It's open season on Great Walk bookings with the most popular huts filling up in minutes.
The Milford, Heaphy and Stewart Island's Rakiura tracks went on sale at 9.30am this morning.
The Milford track as usual was in high demand, with Christmas, Easter and Anzac holidays, gone within the first 10 minutes of opening.
The Rakiura and Heaphy continued to have good availability in huts and camp sites. However, it was the Fiordland favourite which was quick to go.
The 53.5km stretch is widely considered to be New Zealand's premiere multi-day track, with kiwi hikers paying $78 a night and international visitors paying $110.
All 120 bunks along the four day hike from Lake Te Anau to Sandfly Point in Milford were gone in minutes, as thosands of users logged on to the booking system.
"DoC's bookings team report they have had a very busy morning today with early indications showing that the Milford sold out in record time," said DoC's director of Heritage and Visitors, Steve Taylor.
"The team had 6700 customers making bookings online in the first 30 Minutes and in the first 45 minutes processed 3250 bookings across the three Great Walks that opened for bookings today: Milford, Heaphy and Rakiura."
DoC says this rush is due to the fame of Milford as a New Zealand 'Great Walk' and the limited capacity. Unlike other tracks there is no camping at the Milford huts.
Last year, in spite of borders being closed, the track was filled in under an hour.
Although the was a shorter walking season due to flood damage along the route.
This season 2021/22 hikers will be able to enjoy the newly rebuilt Mintaro Hut. The hut which is one of three on the route was opened in April after a $3million project to repair flood damage at the site.
In spite of a busy Great Walk season, total bookings were down 47 per cent last year. As were revenues from booking. Milford which was worth almost $3.4 million in bookings during the 2018/19 Summer season halved by over 60 per cent to $1.3 million last year.
While the public DoC huts were quick to fill out on the Milford route, there is still good availability in privately owned huts. Private operators such as Ultimate Hikes are able to charge up to $2230 per hiker, showing that people are willing to pay a premium for a place on the Milford trail.
"DoC could feasibly ask for more more, and get it," said Ultimate Hikes director, Noel Saxon. "But it's the experience, the extra comforts of home that make the difference."
As Great Walks go on sale this week, the trails open for booking in three separate tranches.
The Milford, Heaphy and Rakiura tracks went on sale at 9.30am this morning.
On Wednesday 16 June the Routeburn, Paparoa and Lake Waikaremoana tracks and Whanganui Journey open or booking.
On Thursday 17 June, the Kepler, Tongariro Northern Circuit and Abel Tasman Coast tracks.
Go to doc.govt.nz for details and booking.