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As this was a budget vacation, I stayed at inexpensive places, primarily hostels, homestays, farmstays and B&Bs. Since my travel was relatively unstructured and I was unsure of how far I would be able to travel each day, I traveled without advance reservations. With a few exceptions, I was able find accommodations without any problems and to stay at places that I expected. It was actually harder to find places in the cities than in the small towns. This may have been due to the fact that any places that I stopped were not on the primary tourist tracks, except for the cities. After my trip, I found that the Tourism New Zealand site had the most complete listing of accommodations of all types.
There are a large number of "backpackers" hostels in New Zealand. These are inexpensive accommodations that have simple rooms, shared toilets and baths and shared kitchens. The rooms range from singles to multi-bed dorms. They vary in size from 6-8 beds to hundreds. I stayed at a number of them, mostly at the small end. All of the larger towns and the cities have several hostels. In tourist areas, it seems difficult to get into one without making reservations in advance.
Many of the hostels are in towns and cities and some are in rather remote locations. In contrast the term "Backpackers", they do not primarily cater to people who are walking, but mostly to younger people who are traveling by bus or car and using backpacks as luggage. These are the primary modes of getting around from hostel to hostel.
There are several hostelling organizations of which the major ones are Hosteling International, previously known as the Youth Hostel Assoication(YHA) and Budget Backpacker Hostels (BBH). Before I left, I joined the US IYH. This turned out to be a waste of money. There were very few IYH hostels in the places that I stayed and they were very hard to get into without long-term advance reservations.
BBH, on the other hand, was a good deal. It is an organization of independent hostels and have nearly 300 hostels in New Zealand. They had several member hostels in each city and in many small to medium towns as well. Membership is NZ$40/year and saves NZ$2 for each stay and includes a NZ$20 pre-paid phone card (calls to the US are 16-25 cents(NZ) per minute). All of the hostels that I stayed at were BBH hostels. They have a rating program for each hostel, based on an annual survey of guests.
Farmstays, Homestays and Bed & Breakfasts were my alternative choice to hostels. They are pretty much ubiquitous. Virtually every town, regardless of size has a choice of relatively inexpensive places to stay. The prices range from NZ$15 per night for a bed in a shared room to hundreds of dollars for luxury B&Bs (I didn't stay in any of them on this trip). Finding them is sometimes a challenge.
If one is traveling without a fixed destination, hence without advance reservations, the local Vistor Information Centres in most towns are a most useful source. They are covered in the next section. They have listings for places that do not appear in any of the guides.
There are also several types of guides. Regional guides are available in the Information Centres and most regions also have an online presence. There are also several B&B books available. They are issued annually and are available in most bookstores in New Zealand. The one that I found most useful was "The New Zealand Bed & Breakfast Book" by the Moonshine Press. It can be ordered from their website. The site also has all of the listings.
Another one with a similar name that can be ordered from Amazon is the New Zealand Bed and Breakfast Book.
Most towns and all of the cities in New Zealand have Information Centres, part of a national Vistor Information Network. These offices have listings of local accommodations and other attractions. They were my major resouce for finding a place to stay. Not only do they have racks of brochures, they also have notenooks with a listing for each place. When I reached a town where I wanted to stop and I didn't have a place in mind, I would first stop at the Info Centre. The smaller ones were usually happy to call the places that I was intersted in to check for availability. The only problem that I had was that they often closed at around 5pm on weekdays and were sometimes closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays in the small towns.
Here are some of the ones that I used:
These are in the order of stay.
A great place to stay. The best lodging of the trip. Wonderful hosts, good converstaion, good food, great location, good shower and a comfortable guest room. Having good friends is the best reward.
A good place to start. It is about 4km outside of Picton overlooking a small bay. It was not too large. It was clean and comfortable and had a pair of well equipped kitchens. The person running it was quite pleasant and helpful. There was a small store in the bay and a dairy about half way to Picton.
The only good thing about this place was Jack, the dog. The place was rather grubby, The staff inattentive. About the only place where there was any hot water was in the shower. The kitchen was small and not very clean and had only cold water taps. Not a place I would stay at again.
Run by a middle-aged bachelor farmer, it was pleasant after Jack's. A little messy but breakfast was good and the company pleasant.
One of my favorite stops. This is a little, 6 bed, hostel on a 3000 acre farm. It is relatively primitive, being a converted sheep shearers shed out overlooking the farm paddocks, but was absolutely clean and well kept. It is oriented towards cyclists, has a fairly complete kitchen, barbeque and free washer. The view from the porch into the hills is quite nice. They also have a small store that has food, including fresh lamb from the farm. They also have a line of Merino wool cycling jerseys.
