My Favorite Hostels in New Zealand

Traveling around New Zealand, I’ve made it a goal to stay at a variety of different hostels. I didn’t want to just stay at the chains like Base or Nomads. I wanted to see small operations besides just big chains. I quickly found out, though, that most of New Zealand is dominated by chains such as YHA, Base, or Nomads. And all the buses affiliate with them, making them the most convenient place to stay. Overall, I found the majority of the hostels to be average, but there are five that blew me away and that I think everyone should make a point to stay at:

Nomads, Queenstown
Hostel lounge at the Nomads Hostel Queenstown
One of the most amazing hostels I’ve ever stayed at (and I’ve stayed at a lot of hostels). The place is brand new, so everything is fresh and clean. They have a ton of computers, most rooms have balconies, the showers have great water pressure, and the pillows are thick. The manager told me they change them every few months to keep them fluffy. How about that for service? But what really sets this place apart is the HUGE kitchen and common area. Moreover, unlike most hostels in New Zealand, you can drink, which means everyone stays around socializing at night instead of going out. They host activities every night (including a $10 pub crawl) and a free dinner and quiz night on Sunday. Not one traveler I spoke to wanted to leave this place. If you only stay in one hostel in NZ, stay here. I still miss it.

Rainbow Lodge, Taupo
The entrance of the Rainbow Lodge, Taupo
This is my second-favorite hostel after Nomads. They have a huge kitchen, common room, a grill, an outdoor lounge, friendly staff, and free bike rentals. In short, they know what budget travelers like in a hostel. I had a great time there and met a lot of solo travelers. Many hostels get travelers on tour buses, but this one doesn’t align with any of the big backpacker buses, which means you see a lot more solo travelers here than you do elsewhere.

Pipi Patch, Bay of Islands
Front of the Pipi Patch hostel, Bay of Islands
The Pipi Patch is an old converted motel and part of the Base hostels chain. To be honest, I don’t like Base hostels. It’s not that they’re really bad in any way, they just aren’t great. They’re like the McDonald’s of hostels. You go there because it’s easy, convenient, and you know what you’re getting. On the plus side, the backpacker buses like the Kiwi Experience drop people off there, so you’ll be with your friends. However, the Pipi Patch was different than the rest of the Base hostels I stayed at. They have a common room that’s big enough to fit a lot of people but small enough to force you to socialize, a big kitchen (with an oven), an outdoor patio, and all the rooms are ensuite. Plus, there’s a pool. I like hostels with character and this one had a lot of it.

Kiwi Paka, Waitomo
The street where the Kiwi Paka hostel is in Waitomo, NZ
A clean and well-kept hostel. There’s nothing mind-blowing about this place, but they have a great outdoor porch overlooking the area and a good restaurant. What I really loved was the water pressure in the showers (I think it took a few layers of skin off) and the fact that all the dorms have single beds. No bunk beds here. And the beds themselves are very comfortable. The Kiwi Paka is a good spot to get a good night’s sleep, and as a traveler in hostels, you have few opportunities for that, so it’s nice when it happens.

River Valley Lodge, River Valley
The central fire pit in the lobby of the River Valley Lodge, NZ
This is a stop on the Kiwi Experience. You wouldn’t stay here otherwise unless you were on a romantic getaway. More like a lodge than a hostel, what makes River Valley great is its location. Sitting outside on the patio, you can hear the river go by as you gaze upwards at the surrounding valley. Moreover, there’s a spa, sauna, and jacuzzi. There are great walks here, and since there’s no light at night, it makes for a great place to look up at the stars. This is very much a place to go if you have some extra money to burn, but even if you’re on a budget, they have dorm rooms for you!

For more information, visit my guide to New Zealand travel.

(Note: Both Base and Nomads gave me free accommodation throughout New Zealand. )

  1. becs

    I am going to throw up 5 more in 5 different towns that I loved:

    Kiwi Paka – Rotorua
    Chalet Backpackers – Dunedin
    Turtle Cove – Whitianga (Coromandel Peninsula)
    Criterion Art Deco Backpackers – Napier
    Tombstone Backpackers – Piction

    Hostels in NZ are the best! NZ is the best place to start using them if you are nervous as I never met one that wasn’t up to an “acceptable” standard.

    To get away from YHA, Base and Nomads, get a BBH card as most of the rest of the independent backpackers (unfortch, in NZ only) use this system.

    • NomadicMatt

      I stayed at Turtle Cove and I liked them but the fact the bar closed at 9pm was sort of a bummer. And there is no wi-fi there.

