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Bookable bunks for budding beginners

Image of the October 2020 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
October 2020 Issue

A night spent on the floor of a busy hut is one sure way to put beginner trampers off the pastime, so save yourselves a sleepless night, and book.

If your goal is to convince a budding tramper they’ve chosen an enjoyable, pain-free pastime, the very least you can do is book them a bunk for the night.

Securing a booking takes all anxiety out of the affair – allowing trampers to wake up late, walk at their own pace, and carry a lighter pack, unencumbered by mattress or tent. Here are 10 bookable huts suitable for beginners.

Pinnacles Hut
Coromandel Forest Park
New Zealand’s biggest hut is popular for a reason; for the price of a three-hour walk, you can sleep amongst Coromandel kauri in a glamorous abode, a stone’s throw from the famous Pinnacles. Weekends book out fast, so trampers should consider a weekday expedition or brave a mid-winter trip to avoid crowds. The Kauaeranga Kauri Trail is the easiest route, and a return via the less popular Billygoat Track is possible when rivers are low.
Bunks: 80
Time: 2.5-3hr via Kauaeranga Kauri Trail
Booking: Year-round bookings required from DOC

Waitawheta Hut
Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park
This 26-bunk hut lies in the northern reaches of the Kaimai Range and is accessible by several routes. The historical tramway track retains relics of the bygone kauri logging days and is a popular first overnight tramp option for families and schools. More adventurous hikers may wish to combine the route with a summit of 952m Te Aroha.
Bunks: 26
Time: 3-4hr via Waitawheta Tramway Track
Bookings: Year-round bookings required from DOC

Waihohonu Hut
Tongariro National Park
With its high ceiling and bright windows, Waihohonu Hut keeps the elements out, while inviting the environment in. Seated in a clearing of tussock beside a gentle stream, the hut provides unobstructed views to Ruapehu and excellent short walks to the firetruck red Old Waihohonu Hut and Ohinepango Stream. An integral hut for both the Round the Mountain Track and Tongariro Northern Circuit, the most direct access is from the Desert Road car park.
Bunks: 28
Time: 1.5hr via Waihohonu Track
Bookings: Bookings required in the Great Walk season

Sunrise Hut
Ruahine Forest Park
Proving you don’t need to visit the South Island for an alpine experience, Sunrise Hut gives trampers a top-of-the-world experience in the Ruahine Range. As you might suspect, the east-facing hut is a brilliant vantage to catch the dawn of the new day. The track is popular with families, but sensational views and opportunities to explore the surrounding tops will appeal to all skill levels.
Bunks: 20
Time: 2-3hr via Sunrise Track
Booking: Required from Labour Weekend through to April 30

Heaphy Hut
Kahurangi National Park
The coastal leg of the Heaphy Track is the highlight for most who walk the 80km Great Walk and this section makes a fantastic introductory tramp – particularly during the golden hour. Leaving from Kohaihai Shelter, the track hugs stunning coastline for a leisurely 16km, with the odd headland to hurdle. The hut is magnificently situated at the mouth of the Heaphy River – but trampers will need ample sandfly protection to retain their sanity.
Bunks: 32
Time: 5hr from Kohaihai Shelter
Bookings: Year-round required bookings from DOC

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Though steep, the track to Brewster Hut is achievable for beginners. Photo: Matthew Cattin

Packhorse Hut 
Banks Peninsula
They sure don’t build ‘em like they used to. Assembled with locally quarried volcanic stone, the enduring Packhorse Hut is a charming remnant of a bygone era, situated on a wide-open saddle that overlooks Lyttelton Harbour and the distant Southern Alps. The easiest track follows the Te Ara Pātaka Walkway over Gebbies Pass, though walkers can also take the Kaituna Valley Packhorse Hut Track.
Bunks: 9
Time: 2hr via Te Ara Pātaka Walkway and Kaituna Valley Packhorse Hut Track
Bookings: Year-round bookings via DOC

Woolshed Creek Hut
Hakatere Conservation Park
There’s something for everyone at Woolshed Creek Hut, a popular 26 bunker added to the DOC booking system in 2019. After a short walk in, trampers can enjoy exploring the surrounding hills, or a choice of swimming pools and water caves. Remnants of the area’s mining past also add interest.
Bunks: 26
Time: 3hr via Miners Track, 2hr via Rhyolite Ridge Track Junction
Bookings: Year-round bookings via DOC

Brewster Hut
Mt Aspiring National Park
This serviced alpine hut offers incredible bang for buck for intermediate trampers looking to spend their first night safely above the bushline. It’s a tough track – make no mistake – but trampers are rewarded for their sharp 2.5km climb with incredible views over Haast Pass and of Mt Brewster and Armstrong beyond.
Bunks: 12
Time: 3-4hr via Brewster Track
Booking: Year-round bookings via DOC

Aspiring Hut
Mt Aspiring National Park
Any time spent in the Matukituki Valley is time well spent, but a leisurely walk into the cosy Aspiring Hut is enough to hook any new tramper. The mostly flat track is easy on the legs as it follows the crystal Matukituki River, wedged between gorgeous, snow-capped peaks that will keep eyes glued upwards. Further exploration up the valley is a must, before the return to the car park.
Bunks: 29
Time: 2-2.5hr via West Matukituki Track
Bookings: Bookings required Labour Weekend through April

Luxmore Hut
Fiordland National Park
This spectacular Kepler Track Great Walk hut sits atop swathes of lush tussock, overlooking Lake Te Anau and the Murchison Mountains. Though it costs more than most backpacker  hostels, the views are worth every penny. The route can be shortened with a water taxi to Brod Bay, but most walkers will be capable of grunting out the 13.8km.
Bunks: 54
Time: 5-6hr via the Kepler Track
Booking: Year-round bookings via DOC