New Zealand: West Coast Roadtrip and Hostels

Budget Travel, Hostels, New Zealand — By on February 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm

by Mattie Schuler

Special to The Lost Girls

Once getting off the ferry in Picton, the next decision will be to head down the west coast or the east coast first. If heading west, you’ll hit the towns of Nelson, Greymouth and continue on to Queenstown.  This drive could feasibly be done in a couple of days, but if you have the time, then take the time. The scenery is majestic with dramatic coastlines and on a clear day, views of the Southern Alps. Make sure to hike or kayak in Abel Tasman National Park, an hour’s drive from Nelson, then work your way to the west coast where you can stop to see a fur seal colony, the Pancake Rocks, Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers and rocky coastline abutting the mountains.

The Palace, Nelson

Situated above the city streets and hidden among trees and fern fronds, The Palace is a funky, eclectic hostel that will provide a great place to stay while visiting Nelson. Off of Rutherford Street and Selwyn Place, turn into the Shell gas station parking lot and follow The Palace signs up the winding driveway. The owner can show you around the numerous buildings situated on the property from the main building to the psychedelic smoking room to the more private, studio en suite rooms. The hostel is only a few minutes walk from the city centre, where you’ll find cute shops, a few book stores and delicious-smelling food carts. Ask the owner about cheap places to eat or enquire about local activities, such as a visit to the World of Wearable Art or how to get to the local beach.

There is free internet, a hot tub, guitars, a balcony, an outside dinning area, a 10-cents-per-minute phone for anywhere in the world (really!), recycling, off-street parking, and laundry, though use the line outside for drying. A daily, free breakfast of cereal, toast and spreads and oatmeal is available, as well as some pastries throughout the day, if you can get your hands on them before the other guests. The interior is mismatching and chaotic, but completely makes the atmosphere of the hostel, right down to the plastic chandeliers and high ceilings.

Global Village Travellers Lodge, Greymouth

The small town of Greymouth can seem like a stop-over town, but Simon at Global Village Travellers Lodge will convince you otherwise. There is jade hunting on the beach, gorgeous views of Mt. Cook on a clear day, nearby hikes and a few fun things within a short drive—try your hand at knife carving in Barrytown or visit the Shanty Town south of Greymouth.

Located a few blocks down from the grocery store, Global Village is the best place to stay in town. Once you step foot in this hostel and take in one of the best backpacker atmospheres you can find on both islands, you might want to think about staying for more than just a night. There are bikes and kayaks to use for free, a large selection of DVDs, guitars and a piano, a fitness room, sauna and hot tub, and a large grassy area with picnic tables and a fire pit for a late night bon-fire. The lodge is filled with international decor (think aboriginal masks, hand-carved instruments and Hindu and Buddhist sculptures) and various flags adorn the ceiling. The bathrooms are clean, with varnished wood counters and raised porcelain basins. The private rooms are decorated in such a way that you’ll wish it was your room at home — funky bedding that matches the furniture and makes the whole room feel like an escape. Each dorm bed has its own reading light. The kitchen has matching dishware (hard to find in most hostels), eggs for 40 cents, and a balcony to enjoy the sunshine.Global Village Travellers Lodge is worth a stay, especially for a weary traveler who needs a comforting place to recuperate.

Haast Wilderness Accommodation, Haast

Heading south from Greymouth, make sure to stop at both the Franz Joseph Glacier and the Fox Glacier, about a two-hour drive. If you bypass hostels and campsites near the glaciers (check out the free DOC campsite at Gillespies Beach, 13km past Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier), there is a backpackers halfway between the glaciers and Queenstown. The drive is doable in one day, but if you feel like taking your time and cooking some dinner, check out Haast Wilderness Accommodation. The tiny town doesn’t have much going on, though there is a cafe and a restaurant, and the scenery is far prettier than the buildings. The hostel itself is just so-so. The host won’t go out of his way to make you feel overly comfortable, but you will get a bed, a hot shower, kitchen facilities, board games, and bikes to hire. Make sure to check out the gorgeous sunsets and if you feel lucky, head the 35 kilometers south to Knight’s Point for some penguin spotting.

Photo credit: Nick Davidson, bdearth/flickr

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