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Book early for Great Walks

Busy day at Mintaro Hut on the Milford Track. Photo: Kay Bayley

It’s already time to start planning next summer’s Great Walks: 2016/2017 bookings for the country’s most popular tramps open the first week of May.

Bookings for the Whanganui Journey, Routeburn and Heaphy tracks open on May 3; Milford, Rakiura, and Tongariro Northern Circuit open on May 4; and the Kepler and Abel Tasman Coast tracks open on May 5. Lake Waikaremoana bookings for the season are yet to be confirmed.

While there’s likely plenty of time to book your Great Walks journeys for next summer, some popular tramps will probably fill up straight away over the summer holidays. Karen Dogherty from Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre said that last year, the Milford Track filled up the fastest, with some huts filling up within days of the bookings opening.

“Book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment,” Dogherty said.

According to DOC, Christmas and New Year are the busiest periods, with occupancy rates rising to nearly 100 per cent for most Great Walk huts, and 70 per cent for campsites. Easter is the next busiest time, with hut occupancy at about 90 per cent. They say the Milford Track is at or near capacity for the entire Great Walks season, as are the huts on the Routeburn, Kepler and Abel Tasman tracks (between November 1 and April 30). However, campsites on those tracks are usually available for later bookings.

Within two weeks of bookings opening last year, Abel Tasman Coast Track had 1301 bookings. The Routeburn had 588 bookings and Kepler saw 561.

International visitors make up the lion’s share of the bookings across the board for the most popular Great Walks. For example, of the 36,345 visitors on the Abel Tasman Coast Track, 63 per cent were international. On the Routeburn and Kepler tracks, about 75 per cent of visitors last season were international.

To book a Great Walk for next year, visit www.doc.govt.nz/great-walks.