Suggestions for Christmas walks

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Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby Juudbruinsma » Thu 11 Jan, 2018 1:15 pm

Having just come back from a hectic Christmas visiting relatives, I am now toying with the idea of going for a multi day hike for Christmas/NY 2018/19 (better get in early right?). New Zealand (South Island) has always been on the bucket list. I know this has probably been asked many times, but would love some suggestions as to which walk to pick. Our multi-day hike experience thus far is: Overland track, three capes track, Laugavagur track in Iceland, and a few overnighters around Sydney. So not overly-experienced. I prefer camping to sleeping in a hut.

I have heard some negative reviews about NZ's great walks (e.g. too crowded, too restricted, etc), and I wanted to check in with this group what your view is. I thought DOC managed numbers for the Great Walks in order for them not to be too crowded. What makes people say the great walks are no good? Having looked at the great walks, the Routeburn track has caught my eye, any thoughts on this track? Any tips (e.g. I notice you can do it in 2-4 days, what would you recommend, what overnight stops would you recommend, any other tips / comments?). Or any other suggestions for walks?

[edit:] Forgot to ask, when do the bookings for the great walks normally open? February?
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby Juudbruinsma » Sat 13 Jan, 2018 7:30 am

No tips / suggestions??
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby tomh » Sat 13 Jan, 2018 2:23 pm

Your enquiry is very broad and would take much time and effort to answer properly.
Unfortunately there have been broad enquiries in the past with much effort extended answering them - only to find after all that the original enquirer changes their mind and decides to go to a different country.
So you can see that does not encourage replies to broad enquiries.
Hopefully you have read Waynos NZ intro post 'where to start for info on nz'
The web has heaps of information that would get you started and help you. Here is an example
https://jontynz.com/2016/05/01/new-zealand-great-walks-ranked-2/
and the DOC website will have booking information.
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby lseries92 » Sun 14 Jan, 2018 11:13 am

I have done the bottom half of the list of the Great Walks in the link that tomh provided above and - regardless of their ranking - they are well worth it. The facilities, track quality and scenery are excellent although it has been over a decade of any of them. While I agree with the rankings the person has given on the list, this is very much a rating on scenery on the walk itself. I would give extra marks to the Rakiura as I really enjoyed getting to/from Stewart Island and I really loved Oban where I stayed for a couple of days either side of the walk. Abel Tasman was awesome too but it has its negatives (see below). However, the Heaphy has definitely been my favourite walk so far - if want to experience a great variation in scenery/terrain this is the one to go on (although the trailheads are a little bit challenging to get to/from easily).

As for going at Christmas, this is something I have tried to avoid. Full huts/campsites are not my cup of tea but I suspect on most of the tracks this would be unavoidable at Christmas (and on some of the tracks virtually unavoidable at most times during the walking season). DOC manages numbers by regulating the hut spaces/campsites so you may find extra people near some of the more accessible trailheads doing day walks but once you get well into most of the tracks, the numbers of people drop so you can still feel a little bit of solitude if this is what you are after. I have personally always done walks in NZ from late January to early March when the crowds have thinned a bit and the weather is still warm and reasonable stable. If you do not care about the numbers of people around and/or can only get time off at Christmas, I would not let this put you off. As DOC manage the numbers, if you book you are guarantee a space in the hut or a campsite on a great walk (something that does not happen on the non-great walks where it is first in first served).

The worst for "crowds" is the Abel Tasman - as it is coastal, the area is accessible by water, and there are even holiday houses ("batches") in parts of the park so you also have people accessing the beaches along the way via water taxi, kayak or boat. In fact I chose to do this one via kayak by taking a water taxi to Separation Point and then paddling back to Marahau. We would normally do most of the paddling in the morning so there was a chance to do a little walking from where we were camping along the track. There was one spot where we camped that was only accessible via water but we were certainly not the only people there by any means even though it was early March. If you are confident in a kayak, I really recommend doing this as it sort of gives the best of both worlds.

As for the Routeburn, I am actually booked to walk it in early March staying at Routeburn Falls and Lake Mackenzie which are booked solid regardless. I did not book until November when there were still a reasonable number of spots open for this period but I doubt there was anything for Christmas by this stage - if you intend to go one of the real popular walks, it would be best to jump in on the 1st July (?) when bookings open. While a "short" track, I decided to do it in three days instead of two to allow me to head up to the saddle on the first day if the weather report looks dodgy for the next day. Due to the bookings, I can not proceed to the next hut/campsite so I would have to go back but it does give me options to have better chances to see all the sights if I end up getting a bad day.

Hope this is helpful ...
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby Juudbruinsma » Mon 15 Jan, 2018 4:35 pm

tomh wrote:Your enquiry is very broad and would take much time and effort to answer properly.


