New Zealand South Island Hostel Review
Oamaru Backpackers

New Zealand’s South Island has a large network of hostels. But, with so much choice deciding where to stay can be difficult. Since I stayed in hostels all across the South Island when I was on my working holiday I reviewed every single one I stayed at. The good hostels, the bad hostels and everything in between. If you are planning on travelling to the North Island too, then read my review of North Island hostels.

Read Next: New Zealand North Island Hostel Review

Doubtful Sound
Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise

New Zealand South Island HOstels

Picton: Piwaka Lodge & Backpackers

This was one of the best hostels I stayed at whilst in New Zealand. The host Nicci is super friendly and accommodating. Each evening she makes a snack/ food of some sort to bring all of the guests together. There’s also a free breakfast every morning, including a homemade porridge with fruit and cinnamon, toast and cereals. 

The homemade porridge was delicious, it’s very popular with the guests though so make sure to get up early! Free tea, coffee and biscuits are available all day and in the winter months hot water bottles are provided in the bedrooms. The hostel was well located in the centre of Picton, just a short walk from the town centre and the harbour for the ferries to the North Island. A small but cosy hostel, perfect for spending a few nights in Picton.

Rate: 9/10

Would I recommend? Yes absolutely! I loved this hostel.

Marlborough Sounds
Views from the Snout Track in Picton

Nelson: The Palace Backpackers

The Palace Backpackers is a large Victorian house which has since been converted into a hostel. The dorm rooms are large with all single beds, no bunks. Due to the high ceilings of the building, it can be quite cold in the winter as it takes a while to warm up the rooms. However, free baked goods are available in the living area all day long and a free breakfast is provided in the morning. 

The kitchen is a good size with several stove tops so there’s enough room for a few people to cook at once. The hostel is well located in town and offers free on site parking for guests. Overall a good stay, but not much in the way of entertainment; they had no board games and just a few films to watch.

Rate: 6/10

Would I recommend? Yes, it was okay, it provided the basics but nothing too spectacular.

Nelson Marina
Nelson Marina

Motueka: The White Elephant

This was one my favourite South Island hostels. We went to and from this hostel a few times. It has a fantastic location on the outskirts of the Abel Tasman National Park. A great place to situate yourself before and after you do the Abel Tasman Great Walk, as we did. The iSite in Motueka is also great and they can help you book all your necessary DOC huts and water taxi transfers if you need. 

The hostel owners at the White Elephant are lovely and like to check in on their guests and have a chat. In the winter it’s a great place to stay as it’s warm and cosy in the evenings. The 6-bed dorm we stayed in the first time had a fireplace which they lit in the late afternoon and kept going into the evening. 

Electric blankets were provided on each bed and they had a couple of cats which like to cuddle up to you too. In the common area they have a pool table, board games and plenty of films to choose from. Free herbs and spices are provided in the kitchen to make a yummy dinner. Plenty of free on-site parking is available for guests.

Rate: 9/10

Would I recommend? Yes, it’s a really great hostel!

Read Next: Abel Tasman Great Walk: Coastal Track

Split Apple Rock
Split Apple Rock, a short drive from Motueka

Takaka: Golden Bay Barefoot Backpackers

This is a small hostel located just outside the Abel Tasman National Park. Takaka is located further north than Motueka, but both are great bases for exploring different areas of Abel Tasman. The hostel owner here is really lovely and loves to chat with her guests. She also has a couple of dogs and cats which make it feel like a home away from home. 

There’s often guests that stay in this hostel long-term in the winter. Therefore, the kitchen can get busy in the evenings as everyone tries to cook at once. However, we managed to cook our meals without too much trouble. We stayed in a 6-bed dorm, but we were separate to the long-term guests. I usually prefer this as their rooms can understandably get messy quickly. I find it more comfortable to be in a separate room, so I really appreciated this in the Golden Bay hostel.

On our last evening at the hostel we enjoyed playing games with some of the other guests and the hostel owner. It was a really lovely stay!

Rate: 9/10

Would I recommend? Yes a lovely a small hostel in the North of the South Island.