I was here two days because of the weather. It is a large hostel with a personable, active, involved hostess and was well kept, clean and well equipped with a good kitchen, as well as a collection of classic, if somewhat scratched, vinyl albums, a large separate TV room and free Internet access. It's only fault was that it is a primary stop on the Kiwi Experience bus route. This meant that every day a flood of people came and left and it could be a bit loud at night. I would have preferred a smaller quieter
This was a homestay at the home of an older couple, the Kings. They were semi-retired with a small farm, 48 acres of orchards, a small flock of sheep and yearling cattle. They were a very nice couple and they had a very comfortable small room. They also have a pair of cabins available. It was a pleasant evening, with a good dinner and breakfast.
This was another small homestay in Cheviot, a small town. It was also run by an older couple. The room was fairly comfortable and they were pleasant people, but they smoked. It made sleeping a little difficult. My clothes were reeking when I opened my bag at the next stop and had to wash everything. I wish that I had known.
This was a unique hostel. The rooms were old train cars--Guards Vans. They each had 6 berths. The kitchen was in a separate buliding, an old small train station. It was pretty comfortable and uncrowded. I had a car to myself. They had blankets available, but it was pretty cool that night. This was one place where I could have used a sleeping bag. It was clean and well kept and even had an herb garden for the use of the guests as well as impressive lavender and rosemary hedges. It had no phone available, so I could not exchange mail.
This is a large hostel. It was fairly crowded, but had good facilities, including a locked bicycle shed, where they also did long-term storage of such things as bike crates for people starung from Christchurch. The thing that turned me off about the place was that they closed half of the facilities, including the lounge and larger kitchen for the evening for an owner's private party, which didn't include the hostels paying guests. I moved the next day.
This was a much smaller hostel. It had recently been completely renovated and had a nice feel to it. It had one of the best hostel kitchens that I came across. The hosts were owners and quite nice. It was a couple of kilometers out of the center of town but in a neighborhood with lots of shops and eating places. Its only disadvantage was that it had only a payphone and a coin operated internet station, so I was not able to connect.
This was probably the most elegant place at which I stayed. It was a brick convent and school that had been converted to a home. The room was very comfortable with a double bed and its own bath. The house had a lot of original dtails and a nice formal gardens. Miriam & Ken Cutforth, the owners, were very nice. I'd defintely return.
This was a small "lifestyle block" with new house on 10 acres outside of Ashburton. It was owned by a young couple, Brent Duncan and Kelley Mitchell. He was a fishing guide and mechanical engineer; she was a veterinary nurse. They also raised endurance competition horses. I found them through the Ashburton Info Center, they were not advertised elsewhere. I had a comfortable king-size bed and shared a bath with another guest. They fed me lunch and dinner as well as breakfast and were very nice. Since they were both avid hunters as well as Brent's fishing all of the meat and fish they served was from their own efforts. I had a lunch of salmon and venison for dinner.
Geraldine is a nice small town about 10km off the main road on the way to Lake Tekapo and Mt. Cook. The Olde Presbytery was more like a B and B without breakfast (just a B) than a backpacker hostel. The place is quite small. A Double, a Single and a four bunk dorm. They supply all linens and blankets and towels. The beds are comfortable. The showers are clean and hot and they have a washer and dryer. The kitchen facilities are primitive compared to other hostels, with only a hot plate and an electric fry pan to cook on. The accommodations were simple, but comfortable Fay, the hostess, is quite nice. Makes muffins for the guests every morning. Her husband, Peter, was quite opinionated. They have a teenage daughter.
This was a nice house in a good neighborhood of Timaru. It was owned by an older couple, Len and Nessie Jones. I had a nice double room overlooking the ocean in the distance. They were very nice and provided a good breakfast and tea when I arrived. It was another homestay found by the local info centre.
This was an ostrich farm just out of Waimate. I stayed two days to rest. It was run by a middle-aged couple who bred ostriches and sold them at a few months to other farmers who grew them to market size. They were an interesting couple. He was studying to be a naturopath and built web sites on the side. They had a semi-detached double room with it's own toilet and shower. It was probably the most comfortable bed that I slept in on the whole trip. They also served three good meals a day. I didn't even have to leave the farm. Needless to say, getting a phone line for Internet access was easy.
This was a beautiful location. All Day Bay is along the coast about 20 km past Oamaru. The hostel is about 100 meters from the beach. It is a small hostel with a 4 person bunk room, a double room and a twin room. It is a new building with a nice sitting area, good wood stove that the owners light in the evening and a good kitchen and showers. They also have a washer, but no dryer. The location is remote and the nearest stoe about 4km away. They only have a pay phone so there was no way to connect to the net. The owners live in a separate house and are minimally involved beyond checking people in and starting the fire. It is very well kept and clean.
