Walking New Zealand
Great Walks mythbusting
the public does (i.e. online when bookings open on a first come, first served basis, including the details of each client).
Top tip: While no one gets an advantage, it does pay to be prepared in advance of bookings opening:
• Check our website in May to see when bookings open for each Great Walk and set a reminder in advance of bookings opening for your preferred walk.
• Make sure you have created your customer account in advance of bookings opening.
• We recommend using the latest versions of either Chrome or Firefox web browsers. Also, having a strong internet connection will help, as losing connectivity part way thorough your booking will often lead to the loss of that booking.
• If you open the booking screen prior to the specified opening time you will need to refresh your screen when bookings open in order to see where there are spaces and to make your booking.
• Have a few dates in mind, and consider choosing quieter times (i.e. not New Year, long weekends, Easter etc) or quieter walks.
• Have the details of everyone in your group to hand so you can quickly enter these into the system.
• Try again for dates, as multiple group members may make duplicate booking and then drop them particularly during the first 25 minutes of bookings opening. Also try again over the coming months as people cancel.
• Finally - be prepared (like booking concert tickets for Lorde) that for peak dates and popular walks, there’s a good chance no matter how organised you are, you may not get your preferred spot. It’s really quite likely unfortunately.
Myth #5: Tourism businesses are taking up all the spots
No, they absolutely aren’t. Our bookings data shows that public/ independant bookings make up 93% of total bednights booked, concessionaires (e.g. guides and agents) make up just 4% of bookings and 3% are school or community groups. Concessionaires must enter into the booking system the names and details of each person booked before the start of their booking.
Across all ten Great Walks we have over 280,000 hut bed nights for sale. On the first days of bookings opening 4,300 were sold via concessionaires, that equates to just 1.5% of all available hut spaces.
Top tip: Not everyone has the skills, physical abilities or confidence to set out on a multi-day tramp independently. If you’d like more support, or just want a comfy bed and hot shower at the end of the day, guided walking options might be for you.
Myth #6: Great Walks are mainly for international visitors
While these walks are world-famous and well loved by our international guests, they have always been well-used by Kiwis. The introduction of differential pricing for international visitors (now on 7 Great Walks) has led to a rise in New Zealanders accessing these walks and, of course, the current border restrictions have seen the numbers of Kiwis on these walks go through the roof. This year about 92% of bookings are from New Zealanders.
Top tip: Kiwi kids (17 years and under) are free on the Great Walks. You can take your tamariki for an overnight option on most of the walks. Our recommendation would be hiking into Routeburn Flats Hut or taking a water taxi in to overnight on the Abel Tasman Coast Track.
Myth #7: “DOC should just put more huts in!”
While we have already established that there’s heaps of capacity across the 10 Great Walks, we get asked all the time why we don’t just expand huts and bunk spaces – on the Paparoa and Milford tracks in particular. The Great Walks have a limited number of bed spaces (camping space and bunks in huts), to keep numbers at an appropriate level – this ensures the natural and cultural heritage surrounding these walks is protected and that people have a high-quality experience on them.
Top tip: Most Great walks can be done in either direction so if your huts are booked out going one way on a walk, try seeing if there might be availability across your preferred dates doing the walk in the opposite direction.
Myth #8: We can only do the Great Walks in the summer
With the right skills, preparation
and packing, six Great Walks can be undertaken all year round: Lake Waikaremoana, the Whanganui River Journey, Abel Tasman, Heaphy, Paparoa and Rakiura.
Due to greatly increased risks for walkers over the colder months, there is a Great Walks Season (October to April) for the southern Great Walks (Milford, Routeburn and Kepler) and Tongariro Northern Circuit. Outside the Great Walks Season these walks should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well-equipped people as facilities are greatly reduced and there are additional hazards such as ice underfoot, river crossings and avalanches.
Top tip: Winter is generally a great time to get onto the Heaphy and Abel Tasman tracks.
In summary, we do acknowledge the disappointment that many are feeling at not getting their spot on their preferred walk this year (or previous years). Alongside DOC’s delight at seeing more New Zealanders than ever take up the opportunity to get onto their world-famous walks (this is what our heritage and visitor rangers and teams come to work for), we also acknowledge that if 3,240 people bagged their spot on the Milford within the first hour of bookings opening, then it’s likely another 3,240 people missed out. That sucks for them. We wish we could enable all New Zealanders (even those who wouldn’t do a Great Walk if you paid them) could get out and enjoy a Great Walk (no seriously non-Great Walk people, we think you’d love it – go on).
The Great Walks are diverse and delivered locally to suit the nature of each walk and align with National Park Management Plans etc., so the rules and systems do vary.
You do need to do some organising in advance. Besides booking onto the walks, you need to do your homework regarding how to ensure you are properly prepared for your adventure and there are wider logistics to sort including transport to and from the start and finish of each walk.
Our Great Walks are the popstars of the walking world. The pressure on peak dates for popular walks or walks where bed spaces are (out of necessity) limited, can certainly make the booking process competitive. We do however ensure that the system has significant bandwidth to deal with the high demand and as a result the Milford does sell out rapidly.
We understand why customers might be surprised by how quickly space are filled, but it is a case of demand exceeding supply.
This also means that some will try to get around the system by making speculative bookings or trying to onsell their spots. Our investigations show this hasn’t been a significant issue to date, but we are onto this and have checks and balances in place to prevent it from happening. We also monitor bookings and have a team that can respond where needed.
At the heart of our Great Walks booking system is a team of dedicated people ensuring we provide a fair and transparent service that delivers the best possible opportunity for everyone to get into nature.