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Nelson & Abel Tasman Backpackers & Hostels

Nelson isn’t just a destination – it’s a way of life! Located at the top north-west of the South Island, it benefits from the most sunshine days anywhere in NZ. It also boasts about every scenery possible from un-spoilt golden beaches, lush native forests and rugged mountains. One of the must do activities in the area is to walk the Abel Tasman Track which takes 3-5 days or visit the Nelson Arts Festival.

Currently 19 hostels in this area

Filter by Location: View All , Nelson Central (9), Motueka (3), Golden Bay (6), Abel Tasman (1)

Carbon Positive
YHA Nelson is a comfortable and popular 5 star hostel in the heart of the city and close to iconic cafes and restaurants.
Free WiFi, fully equipped kitchen & laundry, TV room, luggage storage, car parking, outdoor BBQ area & sauna
Great location
The Barn is situated right on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park - you couldn't be closer! Rest up in one of our heated outdoor baths or chill out on our large deck.
Closest to the park, friendly staff, clean, hot baths, camping, activity bookings, secure parking, cold beer!

Prosperous, artisan and vibrant, Nelson is the oldest city in the South Island. Blessed with its sheltered location on the shores of Tasman Bay and an unusually high number of hours of sunshine per year, it earns its nickname “Sunny Nelson” with a warm welcome to all who visit.

Starting from fairly humble beginnings, Nelson remained quite a rural outpost compared to its more prosperous cousin, Wellington, across the Cook Strait. Gold prospectors came to the town as a staging post for journeys further south, and transport remained a problem throughout the early 1800s and early 1900s.

As the 20th century progressed, however, tourism flourished in and around Nelson, with holidaymakers from across New Zealand drawn to the sunshine and the coast. And with the growth of new world wines, Marlborough’s viticulture brought wealth to Nelson. Its port was deepened and expanded, and as is so often the way the city embraced the international influences brought by ships from across the world. Today, Nelson is a confident city with a bustling arts and crafts scene, loaded with vintage fairs and galleries. Often seen as a springboard for longer trips to the Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson is a key destination in itself, one which merits its own exploration.

Nelson Centre

Nelson’s arts and crafts history can be traced back to the seventies when, looking for alternative lifestyles, hippies were drawn to the area by the long hours of sunshine and scenic bays. Whilst vineyards were being cultivated further south, the soil around Nelson was good for growing marijuana, and communes such as The Rainbow Valley and Tui Community were established by those looking for sanctuary.

When wealthy ex-pats from America, Germany and The Netherlands began moving to Nelson in the nineties, a whole new art scene evolved. Today, Nelson is home to the Suter Art Gallery, the 1000-seater Theatre Royal with its impeccable Victorian auditorium, and the Nelson Centre of Musical Arts – older than Julliard, and infinitely less pretentious. You’ll also find the World of Wearable Art and Nelson Classic Car Museum, two exciting venues showcasing niche and rare pieces.

The city plays host to the Nelson Art Expo and Arts Festival in September and October respectively, where followers from around the world descend on the area to enjoy the spectacles and performances. Independent studios, such as the Mahoe Hills Craft and Hoglund Glassblowing studios allow a hands on approach as well as showcasing local artists.

Nature lovers will be at home, too, in Nelson. The Centre of New Zealand Monument comes after a lovely walk through the steep and leafy climes of the Botanical Hill, home of the first rugby game ever played in New Zealand. From the summit, enjoy the view over the city into Tasman Bay, before taking one of the many tracks leading further into the gardens. In the centre itself, there are many independent shops to enjoy – shades of Whitianga and Lyttleton, with quirky bric-a-brac and local curio to browse. Bike hire is in abundance for those wishing to hit the wine trail. Most of the estates and vineyards are small and family owned, offering a warm welcome to visitors with tastings and delis.

Abel Tasman

Synonymous with long crescent beaches with golden sand, sub-tropical forest overlooks and an unbeatable coastal path, Abel Tasman might be the smallest of the national parks, but it punches well above its weight with its wealth of scenery and is arguably more famous than its larger cousins. Jutting out like a benign Northern Island, the coast is a bottomless treasure chest of lagoons, inlets, cliffs, all lapped by turquoise waters.

The small town of Kaiteriteri, 40 miles up the coast from Nelson, makes an excellent starting point for the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”. At over 51km, you get the best of both worlds, with some of the sections following the coast line so closely that it’s best to remove your walking boots in favour of sandals. And yet very quickly you can become lost in dense manuka forest, with the omnipresent birdsong to keep you entertained. Kaiteriteri is also a great beach hangout, with a Mediterranean climate in summer but without the European rancour. Try paddle-boarding, kayaking, snorkelling and cliff diving.

Golden Bay

Although Golden Bay is by no means another Ninety Mile Beach, there is a certain satisfying symmetry between the North and South islands in that they both end with long stretches of beach. The long whip of sand dune which forms the Farewell Spit is aptly named, as the South Islands peters out into the Tasman Sea. Golden Bay itself is very shallow, so whilst commerce and shipping concentrated around Nelson, the shoreline from Tata Beach up to Puponga has remained unmolested, affording the beaches unrivalled seclusion.

Takaka is the main town of the area, and although host to only a little over 1000 residents, with many hostels it is an ideal place to stay while you explore the area. The famous Te Waikoropupu Springs, flowing with some of the clearest freshwater on the planet, can be found a few miles from town.

More popular for beachgoers is Pohara. With hostels and campsites a stone’s throw from the beach overlooking Limestone Bay, canny New Zealanders have their holiday homes here, away from the crowd. Think Montauk, Cape Cod or Scarborough. The local Marae (Maori meeting place) is called Onetahua, meaning “heaped up sand”, a nod to Farewell Spit up the coast.


Once the heart of New Zealand’s tobacco growing industry, Motueka is now a prosperous little town on Highway 60, between Nelson and the Abel Tasman Park. It now attracts businesses and seasonal workers to its busy fruit, vegetable and hops farms. During the summer harvest months, the population doubles, and as a result plenty of bars, restaurants and boutique shops have sprung up to serve all comers. Much of Nelson’s art scene has trickled up the coast, and Motueka’s Sunday market features arts and crafts, as well as artisanal bakes, coffees and alcohols. For unique and breath-taking views, Skydive Abel Tasman operates out of Motueka, offering their famous 16,500 ft skydive. After which the Motueka saltwater baths on the beach reserve offers the perfect antidote.

All Other Backpacker Hostels in This Area

Barefoot Backpackers
114 Commercial Street, Takaka, Golden Bay
+64 (0)3 525 7005
Happy Apple Backpackers
500 High Street, Motueka
+64 (0)3 528 8652
Nelson Beach Hostel
25 Muritai St, Nelson
+64 3 548 6817
Almond House
63 Grove St, Nelson
The Prince Albert Backpackers
113 Nile Street, Nelson
0800 86 735 29
White Elephant Backpackers
55 Whakarewa Street, Motueka
+64 (0)3 528 6208
Shambhala Retreat
RD2, Onekaka, Golden Bay
+64 (0)3 525 8463
Kanuka Ridge Abel Tasman Backpackers
21 Moss Road, Marahau, Sandy Bay
Shortbread Cottage
33 Trafalgar St, 'The Wood', Nelson.
Getaway Backpackers
28 Motupipi Street, Takaka, Golden Bay
+64 (0)3 525 6261
Honey Suckle House
125 Tasman St, Nelson
Neudorf's Gingerbread House
42 Westbrook Terrace, Nelson
+64 (0)3 543 2472
42 Weka St, Nelson
73 Motupipi Street, Takaka, Golden Bay
0800 805 494
The Bug
226 Vanguard Street, Nelson
+64 (0)3 539 4227
The Innlet
Main Road, Pakawau, Golden Bay
+64 (0)3 524 8040