most of the Great Walks, but we believe you cannot go past our Fiordland Great Walk Package. Using the beautiful township of Te Anau as your base camp, experience a day on each of the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler Tracks. With lots of diversity in the trails, and awesome local guides, this package offers the perfect opportunity to hike some of New Zealand’s best Great Walks. And space is available now!