New Zealand North Island Hostel Guide: An Honest Review

There are so many hostels in New Zealand, it can be hard to decipher the good from the bad. I’ve put all the useful information that I have gathered over the past year into this handy guide. This guide focuses on New Zealand’s North Island hostels. Some of these hostels are amazing, some are average and some will have you running away. Luckily, I didn’t visit too many of the latter. For the most part, hostels in New Zealand seem to be really good, providing the facilities backpackers need.

I lived, worked and travelled around the whole of New Zealand for 10 months. For the majority of this time I stayed in hostels. So, it’s fair to say I have a good understanding of what makes a good hostel and what does not.

Hostels are one of the cheapest types of accommodations in New Zealand. Guests can choose between a bed in a dorm room or a private room for a little more space and comfort. The hostels provide shared bathrooms, a kitchen to cook in, laundry facilities and some kind of common area. I started my trip in New Zealand on my own and they can be a great place to meet other travellers, chat and make new friends. 

If you are planning to stay in hostels whilst travelling New Zealand, I would recommend purchasing a YHA hostel membership. The membership costs $25 (roughly £12.50) for a year, and provides members with a 10% discount per night. Members will typically make their money back after 10 nights in a dorm room and be saving money thereon after. We found a lot of the YHA hostels were really nice. They have to uphold high cleaning standards and offer good facilities to their guests to stay within the YHA network.

Mount Maunganui
Views at the top of Mount Maunganui

New Zealand North Island Hostels

Auckland: Haka Lodge

This was the first hostel I stayed at on New Zealand’s North Island. I booked my first four nights at this hostel before leaving England and stayed in the 12-bed dorm. This is actually the largest dorm I have stayed in whilst travelling around New Zealand. Normally, I opt for an 8-bed or less. One of the reasons I chose it was for the privacy Haka Lodge hostels provide. Each dorm room bed has a curtain which guests can pull across to create privacy. This was really useful when I was jet lagged and falling asleep at 8 PM. 

They also offer under the bed storage to lock away smaller bags and valuables – just remember to bring your own lock. The kitchen was big enough for several people to cook at once and there were plenty of comfy sofas to chill out on. The location was a little further away than some of the other hostels were located. However, an easy 10-15 minute walk and you would be in the heart of the city centre and close to the ferry terminals.

Rate: 7/10

Would I recommend? Yes, it’s a good hostel for a bit of privacy when you first arrive in Auckland.

Views from Auckland's Sky Tower
Views from the top of Auckland's Sky Tower

Paihia: Haka Lodge

I enjoyed the Haka Lodge in Auckland enough that I was happy to stay with them again in Paihia, where I was headed next. The view over the ocean from the common area of the hostel drew me in. Still recently arrived in New Zealand and new to the whole hostel living thing I was happy to stay with a brand that I seemed to like. 

Haka Lodge in Paihia had a large common area, kitchen and dining space. It was really well located in the centre of town and just opposite the visitor centre where the intercity bus stops. Not having too far to walk with luggage is always a plus! 

The 4-bed dorm I stayed in however was quite small and cramped and didn’t allow much space to move around. I do appreciate the power point, reading light and small shelf provided by each of the beds though. Small details like that can go a long way in making a dorm room stay more comfortable. Sleeping in a room with others you do not know, it’s nice to keep valuables on charge nearby overnight.

Rate: 7/10

Would I recommend? Yes

Sunset views from the common room at Haka Lodge Paihia
Sunset views from the common area at Haka Lodge Paihia

Coromandel: Turtle Cove

I stayed in this hostel during the winter season so it was relatively quiet. The 6-bed dorm we were in was large, warm and cosy with the provided heaters. A free breakfast was provided each morning; just a simple selection of cereals, toast and jams. They had plenty of movies to watch and a pool table which we enjoyed the use of most evenings during our stay. The owner of this hostel was super helpful and friendly. Overall a really nice hostel. It’s better located if you are travelling in a car but some people travelling by bus stayed here too.

Rate: 9/10

Would I recommend? Yes, this was one of my favourite hostels

New Chums Beach
New Chums Beach is just a short drive from the Turtle Cove hostel.

Tauranga: Apple Tree Backpackers

I didn’t like this hostel very much. Even from the beginning, I got a really weird vibe from the place. I visited in the winter so the majority of the guests staying were there long-term. The staff running the hostel seemed to be unorganised and there were too many rules for guests to abide by. These include having to pay a fine if you had not left the premises by the 10:00 AM check-out time. Fines were also imposed for dirty shoes indoors. 

