During my 28 nights in New Zealand, I mostly split my nights between staying in hostels and campgrounds.
Despite having a campervan for the whole journey, I knew I would stay some nights in hostels. This wasn’t because the campervan was uncomfortable to sleep in (It was extremely comfortable), but it was for a combination of reasons. First, even though I loved sleeping in the campervan, it was nice to have a little extra space from time to time. Second, hostels offered much better internet than the campgrounds did. Third, I was traveling in winter, and even though the campervan was snug, it was nice to stay in a warm bed from time to time.
I generally stayed at YHA New Zealand hostels (the one exception was Hogwartz in Dunedin, which was also a nice hostel), which I found to be a great value and wonderful facilities. I was not disappointed in a single one that I stayed in. Besides having very good internet (it wasn’t free, but their daily pass was a decent value, especially for New Zealand), the hostels always came with excellent common rooms and friendly staff. I was especially impressed with the kitchens- which were clean and well-stocked with everything needed to help those who wanted to save money and prepare their own meals.
I purchased a membership card for the YHA Hostels at the first one I stayed at. I provided me with a discounted member rate on rooms at all the subsequent hostels I stayed in, and also gave a wide array of discounts at many other tourist attractions along my route.
I didn’t want to stay in dorms, so, on the nights I stayed in hostels, I paid about double for a private room, which was usually a double bed room. In many cases, the rate for a single traveler was slightly less than it would have been for two travelers. The rooms were clean and basic, and always came with sheets included. This was done to avoid the transfer of bed bugs (a common problem in hostels where backpackers provide their own sheets). None of the hostel rooms I stayed in came with a private bathroom, but I was more than satisfied with the common showers and toilets.
The YHA hostels I stayed in were as follows (with a couple comments for each)-
Te Anau- Easy walk to downtown area. Friendly staff and great common areas. Staff very helpful in choosing from the dizzying array of options for excursions available in Fiordland and the surrounding areas, and they can also help booking them. Probably my favorite of the hostels I stayed at.
Queenstown Lakefront- Beautifully situated on Lake Wakatipu, a short walk from the city center. Super, modern facilites- some of the coolest common spaces I’ve ever seen in a hostel. The staff was available to advise and book any of the many Queenstown excursion options.
Franz Josef- Wonderful, friendly staff that offered great advice on the surrounding area. Clean, well- stocked kitchen and dining room. A comfy place with a sauna!
Punakaiki Te Nikau Retreat- I’ll admit, when I pulled in to the parking lot of this one, I wondered what I had gotten into. It has dorms, but since I was booking a private room, I was given a bungalow down a short path from the office and common building. The bungalow was extremely comfortable, and was truly one of the most unique places I stayed. The common facilities were very good as well.
Havelock- I arrived at this facility late in the evening, fixed dinner, had a nice conversation with a few of the other guests while eating, then went to bed, I left at 6AM the next morning, so I never saw the place in daylight, but the staff I encountered was friendly. It is set up in an old house on the main road and was another place I’d describe as comfy.
Wellington- This super modern facility south of the CBD was perfectly located for exploring the city. The kitchen and common rooms were as nice as any I’ve ever encountered in a hostel. The staff was knowledgeable and available to help me make the most of my time in the capital. A supermarket was located close by, which made up for the lack of on-site parking.
Taupo- This is another hostel where I arrived late and left early, but I did like the facility (the parts I saw) and it was conveniently located.
Auckland City- This is one of the two YHA Hostels in Auckland. Located a short uphill walk from the CBD, this place had a beautiful terrace deck and was buzzing with activity, which is common at popular hostels. There was no on-site parking here, but overnight parking at the garage down the street was reasonable.
New Zealand has a thriving camping culture. All of the campgrounds I stayed in had excellent facilities. Most were located in extremely beautiful settings, too.
They were also mostly empty, too. So many of them were these huge facilities, but, traveling in early winter like I did, there just weren’t a lot of Kiwis out camping. Inevitably, the majority of people I met camping were tourists like myself. The shared kitchens and restrooms in every one of the 12 campgrounds I stayed in were much like that of the hostels, clean & providing everything needed.
Camping was also much cheaper than my nights in hostels. The most I paid for a campsite was 18 NZD. There was internet available in every one of the campgrounds, but it was usually very slow and bandwidth limited. That wasn’t really a problem for me. Most nights I spent camping were nights where I got in to the campground after dark, fixed a quick dinner, either out of the campervan or in the communal kitchens, downloaded the days photos, checked my e-mail quickly and went to bed.
I only spent two nights in lodgings other than hostels or campgrounds.
The first night was in shared, dormitory-style accommodation aboard the Fiordland Navigator during my Doubtful Sound Overnight trip with the company Real Journeys. Usually, I avoid dorms like the plague because I am a very light sleeper and do not deal well with the noisy habits of dorm-mates. In this situation, it was unavoidable, as to get a single cabin to myself would have more than doubled the cost the trip. I got lucky, sharing the four bed room with only two other individuals, a nice young man from Sweden, who had a long conversation about our travels with until late in the night, and an Englishman, who came back to the room and, despite being quite intoxicated, passed out quietly.
The second night was in Kaitia on the North Island, late in my trip, when I splurged on a motel room. It was the only night of the trip where I had my own bathroom and a TV in my room. Unfortunately, I had arrived so late that I didn’t get any use out of the TV- I did enjoy having the private shower, however- it was a pleasant change from the communal facilities I used on the rest of the trip.
I can highly recommend the hostels of YHA New Zealand. They are a wonderful organization with great properties all over the country. I can also recommend camping as an reasonable option for most people, but camping does require one the have their own transportation. I’ll talk about my wonderful Jucy campervan in an upcoming post.