Te Waikoropupu Springs
Te Waikoropupu Springs, a short drive from Takaka

Hanmer Springs: Jack in the Green Hostel

A cosy hostel in Hanmer Springs. If you are visiting Hanmer Springs it’s probably to visit the famous Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools. Although there’s not too much else going on in the town, it’s nice to stay for a night or two to really relax. There’s a few good walks in the area too if you’re looking for something else to do. 

The Jack in the Green hostel is located a 15 minute walk from the hot pools. It’s a great little hostel with only 8 bedrooms. There’s no bunk beds here, so no uncomfortable and noisy bed frames like you’ll find at some hostels. Instead, the beds are made up prior to your arrival with cosy duvets and blankets. In the living room there’s a real log fire, which the owner keeps going throughout the evening. I enjoyed lounging in the comfy chairs by the fire in the evening.

They offer free tea, coffee and my favourite – hot chocolate! They have a large kitchen and dining area, perfect for cooking up your own meals. Inside the hostel there’s plenty of information about what to do in the area. 

I enjoyed my stay here and the location is lovely in a quiet residential part of town. A few board games, or films would be useful as an extra something to do in the evenings.

Rate: 7/10

Would I recommend? Yes

Conical Hill Summit
Views from Conical Hill, Hanmer Springs

Westport: YHA Westport, TripInn

This was one of the largest hostels I stayed at whilst travelling around New Zealand. The YHA has plenty of rooms to accommodate everyone, from private en-suites all the way up to an 8-bed mixed dorm. We stayed in the 8-bed dorm whilst we were there, however it was never full during the off-peak season. 

The hostel kitchen is very big and we had no trouble cooking our meals. There’s plenty of comfy sofas and chairs to sit and relax in the living room. I really enjoyed the games room at this hostel. We played on the pool table most nights, no-one else used it during our stay so it was great evening entertainment. The hostel is located right in town, it would be easy to walk to a bar/ restaurant but we were trying to save our money. 

Coal is used to heat the hostel in the winter, which although not great for the environment, did keep the hostel warm throughout. We asked the hostel owner why he uses coal to heat the hostel and he claimed it was the only way to survive in the winter. Electricity bills would be too expensive and he would face closing the hostel if that was his only option. 

I did enjoy staying at this hostel, I would suggest trying to be a bit flexible with your plans on the west coast. The rain will come and having an extra day spare will allow you to get out and really explore the region. There’s lots of walks to do in the region and I really enjoyed visiting this part of New Zealand.

Rate: 7/10

Would I recommend? Yes

Oparara Basin Arches
Oparara Basin Arches, one of the many walks on the West Coast

Greymouth: Duke Hostel

Duke hostel was one of the worst hostels I stayed at in New Zealand. Accommodation in Greymouth in the winter season is limited. So, it’s common for some hostels to close down for the season while business is slow. When I looked online this hostel was the cheapest available. They had some bad reviews online but their website stated that it had recently been taken over by new owners and they were making refurbishments. Hence, I thought it would probably be okay and those reviews were from the previous owners. They had a private room advertised for the same price as 2 beds in a dorm room so we booked this option online.

However, upon checking in we were informed that since the room was so cheap we would be charged a higher credit card fee. We booked the room directly through their website, if the prices were too low it was only their fault. We were pretty annoyed at the time, but so confused we didn’t think to just go and get cash out instead. Checking back now the prices are no different to when we visited months ago. I would be sceptical that they are still doing the same thing.

Already off to a bad start, we were shown around the hostel. In general it is very run-down and the new owners don’t seem to care about it that much. The colour scheme inside the hostel made me feel as if I was inside a clown’s house. Brightly, multi-coloured walls featured throughout the hostel, enough to give you a headache just looking at them. The bathrooms needed an update, the ‘bar’ downstairs had clearly been neglected and not used for a while. The kitchen was large and the communal area was okay. However, the whole hostel made me feel like I wanted to leave immediately.

Thankfully, we were in a private room which is the only reason we decided to stay. We could lock away our belongings and be sure no-one else could get in. The bedroom was small but it seemed like the bed sheets and towels were brand new. Maybe one of the few ‘renovations’ they had done. 

