This year a youth hostel has opened at one of the most popular tourist sites in New Zealand: Mount Cook National Park, which contains nearly all of New Zealand's mountains, including one rising to 9,842 feet.
It features Mt. Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain at 12,349 feet, and the Tasman Glacier, which stretches for 18 miles.
Activities for visitors in the park include day walks, rafting, mountaineering courses, scenic flights and flights up to the Tasman Glacier for skiing.
National Park Site
Mount Cook is the only national park in New Zealand to have a youth hostel. The original 28-bed hostel was a dormitory block obtained from a contractor when the famous Hermitage (a Tourist Corp. hotel) was built.
The new hostel is at the corner of Bowen and Kitchener drives. It can accommodate up to 69 visitors in rooms with four or six beds. It has two common rooms (one is open all day), a dining room, a laundry room and a suite for disabled persons.
About 83% of the guests at Mount Cook Youth Hostel are overseas visitors. The nightly rate is $7.50 U.S.
During the last 33 years the Youth Hostel Assn. of New Zealand has developed a network of 58 hostels; 42 stay open all year.
There is no age restriction to use the facilities, but you must be a member of the International Youth Hostel Federation.
The average rate for a bed in a dormitory room is $5 to $7.50 U.S. a night, with separate rooms for men and women. Blankets are provided, but you must have your own sheet sleeping bag. If you don't have one, many of the hostels sell or rent them.
The association provides a reservation service and special discounts for hostelers. When you stay in an association hotel, the manager will phone ahead to make a reservation at your next hostel--you pay for telephone charges.
Hostel members are eligible for a special transportation ticket called the Newman 10/30 pass. It allows you 10 days of unlimited bus travel during a 30-day period on the Newman system for about $155 U.S.
It's a good idea to ask a travel agent about transportation alternatives. There may be other fares that would offer you better value, depending on your plans.
You can get advice, buy the Newman 10/30 passes and youth hostel handbooks at the association travel offices, 28 Worchester St., Christchurch, or 36 Customs St., Auckland.
The association provides excellent hostels but there are a few drawbacks to the system. Each guest must be prepared to do a domestic duty and hostel doors are usually closed at 11 p.m., although some hostels provide a late-entry system.
There are low-cost alternatives to the association hostels. New Zealand has 34 independent hostels that offer lodging for less than $7.50 U.S. a night. You are not required to be a member of any association to use the independent hostels. Most are open 24 hours or provide late-night keys if you leave a deposit of $6 U.S.
Twin or Single Rooms
In addition to the low-priced multishare rooms, many of the independent hostels also have double, twin or single rooms available.
The independent hostels share information about each other and publish a free pamphlet called "Budget Accommodation in New Zealand," which lists all 34 facilities. Remember that these hostels do not have to abide by a set of international standards.
The facilities include a hiker's hut near the Waitomo Caves, where tourists go to see a famous glowworm grotto. The hut sleeps 30 and the rate is $3 U.S. a night.
The Centabay Travelers Hostel is in the popular Bay of Islands resort area. It is a renovated motel that has five kitchens, color TVs and a barbecue. The hostel staff can arrange for you to spend a day sailing, windsurfing, point you to the shipwreck museum or give you information for coastal walks. Rates start at $7 U.S. a night.
Other popular tourist areas that have independent hostels include Queenstown, Christchurch, Te Anau, Taupo, Rotorua, Mt. Hutt and Fox Glacier.
For more information, contact the New Zealand Government Tourist Office, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1530, Los Angeles 90024; phone (213) 477-8241.
Or you can contact B. J. Thomas & Co., P.O. Box 2842, Auckland, New Zealand.