One of the best of the many great DOC huts I’ve stayed in, Welcome Flat Hut had two novel features rarely seen elsewhere.
The well known feature are the hot pools, fed by natural spring water that comes out of the group at a constant 57C. Three pools have been developed, each a different colour and temperature. They’re shallow and basic but quite incredible. The best time to visit them is just after dawn and after dusk when the omnipresent sandflies have disappeared.
The less well known feature is the Sierra Room, a bookable private room for up to four people. Formerly the warden’s quarter (they now have a flashier standalone building) at the back of the hut, it comes with a gas cooker, cooking equipment, a double mattress, and a hot shower. The later was particularly useful after the hot pools to wash off the fine mud.
Behind the hut rise the mighty Sierra Range of mountains, with the 3,151m high summit of Mt Sefton most obvious at sunset as it catches the last rays of light.
The hut itself was built in 1986 to replace a previous hut from 1913. Within weeks of it opening a huge landslip nearly buried the hut. It was dug out and relocated to a safer spot. It has a huge downstairs cooking / social area, and four large bunk rooms upstairs.
Bookings are mandatory to stay here, but it can still get incredibly busy at times, with space for 31 people in the main hut, 4 in the Sierra room, and there are 8 camping spots (with a couple of people in each tent), so there could be around 50 people staying. Thankfully when I visited during the week, post Covid, in October there were few people around. The campsite would be a pleasant spot in summer, close to the river, if further from the hot pools.
The least appealing accommodation option, though closest to the hot pools and free, is the rock bivouac. This was the original shelter before the first hut was built.
The hut isn’t actually on Welcome Flat, that’s a pleasant 20 minute walk upstream to a beautiful open space. Continuing on for another three hours or so is Douglas Rock Hut, an eight bunk hut that would make a good lunch spot on a return day walk. I didn’t make it that far though, choosing to rest at the hut and in the hot pools instead.