Car parking was actually a public car park behind the hostel. The location had us wondering if it was even safe to leave the car there overnight. Above all, the owners lacked any kind of customer service. Their website claims the father and son duo who own the hostel are ‘passionate about providing high quality accommodation’. Yet, the young man who checked us in seemed to lack enthusiasm for anything, never mind turning the hostel into a successful business.

Rate: 1/10

Would I recommend? Absolutely not!

Monteiths Brewery
Monteiths Brewery was the best thing about Greymouth, and got us out of the hostel!

Franz Josef: Glowworm Dell

Far different than the previous hostel, the Glowworm Dell in Franz Josef was fantastic! It was one of the best South Island hostels we stayed at. It’s a small independently owned hostel, but they offer amazing value for everything you get. Included in your stay they provide; FREE tea, coffee and hot chocolate, FREE breakfast, FREE soup in the evening, FREE UNLIMITED popcorn and a FREE hot tub. It really is an incredible hostel and I loved staying here. 

We rang up the hostel a few days before we wanted to stay to book the hostel. The receptionist actually recommended we book it on as it would actually be cheaper for us since they had a deal on. I was already impressed with this hostel and looking forward to our stay before we got there.

They have a nice chill out area with comfy sofas and chairs in the living room. You’re welcome to make as much popcorn as you want at any time. We made some and watched a movie one evening. The free hot tub is also available up until 8 or 9 PM in the evening; a nice way to relax after doing some of the walks around Franz Josef and Fox Glacier.

The whole stay was lovely and if I am ever in Franz Josef again, I look forward to returning.

Rate: 10/10

Would I recommend? YES

Read Next:  New Zealand Budget Travel Guide: 15 Money-Saving Tips

Reflections in Lake Matheson
Lake Matheson, a short drive from Franz Josef.

Wanaka: YHA Purple Cow Backpackers

The YHA in Wanaka has a fantastic location with a view of Lake Wanaka. The dining area has large expansive windows for guests to enjoy the view and a small outside seating area too. Wanaka can be an expensive town but with a YHA membership the hostel was reasonably priced. 

The hostel had a pool table in the communal area which we used most nights and a couple of guitars for guests to use too. Each evening they lit the log fires in the living space, which made for a super cosy atmosphere. The hostel kitchen is large and spacious; offering 6 cook tops and 2 ovens for guests to use. 

We stayed in a 6-bed dorm with an en-suite. The room was cleaned well every day and having a bathroom in the room was useful. As is standard in YHA operated hostels they provided large lockers in the dorm room, big enough to fit our entire backpacks in and lock up. Additionally, there’s also a small shelf to put any phones/laptops/tablets on to charge whilst being locked away. 

This was a brilliant South Island hostel and I enjoyed my time here.

Rate: 8/10

Would I recommend? Yes, I would definitely stay again next time I’m in Wanaka.

South Island Hostel YHA Wanaka
Views of Wanaka from the YHA

Queenstown: Bumbles Backpackers

Queenstown is likely one of the most expensive cities in New Zealand, particularly in regards to accommodation. Even hostels can be quite expensive. If you are planning to visit at peak season then I would recommend booking a couple of weeks in advance at least! Hostels and other types of accommodation can fill up quickly in Queenstown. With so much to do in Queenstown you may want to stay for a few days minimum to cover everything.

After comparing prices, facilities and locations at several hostels we decided to stay at Bumbles Backpackers. They have a great location; just a five minutes walk into the centre of town. Yet, they are also slightly on the outskirts of the main entertainment area to be quiet in the evening. They have several car parking spots too, which is a rarity in the centre of Queenstown. Parking spaces are first come, first served, but we managed to get lucky.

The staff at Bumbles Backpackers in Queenstown are super friendly. They went above and beyond anything we expected. We stayed at this South Island hostel for one week and made friends with one of the receptionists. She helped us to get a local’s discount for an overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound, saving us at least $100 each! 

