We stayed in a variety of places in New Zealand: hostels, holiday parks, campsites, private homes, and one hotel. Most of our nights were spent in the van, sometimes parked in scenic DOC sites and others in basic campsites with nothing more than a drop toilet and level ground. A few were truly memorable and we thought you might like some idea of the more unique accommodation options available to the budget-conscious in New Zealand. We also did some CouchSurfing and some of these experiences were truly incredible but we’ve decided to save our thoughts on CouchSurfing for another day and keep this post to more conventional experiences. Without further ado, these are six of the most memorable places we stayed in New Zealand.
Lake Manapouri Holiday Camp, South Island
NZ$58 for two people in a small cabin with access to a shower block, kitchen, and the most entertaining grounds I’ve seen since Mendoza, Argentina (also a subject for another day). Jen thinks this place could be the set of a horror movie but I loved it. There are chickens running around at all hours; deadly poisonous mushrooms growing next to the playground which is beside a rusty tractor and not far from broken-down Asian buses; a large collection of antique cars; a game room that serves as a trip down memory lane; two alpaca next door; and a very nice view of the lake if you walk down to visit the alpaca. I’m not sure I’d recommend staying here other than for the kitsch factor but if that’s your thing, I’d stay for two nights and really explore.
Cricket Club Campground, Luggate, South Island (near Wanaka)
NZ$5 per person to park our van around the cricket pitch with an array of vans, tents, and RVs, some home to permanent residents
With hot showers, multiple toilets, a sink for washing dishes, one washer (NZ$2 per load of laundry), ample trees around which to hang a drying line, and one pet sheep on the property, this was the best value we found anywhere in New Zealand.
Paradiso, Nelson, South Island
NZ$25-26 per person for a dorm, NZ$65 for a private double
This was a recommendation from a friend we met on Utila and unfortunately, we failed to take any photos. We stayed here before and after the Abel Tasman, taking full advantage of the unlimited WiFi, the free soup in the evening and breakfast in the morning, the pool, hut tub, and very social atmosphere. I may have enjoyed it more if I spoke German and were 10 years younger but as often happens, the few of us over 30 found each other over drinks one night and had a grand old time.
Watson’s Way, Blenheim, South Island
NZ$18 per person to park our van and have full access to the hostel’s facilities including hot showers, well-equipped kitchen, common area, tennis courts, discounted bike rental for visiting Marlborough wineries, and a few MB of internet access
While the hostel itself is quite nice, Watson’s Way is noteworthy for its owners: Pat and Paul. These two have lived fascinating lives throughout New Zealand and the South Pacific; they’ve changed careers multiple times, raised children, and are finally looking forward to retirement. When we had van trouble, Paul popped the hood and saved us the time and expense of visiting a garage, sorting us out and accepting nothing more than hugs as thanks. Travelers will lose out when Pat and Paul find a buyer for Watson’s Way but for their sake, I hope they find one soon, these two deserve a rest.
DOC Campground Aussie Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound, South Island
NZ$6 per person to park our van plus use of 2 non-potable water sources, and a wasp-infested drop toilet that smelled worse than any other we encountered in New Zealand
This was a recommendation from the Belgian couple we met eight times on the South Island and even with the horrifying toilet, it was a great recommendation as the view was fabulous and the site small enough to not be over crowded.
A House in Whitianga, North Island
On our black-water rafting trip through the Waitomo Caves, we met a couple from Denver who have a vacation home on the Coromandel Peninsula. As luck would have it, we were headed that way from Waitomo with plans to stay in the area for a few days, waiting out a storm and then exploring a bit. I am forever grateful to these two for opening their home to us, sharing their rum, their wine, their food, and even taking us along to a party. They loaned us a shovel for our trip to Hot Water Beach; gathered cockles from the beach and cooked up a slew of them for us; introduced us to feijoas, a local fruit that Kat accurately described as tasting like a combination of apple, pear, and perfume; and truly welcomed us into their lives for a few days. Given my connection to Colorado, I expect we’ll see these two again and I hope someday to repay the hospitality, at least in part!
Please note this post was set to auto-publish as we are currently on a sailboat in French Polynesia. Comments will be moderated when we next have internet access.