Fair point. I guess my main (more specific) questions are:

- Why do I see so many people comment that the NZ great walks are no good anymore. I would think that if DOC restricts numbers, you are still able to enjoy the walks?
- On the DOC website I cannot find when bookings for 2018/19 open - I thought I'd read somewhere on this forum that they usually open in February - is there any specific info available re opening of bookings?

lseries92 - thanks so much for your information, that is very helpful. I am very partial to mountainous scenery and love alpine country, hence my initial preference of the Routeburn. I have been to Stewart Island previously (walked to the first hut and back) and thought the place was pretty magical - I can imagine that doing the whole track would be very special. As we are a bit restricted re time, I thought Stewart Island might be a bit trickier to organise.

Re walking over the Christmas period, I would love to do as you say and go out of season, but we are both somewhat restricted in terms of leave... I also like your idea as to take three days for the Routeburn track, I wouldn't mind taking a bit of extra time to enjoy the track, rather than rush through... I'll have to research the different accommodation options.

I am mindful that if we do wish to do the Routeburn (or any of the other great walks) in this period we'll have to jump onto the bookings as soon as they go live... but I cannot seem to find the info as to when that might be...
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby lseries92 » Mon 15 Jan, 2018 9:49 pm

If you are restricted for time, the Heaphy is not the one to do (the trailheads are 420kms apart by road!). The Routeburn - as a through walk - has trailheads a fair way apart too but considering Queenstown is on one side and Milford/Te anau is on the other, you have heaps of transport options to get you where you are going. The Routeburn sounds like the one you want - doing it over three days also leaves you heaps to time to do any side-trips as well.

I thought bookings open on July 1st each year but - as you point out - I have not found anything so far that confirms this. Maybe email DOC?
Last edited by lseries92 on Tue 16 Jan, 2018 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby wayno » Tue 16 Jan, 2018 3:18 am

some of the great walks have large numbers of day walkers on them, tongariro, abel tasman, the routeburn, hundreds or even thousands per day , if you're in the huts you could be bunking with 50 people...
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby Juudbruinsma » Tue 16 Jan, 2018 7:42 am

wayno wrote:some of the great walks have large numbers of day walkers on them, tongariro, abel tasman, the routeburn, hundreds or even thousands per day , if you're in the huts you could be bunking with 50 people...


Yikes - thanks for the heads-up Wayno, that explains why some people are grumbling about the great walks. I did the Overland track over Christmas a couple of years ago, which uses a similar system in terms of restricting numbers, and even though the walk was booked out, I didn't find it too crowded (we hardly saw any people during the day and I didn't mind the company at the camp sites at night). But the overland track is of course a lot longer, so you basically lose any day-walkers halfway through day one... I can see how that can be different on walks like the Routeburn which is a lot shorter... Something to think about.
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby Juudbruinsma » Tue 16 Jan, 2018 8:52 am

lseries92 wrote:If you are restricted for time, the Heaphy is not the one to do (the trailheads are 420kms apart by road!). The Routeburn - as a through walk - has trailheads a fair way apart to but considering Queenstown is on one side and Milford/Te anau is on the other, you have heaps of transport options to get you where you are going. The Routeburn sounds like the one you want - doing it over three days also leaves you heaps to time to do any side-trips as well.


Yes, that's what I figured, that there will be lots of transport options available as close to Queenstown.

lseries92 wrote:I thought bookings open on July 1st each year but - as you point out - I have not found anything so far that confirms this. Maybe email DOC?


Good Idea, will email DOC. Imagine that there is a strategy behind them not advertising when they open bookings?
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby wayno » Tue 16 Jan, 2018 8:58 am

the prices are going up a lot for foreigners on great walks next year, i dont know the exact prices
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby lseries92 » Tue 16 Jan, 2018 5:30 pm

... which is why my short trip to NZ to do a single walk has got a little out of control since they DOC made the announcement (I am now doing the Kepler, Routeburn and Tongariro before the prices allegedly double on the first two and go up by 50% on the last one).
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby Juudbruinsma » Fri 19 Jan, 2018 3:06 pm

Hmmm, These comments made me suggest to my partner that we might do the track around the Anzac holiday instead... But he’s not keen as we’ve got a bit on around that time (overseas visitors) and we probably need a bit more time to get fitter... it’s given me some food for thought though, maybe we should be looking at doing the track another time, another public holiday perhaps...
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby wayno » Fri 19 Jan, 2018 3:38 pm

cold weather time
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Re: Suggestions for Christmas walks

Postby roysta » Fri 09 Feb, 2018 8:30 pm

mid April, school holidays are from March 30 to April 15. It'll be cooler for sure, but there will be a lot less people around.
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