This was the only campground I stayed in. It is about 4km beyond Palmerston. It had cabins and they were abke to supply linen. The double cabin was large and comfortable. The kitchen, showers and washing machines were in a central block. They were rather rudimentary,particularly the kitchen, compared to the backpacker hostels. I suspect that campers expect to bring their own utensils. They also had a recreation building with a game room and a TV room. It was remote from Palmerston over a steep hill, so having all the food you needed was necessary.
This was at Seacliff, about 35km before Dunedin. It was probably the hardest hostel to get to since the hills from Karitane to Seacliff were very difficult. It is on the grounds of an old asyalum in a fairly modern building. It wasn't the neatest of hostels that I have been it, but the owner was quite intersting as were the grounds. It is sort of medium sized with aboout half a dozen rooms, several of which are doubles. There are no bunks, which is pleasant, There was a separate TV and billards room from the living room which had a warm fire at night. The kitchen was well equipped and the showers decent.
It seemed to attract more long term guests than the other hostels I stayed at. If you had a car, which most did, there were good surfing and kayaking beaches nearby and the hostel supplied the gear. It was also within easy driving distance to Dunedin. It is in a remote location, so unless you had a car, having everything you needed was necessary. I stayed two days to recover from the climb to get there, since there was another big climb into Dunediin.
Dunedin had a severe lack of accomodation when I arrived. This was the only hotel that I stayed in. It was actually an old unrenovated hotel that had just been bought by another hotel, the Leviathan. It was in rather shabby condition, but the room was relatively clean and it had its own bathroom. The thing that disturbed me was the lack of any staff in the building, as was shown the second mornimg that I was there when the fire alarm went off and it was about twenty mminutes before anyone responded. I stayed two days to rest after climbing Mount Cargill to get there and becuase it was raining in the morning. I obviously had to eat at restaurants, since it wasn't set up as a complete hotel.
This was a really nice place in a small town that was off the normal backpacker paths. It is run by a Swiss immigrant, Toni Bachmann, who renovated this former church hall into a nice small hostel. It has two bunkrooms and two doubles. It has a nice kitchen and a comfortable living room, with a warm wood-stove. Toni made it easy to connect to the Internet by providing an extension cord to a phone line. I stayed two days, partly because of the wind, but also because it was comfortable and Toni was a pleasant host. It was actually fairly full both nights. It had only a single shower, but two more were under construction.
This was a godsend after the hardest ride of the trip. This is a self-contained cottage on a farm about 10km beyond Clinton. It is a wonderful little house that was originally built for the family's grandmother. It was absolutely clean and had a nice kitchen and bath with washer and dryer and a comfortable bedroom. It had a great view overlooking the farms fields. They supplied the fixings for breakfast, but it is up to the guests to prepare it. It is remote from the nearest town, Clinton, so having your own food for other meals is necessary. Most guests just go into Clinton to eat, but that was not practical in my case. Unfortunately, the kitchen equipment is scaled for the preparation of breakfast. The farm had some unique animals such as Kunekune pigs and alpaca and the owners were quite nice. The cottage came with its own phone that allowed 800 number calls, which was fine for an Internet connection. I would have stayed another day, but they already had a bookingfor the next night.
This was a bed & breakfast motel in Invercargill. There was a serious lack of available accommodation in Invercargill (and from there all the way back to Clinton). It was rather expensive for what it was. It was only a little room with a shared bath. It was comfortable enough, but not what I would have chosen given more choices.
This is a small B&B almost 4km outside of Oban on the way to the beginng of the Rakiura Track. It is right on and overlooks Horseshoe Bay. The owner, Valerie Edgar, is a transplanted Scot. There are two guest rooms, a double and twin that share a bath. She serves only breakfast, so all other meals must be had be going into Oban, a 30-40 mimute walk. The facilities are nice, but the hot water pressure in the shower is a bit weak.
Probably the niceset of the in-town hostels that I stayed in. It is in an older house in a good neighborhood near the center of town and only a block from the city park. It has a lot of charm, such as well-kept gardens and interesting architectural details like high, decorated ceilings. It was very clean and had a good kitchen and lounge. It isn't very large and seems to always be booked, so advance reservations are necessary. They have a locked garage for bicycles. There is only a payphone, so Internet connections cannot be made from the hostel.
There is, however, a little Internet site about a block away called "Herenet". It is a small building with a single system and works on the honor system. You get the keycode at the hostel and it lets you in. The system is available for Internet access and you can plug directly into the phone line to use your own machine.