The kitchen was small and it was difficult for even two people to cook at once. Meanwhile, staff force you to put your food away in the provided boxes, even when you explain you are cooking it now. Overall a very strange hostel. 

It has the potential to be nice with a large outdoor area and a games room. Upon checking out, one of the hostel workers asked us multiple times to leave a good review online. Checking back on TripAdvisor a lot of good reviews have been left by people who state they lived there long-term. They too were likely asked to leave such a review.

Rate: 4/10

Would I recommend? No

Views of Tauranga from the New Zealand North Island hostel
Views of Tauranga from the front of Apple Tree Backpackers.

Rotorua: Funky Green Voyager

I stayed at this hostel for one night when travelling through Rotorua. I stayed in a 6-bed dorm with an en-suite bathroom. The room was large and spacious and even had a couple of sofa’s in the bedroom to chill out on. There were several small kitchens in the hostel available for guests to use. This spread the demand for cookers/ kitchen space across the property and allowed for plenty of space to cook comfortably. The hostel is ideally located close by to a large Countdown supermarket and the town of Rotorua. There are a few off street parking spaces for guests and plenty of free street parking just outside the hostel too. 

Rate: 6/10

Would I recommend? Yes, no lasting impressions were made, good or bad.

Lake Rotorua
The Funky Green Voyager hostel is just a short walk away from the lakefront.

Hamilton: Backpackers

I stayed in this hostel for 2 nights, it was the only hostel in Hamilton and the reviews weren’t great but I decided to stay anyway. I really wanted to visit the gardens (which are amazing!), so I booked a couple of nights to explore the city too. 

The hostel was about a 15 minute walk away from the bus station and when I checked in, they didn’t have my room type available. I was offered to stay in another room of equal value, which I accepted. The other guests in my room repeatedly left the door open and unlocked, so I didn’t feel my belongings were the safest. A duvet was not provided on the bed unless specifically asked for, so my first night was spent quite cold. 

The whole atmosphere of the hostel was quite depressing and I remember wishing I had just booked 1 night. But, my bus departing from Hamilton had already been booked for 2 days away and I didn’t want to waste the ticket by departing early. On a positive note, they had plenty of showers and bathrooms and provided a simple free breakfast every morning. However, I wouldn’t be returning in a rush.

Rate: 4/10

Would I recommend? No, I would advise just to visit Hamilton for the day, visit the gardens and then move on to somewhere else, perhaps Raglan or Rotorua.

Hamilton Gardens
Hamilton Gardens make for a great day trip!

Taupo: YHA Finlay Jacks

I stayed here for one night. In that one day that I originally planned to stay in Taupo, I fell for the city. I loved it- the lake, the vibe of the town, the sunset. I was looking for a place to settle down for a few months to work and earn some money before travelling again and Taupo was the perfect place to spend the summer. But, the YHA Finlay Jacks would not be the hostel I would return to. 

For one or two nights I would say this hostel is fine. I booked this hostel because it was YHA, which of course has a reputation for being nice and clean, they had free street parking outside (I had a rental at the time) and they had a dog. Honestly, it was mostly the dog that sold me. I didn’t stay here for long, but I didn’t get a great vibe from the hostel. The long-term guests seemed to be very cliquey, which is not something I like so much.

The staff were hard to get a hold of for check-in and later when I wanted to ask a question too. They had a phone system, which operate in many hostels – ring if you need service and they will come. However, they didn’t seem to come. Checking in I waited for some time and the second time I gave up and walked away. The facilities themselves were good and clean; a large kitchen, plenty of bathrooms, nice outdoor seating. However, the atmosphere was not as welcoming as I had hoped.

Rate: 6/10

Would I recommend? Short-term yes, long-term no.

#LOVETAUPO

Taupo: Rainbow Lodge

Rainbow Lodge was my favourite New Zealand hostel which I stayed at. I spent about 4 months at this hostel in total and made some great friends here. It was the first purpose built backpackers in New Zealand and is therefore tailored towards the needs of backpackers. 

The hostel has one of the biggest kitchens I have seen in a backpackers. There are lots of pots, pans and other cook wear needed to make a delicious meal. Rainbow Lodge can get quite busy in the summer, so it really helps to have this much space! The hostel also provides a selection of free herbs and spices for guests to use; a nice little bonus.

Every day, during reception hours, guests can help themselves to free tea and coffee. They have a large separate TV room in the blue building next to the guest car park, with lots of DVD’s to borrow from reception. Staff can advise you on a range of activities to do to keep you busy whilst in Taupo. Guests can even take Jess (hostel pup) out for a walk if they wish to do so! Jess will often be lounging around the hostel property and loves hanging out with the guests.