We stayed in an 8-bed dorm with an en-suite. The shape of the room meant it was separated into 2 sections. Most of the time I forgot it was an 8-bed because I only saw half of the room. The room was well laid out, with an en-suite bathroom and a few lockers to store your valuables in too. The kitchen was well equipped with everything we needed and they even provided free tea and coffee. An extra refrigerator would be useful as there wasn’t much space to store food that needed to be chilled.

Overall, I was really impressed with this hostel. It had a fab location, friendly and helpful staff, good sized rooms and a kitchen to cook our own meals in.

Rate: 9/10

Would I recommend? Definitely, this is a great hostel in Queenstown and reasonably priced too.

Bumbles Backpackers Hostel
Views of the mountains at sunset from the Bumbles Backpackers Hostel

Te Anau: YHA

Another YHA hostel we stayed at on New Zealand’s South Island. We really enjoyed YHA hostels and with the membership discount we often checked to see if there was a YHA in our next destination. Te Anau YHA did not disappoint. It was quite a large hostel with plenty of parking, a big kitchen and living room space. The hostel workers were friendly and helpful upon checking in. 

We stayed in a 6-bed dorm and it was very comfortable with plenty of space for all the guests. In addition, the bathrooms were great with large separate bathrooms for men and women. As always they were cleaned really well and provided enough shower stalls for the demand. 

We stayed in the Te Anau YHA the day before we departed on our Doubtful Sound overnight cruise. It’s perfectly located for exploring in the Fiordland National Park. We returned to this South Island hostel after our Doubtful Sound cruise and stayed for a couple more nights again. Another day we drove the road to Milford Sound and back. It’s a wonderfully scenic drive and the hostel provided a self-drive map with all the recommended stops on the way.

The hostel has a wide selection of films to watch and board games to play if you wish. Since Fiordland is often rainy it’s nice to have the option of things to do inside when the rain does come. It’s also situated right in the middle of town so you can easily walk to many places without the need for a car. 

Te Anau is a great place to stay if you are doing either Doubtful Sound or Milford Sound. I can highly recommend YHA Te Anau as a South Island hostel, if you want to explore the Fiordland National Park.

Rate: 8/10

Would I recommend? Yes

Te Anau Lakefront
Te Anau Lakefront, 5 minute walk from the YHA.

Tekapo: Tailor Made Tekapo Backpackers

Accommodation in Tekapo is expensive, even hostels are often more expensive than most other places in New Zealand. There is a brand new YHA in Tekapo that opened in late 2019, however it’s much more expensive than all of the other independently owned hostels in Tekapo. 

We decided to stay at Tailor Made Backpackers and made a booking over the phone. We were told we would get a confirmation email and rung back the next day when we still hadn’t received one. Unfortunately, there was a slight miscommunication and we did not have a booking. We received amazing service from the hostel owner though. Shortly afterwards he rang us back with a free upgrade to a private twin room. We were extremely grateful that we could still be accommodated and the customer service we received was wonderful. 

The hostel was really nice, with a shared living space and modern kitchen. There was an outside space and parking inside the hostel premises for a few cars. Otherwise there was plenty of street parking available to guests. Just a short 5 minute walk to the centre of Tekapo; the hostel was well located. 

You can easily walk to the lake, and the other main attractions in Tekapo. There’s plenty to see and do in Tekapo and we didn’t spend too much time in the hostel. From walking to the Mt John observatory, visiting the famous Tekapo hot springs, the church of the good shepherd and stargazing at night.

Some people stay in Tekapo and drive to Mount Cook as a day trip, but I would personally recommend staying in Mount Cook itself. This will give you plenty more time to see the national park and go on a few walks in the area.

Rate: 9/10

Would I recommend? Yes the hospitality and service at this hostel were great.

Mt John Observatory
Mt John summit circuit track, 2-3 hour loop walk from the hostel.

Mount Cook: YHA

The YHA is the only hostel situated in the village of Mount Cook. Otherwise if you want to stay in the village you’ll have to pay for more pricier accommodation. Without the competition from other hostels, it is slightly more expensive than your average hostel. But, it is a really nice hostel and when else are you going to get the opportunity to stay in Mount Cook? Ideally, you’ll want a few days to explore everything that Mount Cook has to offer, so staying in the village is your best option. 