  2. The only Base I stayed in was the Hot Rocks in Rotorua and it was the worst hostel I’ve stayed in on my whole trip.

    It wasn’t just bland but actually dirty, cold, and badly in need of redecorating, as well as rude staff and zero atmosphere.

    Meanwhile I can also recommend the Taupo Urban Retreat – nice bar, great common space, good cheap food, lovely atmosphere, nice big garden – it really had everything I want in a hostel

    • I second the comment about Taupo Urban Retreat! Love it, probably I’m biased however as that is where I almost always stay during Ironman NZ. Not quite as good as just after the opened however (2006? 2005? Something like that, gee… now I feel old).

  3. Joe

    I wish you would have posted this about 2 weeks ago! I actually liked BASE in Queenstown, but then again I lucked out on the roommates. The ones in OZ are pretty awful though. It’s definitely the McDonald’s of Hostels, except they downsize everything.

    I loved the Golden Lodge in Nelson. That was probably the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It felt more like a bed n breakfast, which was a good change of pace. They were overbooked the day I checked in so they put me up in the Queen suite. Not bad.

    Keep up the good blogging. It’s keeping me inspired!

  4. Jeremy

    I’m going to echo the other comments about BBH: buy a card and use it. I stayed in the Nomads in Wellington as my first hostel in New Zealand, and I hated it. It was so bland and had no character, no personality. I took the ferry to the South Island the next day and got there after dark and couldn’t figure out how I was going to get to a hostel since there was no bus running at that time when I found a BBH guide. I called one that looked good, The Villa, and they came and picked me up. I bought a BBH card that night and never looked back. I stayed in BBH hostels for the rest of my trip except for once when there wasn’t one in the town I was in. My favorite was Leeway’s in Blenheim. If you plan on doing some vineyard work in the Marlbrough region, I highly recommend it.

    Another point about BBH is that with the card, you get a discount. The card’s 20 NZD and you get something like 2-5 NZD off each night, so it adds up quickly. I saw on your page about budgeting in NZ that you had about 27 NZD a day for a hostel; I normally payed about 18-20 NZD and I don’t think I ever payed more than 23.

  5. Hey Matt, as Dustin said you missed out on a whole heap of great locally operated hostels in NZ. BBH has a huge variety of cozy, relatively clean, and well run hostels with character – one thing that both Nomads and Base lack.

    • NomadicMatt

      It’s hard moving to a different hostel each night just to check them out. That being said, I’ll be back in NZ and I’ll update my list! :)

      • Linda

        The kiwi paka at waitomo toilet is not great at all. I booked the shared one n the taps have to keep pressing n the floor is rough cement I think. I walk barefoot cos I don’t want to wet my shoes. And there is not much things to do at night there. We sleep early.

  6. Rob

    Having travelled to NZ four times (Albeit living there twice), I have to agree with the other posters that the BBH hostels were by far the best ones I stayed in.

  7. KZY

    You tipped The Pipi Patch in Paihia, My pick for Paihia is The Pickled Parrot. Much smaller more compact kind of a place but great relaxed atmosphere, comfy beds and lush sub tropical garden in the courtyard. The staff anre always around to help…I dont work here but stayed here with some friends over New Years last year

  8. I would like to put a good word in for the HI Hostels ( formerly known as YHA). They were the people who started the hostel movement throughout the world several decades ago and still run some very good hostels. I think this is especially so if you are not into the hostel party scene. I bought life time membership 40 years ago and it was one of the best investments I made. Not only for all the HI hostels that I have stayed in around the world but also because of the discount I get with the card on intercity buses in New Zealand and other countries like Canada and Australia. So if you are doing any traveling and looking for hostels, take a look at as part of your research.

  9. Linda


    I just came back from NZ and i stayed at Kiwi Paka Waitomo but i am not impressed. I don’t find the showers water pressure good at all. And i hate showers which don’t have extension cord. If you are a woman you know why i hate fixed top shower heads.

    I wonder if all the hotel or motel can state whether they have a fixed top shower head or a shower hose.


  10. Ashley

    I am currently in Paihia and just had to write and say I really disliked the Pipi Patch in Paihia, directly across the street is the Mousetrap which I highly recommend for a much cheaper, better stay!! If you will be spending a decent amount of time traveling NZ, I would plan on buying the BBH membership and staying in all BBH hostels ($45 one time fee and then basically $3 discount every night at a BBH hostel…and there are loads of them!). One or two experiences at Base for me now, and I’ll probably never stay at another.

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