The hostel also has a free sauna for guests to use. They offer a variety of rooms from a 9-bed dorm to a 3- bed dorm, a female only dorm, private rooms and private en-suite rooms. Something to suit everyone. The hostel gets a thorough clean every day and the kitchen is cleaned twice. This was easily the best hostel I stayed at during my time in New Zealand, from the facilities, the friendly guests and staff, you won’t regret staying here!

Rate: 10/10

Would I recommend? Yes, absolutely!

Rainbow Lodge Hostel Mural
Jess - hostel dog resident at Rainbow Lodge.

East Cape: Te Araroa Backpackers

The best thing about this hostel on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island is the location. One of my favourite places I visited on the North Island was East Cape Lighthouse and it’s a great place to visit for sunrise. It is one of the first places to see the sunrise each day, so it’s really cool to visit at this time of day. 

If you are going to be up early for sunrise you will want to stay as close by as you can. There is a campsite along the road to the lighthouse, but we visited during New Zealand’s winter months and preferred to stay somewhere a bit warmer. 

The nearest hostel is Te Araroa backpackers. There was only a few people staying when we visited and we booked a private room for the ease of waking up early and not disturbing others. This hostel was lovely and provided everything we needed. They had a kitchen to cook your meals, free tea and coffee, and a pool table. The shared bathrooms were clean and we enjoyed our short but sweet stay here.

Rate: 7/10

Would I recommend? Yes, it’s the perfect location if you want to visit East Cape Lighthouse at sunrise – which I highly recommend you do!

Sunrise at East Cape Lighthouse
Stay at Te Araroa Backpackers and visit East Cape Lighthouse for sunrise.

Napier: Criterion Art Deco Backpackers

This hostel used to be a luxury hotel in the 1930’s, but has since been converted into a backpackers accommodation. However, it could do with a bit of redecorating. The living area reminded me of a care home for elderly people, the kitchen was small and difficult for several people to cook at the same time. A free breakfast was provided in the morning however, they didn’t have enough bowls and plates for everyone to use. 

Apart from that it was a good hostel to stay in for a few nights, it’s really well located in the centre of Napier. They have a few bathrooms and the bedroom was large and spacious. They also have a pool table in the common area which is free to use. The WiFi did not work in our dorm, but this wasn’t too much of an issue with the free pool and board games they provided.

Rate: 6/10

Would I recommend? Yes, overall not a bad hostel, with a little updating it could be great.

Napier's Marine Parade
Criterion Art Dec Backpackers is centrally located, just a few minutes walk from the beach.

Gisborne: YHA

We stayed in a 10-bed dorm In the YHA in Gisborne. It was quite spacious and the shape of the room meant it was separated a bit and didn’t feel as busy as a 10-bed dorm. They had 3 bunks (6 beds) and then the other 4 beds were normal single beds. The shared bathroom facilities were in a covered annex and could sometimes be a little cold in the evenings and mornings.

The kitchen was a good size and had all the facilities you need to cook your own meals. There was also free tea and coffee available all day. They had a comfy lounge area with a TV and lots of DVD’s and board games to play. We enjoyed our time at this hostel and there’s lots to do in Gisborne and the surrounding areas. We even extended our stay here for an extra night and bought our YHA membership here.

Rate: 8/10

Would I recommend? Yes, we had a lovely stay here.

Kaiti Hill in Gisborne
Kaiti Hill is a short walk from YHA Gisborne Hostel.

Raglan: YHA Solscape

The YHA in Raglan is situated a short drive outside of the centre of town. Located at the top of a hill, the hostel has a great view over the ocean, the perfect place to watch the sunset. Solscape is a little different to the typical hostel; the dorm rooms are in refurbished railway carriages. They also have private accommodation in ti-pi’s, earth domes or groups can rent out an entire railway carriage. 

The hostel has a large garden with access to walking trails straight from the hostel grounds. During the winter months, they had a fire in the shared kitchen/ lounge area to stay warm and heaters in the accommodations. However, the hostel would likely be just as lovely in the summer with the ti-pi’s up. 

They also offer yoga classes, surf lessons or surfboard and wet suit hire if you wish. Raglan is one of the best surf towns in New Zealand if you are a keen surfer or want to learn. It was a little pricier than the average dorm bed here, but we found that to be standard for all of Raglan. They are really big on being Eco-friendly here, and I really enjoyed our few nights at this hostel.