YHA Mount Cook has a log cabin feel, making it super cosy after a long day walking one of the many tracks in the area. They have a large kitchen, dining and communal area and even have a free sauna for guests to use too! We stayed in an 8-bed dorm, which was large and spacious. They provided large lockers in the room – big enough to put your whole backpack in! Inside the lockers they also have power points and a shelf to put your laptop on/ valuables whilst they charge. Just remember to bring your own lock for the lockers. 

This is a great hostel in one of the most scenic locations you could hope for. One thing to note is that there aren’t any supermarkets located in the Mount Cook village. I would recommend going to the supermarket before driving into the Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park. They do have a small shop inside the hostel, but it’s a limited selection and heavily overpriced.

Rate: 9/10

Would I recommend? Yes, the location is amazing. It’s an incredible experience to stay in the Mount Cook National Park and explore for more than one day.

Sealy Tarns, Mt Cook
The Sealy Tarns walk in Mount Cook was my favourite.

Dunedin: The Manor House

We stayed in this hostel for a few nights. We chose it primarily based on price and that there was lots of free parking nearby. We figured parking in Dunedin might be difficult and so chose a hostel a bit further away from the town centre for the privilege of parking. This meant it was a bit of a walk into town.

The hostel has a big kitchen with a dining table in the middle. There were several cook tops so it was easy for people to cook at once. There’s a living room with a TV, lots of films and comfy sofas as usual. WiFi is free throughout the hostel. Honestly, we didn’t spend too much time in the hostel though as we were busy exploring most of the time. There’s so much to do in Dunedin we were trying to make the most of our time in the city. 

We were figuring out if it would be somewhere we wanted to live and so really explored the city. But in the end we both agreed that it wasn’t what we expected. It seemed to be a very industrial city and so instead we visited Oamaru and found a place that seemed much more us. 

The Manor House hostel was okay, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic with the hostel. It didn’t seem to offer anything special, staying that bit further out of town wasn’t the best either. But, overall it was okay, it was clean and provided what we needed which is the most important.

Rate: 7/10

Would I recommend? Sure, if you do need car parking it’s good. If not, there’s likely just as good hostels closer to town. 

Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station in the city centre.

Oamaru: YHA Red Kettle

This was the first hostel we stayed at in Oamaru. We were visiting to figure out if it was a place we could see ourselves living for a couple of months. We decided to stay at the YHA Red Kettle – with the member’s discount it was the cheapest place to stay. 

It’s a small independently owned hostel located next to the botanical gardens in town. The decor is slightly old fashioned but the facilities are still up to scratch. The kitchen is small but perfectly adequate for the amount of guests the hostel can hold. The living room has several sofas and a TV for entertainment.

There’s not much else, the hostel owner is around in the mornings and the afternoons should you have any questions. There wasn’t anything spectacular about this hostel but the rooms were cheap and the owner was nice.

Rate: 7/10

Would I recommend? Sure, if you just want a cheap place to stay in Oamaru.

Oamaru Harbour
Oamaru Harbour

Oamaru: Oamaru Backpackers

We stayed in this hostel for 2 months. My partner worked as a receptionist here and so we were privileged to stay in the staff only section with a private bedroom and bathroom. However, the whole hostel is beautifully decorated. It’s actually much more like a boutique flashpackers, than the typical hostel you would imagine. 

The hostel has one 6-bed dorm and then the rest are private rooms. The private rooms range from a family room, double room, double en-suite to a single twin bed. 

A free breakfast is available daily consisting of cereals, toast and jams. Free tea and coffee is available all day. The garden often has lots of free veg and herbs available for guests to help themselves to. This was undoubtedly one of the best features of the hostel. Often there was a selection of lettuces, spinach, sugar snap peas, broccoli, parsley and so lots more. As we left the owner was busy growing capsicums (peppers) and tomatoes. 

The hostel had a large garden which was lovely to relax in during the hot New Zealand summer. We got the BBQ going one night and cooked our dinner outside when the weather started getting warmer. The hostel is located on a small hill which provides fantastic views across the town of Oamaru and down to the harbour. 

