Cairns Airport, Cairns, QLD © Hostels Australia

Australia's best hostels

Rooftop Sydney Harbour YHA, Sydney, NSW © YHA

Sydney Harbour YHA, Sydney

This hostel is the jewel in the crown of Australia's not-for-profit YHA organisation, part of the Hostelling International Network. Located in Sydney's historic Rocks precinct - and over an archeological site - the Sydney Harbour YHA offers both dormitory accommodation and private rooms, all spotlessly clean and with their own bathrooms. The pièce de résistance, however, is the large rooftop terrace with views of Sydney Harbour including the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Byron Bay Beach Hostel, Byron Bay, NSW © Byron Bay Beach Hostel

Byron Bay Beach Hostel, Byron Bay

The Byron Bay Beach Hostel has everything a backpacker needs when exploring the beachy Byron Bay. Just a few steps away from Byron's popular Main Beach, This hostel offers shared dorms ranging from two to eight beds as well as private rooms. Have a dip in the ocean or learn to surf before enjoying Byron Bay Beach Hostel's beers on tap and social activities, like ping pong tournaments and taco night. The hostel also boasts a large shared kitchen and an open courtyard complete with BBQ facilities.

Dreamtime Travellers Pool Area, Cairns, QLD © Dreamtime Travellers Rest

Dreamtime Travellers Rest, