New Zealand offers a wide range of accommodation. Luxury hotels of international quality can be found in the larger cities.
New Zealanders seem to have perfected the art of staying in a private home at a high price. Luxury lodges are the high-end equivalent of the bed-and-breakfast market and there are over 40 internationally recognised lodges in New Zealand. Per head of population, this is probably the highest number in the world. They tend to be located far from cities and can be difficult to access, although some are right in the heart of major centres. At the top of the hierarchy, helicopter transfers and private jets allow luxury travellers to travel between the lodges they have chosen to visit.
Hotels of various levels, from luxury to simply essential, can be found on the outskirts of most towns. Most New Zealand motels have a kitchenette, usually equipped with cooking utensils, pots, pans, crockery and cutlery, so travellers can reduce meal costs by cooking their own meals from their motel room. In winter, however, heating can be a problem. While more and more motels have insulated ceilings and walls, double glazing is still rare. Smaller central heating systems are also rare, and most motel rooms have electric or gas heating.
Bed and breakfasts are very popular with British and Swiss tourists, as are homestays, farm stays and similar accommodation, some of which are in the most unlikely places. They can be a good choice if the traveller wants to benefit from the insider tips of the resident hosts, and many visitors are happy to get a taste of country life. For typical New Zealand accommodation, there are homestays and marae stays for Māori tourists.
There is a wide range of backpacker accommodation on these islands, including a network of 50 youth hostels (aimed at independent travellers of all ages) that are members of the Youth Hostel Association. There are also two marketing networks of independent hostels: BBH, with over 280 registrations, and the Nomads network, which is much smaller.
Commercial campsites are strategically located, as are campsites in all national parks. If you are travelling in the hinterland, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has many backcountry cabins that can be used under a permit system.
Wilderness camping outside recognised and marked camping areas is less and less possible. It used to be common to find a tent or hammock for the night in many picnic areas or in a grove of trees off the road or any other place where there was no “No Camping” sign. Due to the growing concern of local residents about the improper disposal of rubbish and human waste, and the displeasure of moteliers at the decline in their income, many local authorities are now introducing strict restrictions and posting announcements of on-site sanctions. Always dispose of all waste properly and leave your campsites exactly as you found them (if not in better condition). Please respect this privilege and avoid leaving more ammunition for people who want to further restrict the freedom to camp. The Tourism Industry Association, DOC and the i-SITE network of information centres have produced a useful online map resource containing over 1500 paid and free sites, based on Google Maps.
Many visitors travel to New Zealand in rented minibuses and vans, including self-sufficient campervans that can be driven by anyone with a regular driver’s licence.
New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world, after the UK, to establish a dense WWoOF network. “Willing Workers on Organic Farms” introduced the concept of travellers (“WWoOFers”) staying overnight on farms as volunteers and receiving food and accommodation in exchange for half a day’s help for each night spent on the farm. The Nelson-Tasman region in the South Island is particularly rich in WWOOFing opportunities. HelpX, which is similar to WWOOF but not limited to organic produce, was born and has its largest network in New Zealand.
Couchsurfing is also very popular in New Zealand, with active forums and groups in most major centres, as well as hosts around the country.
Qualmark, a government agency, provides a star rating system for accommodation and other tourism services.