This hostel was a lovely place to stay and it feels so homely inside. I’m so glad we decided to stay here, it’s now one of my favourite hostels in New Zealand. I would highly recommend you stay at this hostel during your stay in Oamaru. It’s got a great location near the middle of town, the historic Victorian precinct, and close by to 2 penguin colonies!

Rate: 10/10

Would I recommend? Yes, absolutely!

South Island hostel Oamaru Backpackers entrance
Oamaru Backpackers

Christchurch: YHA Rolleston House

There are 2 YHA hostels in Christchurch, both are located in a similar part of town, just a few minutes walk from each other. We chose to stay at the YHA Rolleston House purely because it was cheaper than YHA Christchurch. The Rolleston House hostel is in an old historic house building, whereas the YHA Christchurch is much more modern. Since, this didn’t matter so much to us we booked the cheaper hostel. We always enjoy YHA hostels as you know you are always going to receive a good level of standard from any of their hostels.

YHA Rolleston House is perfectly located just opposite the Canterbury Museum and the Christchurch botanical gardens. Christchurch is quite a compact city so nothing is ever too far to walk to anyway. 

The hostel facilities were great, they offered plenty of space in the kitchen for people to cook their own meals. I never had to wait for a shower to be available in the mornings when they are high in demand. 

Moreover, as Christchurch has an international airport, there was often plenty of food on the free shelves which people had left before departing the city. As it was our last week in New Zealand too, I didn’t want to buy that many groceries either. This was a great bonus to help save money!

We stayed in a 6-bed dorm whilst in this hostel. As the hostel is in an old historic house the layout is slightly funny. Our dorm room was upstairs, and there was no lift available, however the showers and main guest bathrooms were located downstairs past the kitchen. It was slightly inconvenient but nothing you can’t get used to. There was a single toilet located upstairs next to our room which was handy. 

The dorm room was hot in the evening as we were staying in the summer. It is common for hostels in New Zealand not to have any A/C and they can get warm and stuffy in the summer months.

Rate: 8/10

Would I recommend? Yes

Christchurch Tram
Christchurch Tram, New Regent Street

Christchurch: Jucy Snooze

The Jucy Snooze hostel is located just a 10-15 minute walk from Christchurch International Airport. It’s the perfect location if you’re arriving late or leaving early like us. Our flight time meant we had to be at the airport for 4 AM, staying so close to the airport allowed us a little more time in in the morning without the stress of getting to the airport on time.

The hostel is very modern and offers some cool features. It has lots of rooms and the layout reminds me more of a hotel than a hostel. We opted for a private en-suite room since we were getting up so early and didn’t want to disturb others. However, they do also offer dorm rooms if you would prefer. 

Check-in was quick and easy; we used the self-service machines and received our room key in just minutes. There is also a staff member available if you are having issues with the self check-in machines. However, it did provide for a quick and easy service. We had a lovely double room, with a TV, air-conditioning and a private bathroom with towels included.

After settling into our room we ventured back downstairs and found the kitchen. The kitchen was large and had a big open chill out space too. They had a pool table, hammocks and a large outdoor area too. This hostel would be great for people just arriving into the country as there is always an abundance of free food. As this is the last stop for many people departing New Zealand, people often leave any unused food for other guests to enjoy. I noticed when putting our leftovers on the shelf it would be a great place to stock up for free before starting your trip. 

The hostel is also situated next to a retail park. There are several places to eat and shop if you want to get out of the hostel. We arrived at the hostel in the afternoon and went for a little wander around and later returned to dine out that evening. Christchurch city centre is only about 20 minutes away; take the airport bus from the city to the hostel to save money. It’s not too far to go into town if you wish. Since we had already explored Christchurch, we decided to have a chilled afternoon before our early flight the next morning.

Overall, I was really impressed with this hostel, the facilities and the modern design. The location couldn’t be any better, and I would highly recommend it to anyone with a late/early flight to Christchurch.

Rate: 10/10

Would I recommend? Yes, the location is perfect for early or late flights at Christchurch airport.

South Island hostel Jucy Snooze Self check in
Jucy Snooze Hostel Self Check In

Kaikoura: Dolphin Lodge Backpackers