Rate: 9/10

Would I recommend? Yes, I really enjoyed staying at this hostel, I would love to go back and stay in Raglan during the summer.

Wellington: Hotel Waterloo & Backpackers

This was by far one of the worst hostels I stayed whilst in New Zealand. Wellington can be an expensive city, and since we were staying for a couple of weeks we were looking for a good weekly rate. This hostel offered the cheapest we could find and had a fairly good location, so we booked it over the phone with the receptionist. 

However, we soon ran into problems upon arrival. After confirming the details on the phone 3 times, only 1 bed had been reserved and we needed 2. After a slightly heated discussion, another bed in the same room suddenly became available after previously ‘claiming’ there were none available.

Unfortunately for us, it only got worse throughout our stay. This hostel is actually half a hostel and half a hotel which should start questioning the type of establishment we were staying in. The kitchen was huge, yet for a place that offers accommodation for so many people, they only have a handful of mugs and pans for cooking. Every morning we had to go searching for mugs to make coffee. There is an on-site cafe which is open for breakfast, however they also did not have any mugs.

We also experienced issues with food being stolen from the fridges. A 2-litre bottle of orange juice which was clearly labelled in our food box was not only opened and used but then discarded on the floor in the walk-in fridge. Staff at the reception did not do much other than state it was an ongoing issue which they were aware of. This says a lot about the other customers which stay here, and the lack of customer service the employees provide.

We stayed in a 6-bed dorm, with an en-suite. The room itself was okay and the bathroom was cleaned daily, but the atmosphere, common areas, kitchen, lack of ability to get a mug to drink from in the morning all led to an unsatisfactory stay. The hostel is located close to the ferry terminals and railway station, but otherwise there are many other better located hostels in the city.

Rate: 2/10

Would I recommend? No. There are plenty of other places to stay in Wellington.

Windy Welly Sign
Wellington is a cool little city with lots of things to see and do!

Wellinton: Trek Global

I stayed at this hostel for 2 nights during a busy weekend (the All Blacks were playing in Wellington) and claimed the last bed in the hostel. Since the All Blacks playing, prices were high everywhere. I stayed in a single private room on the female-only floor of the hostel. The room was lovely, and came included with a towel and some small toiletry bottles. The hostel had 24 hour security staff and a key fob was required to get into the building and through different doors/ floors of the hostel. 

They provide free luggage storage on the day you are checking in and out. We left our luggage here, whilst we went to pick the car up (free parking is hard to come by in Wellington). They do have a handy small loading area, where we parked for a few minutes whilst we loaded the car up – a lot of accommodations in Wellington do not have this ability. The location of the hostel was also great, very central to the shopping areas, close by to Cuba Street and other Wellington hot spots. Overall, I really liked this hostel, they even have a free pool table on the ground floor common area, Foosball table and guitars for guests to use.

Rate: 8/10

Would I recommend? Yes, absolutely! There are so many choices for accommodation in Wellington, it can be hard to know where to stay. I definitely recommend staying at this hostel. It’s got a great location and facilities and it’s cleaned well every day.

New Zealand fur seals at Red Rocks Reserve
New Zealand fur seals at Red Rocks Reserve.

Wellington: Worldwide Backpackers

The Worldwide backpackers in Wellington is well located also, not too far from the Trek Global hostel. Located close by to many of Wellington’s attractions and shopping areas. The reception isn’t open for many hours in a day; a couple hours each morning and evening. If you arrive out of hours an envelope will be left with your name, key to your room and information about the hostel. 

It is mostly a hostel for guests staying in Wellington long-term. Typically people on their working holiday visas with a job in the city. On the weekends and during the evenings it can be quite a party hostel with the long-termer’s drinking and getting ready for a night out. We’d had a long day of travelling the day we arrived and so I was pretty tired and would have appreciated them quieting down after 10 PM. At some hostels, it is enforced that guests should be quiet after 9/10 PM but that didn’t seem to be the case here. It’s a good hostel for socialising and partying, however not so great if you want to get some rest. 

The room itself was okay, we stayed in a 6-bed dorm. It was clean, but messy in that way that a long-termer’s room is. Sometimes I’m not a big fan of staying in a room with long-termer’s, they are harder to clean properly with everyone’s stuff all over the place. However, for a short stay it was okay.

Rate: 6/10

Would I recommend? Yes, just be mindful of the type of guests that stay here, and weekends are likely to be loud.

If you need ideas on where to go on the North Island of New Zealand, read this post here. I detailed the perfect North Island itinerary, to see all the best spots with lots of pretty pictures to inspire your own travels.

North Island Hostel Guide Pin

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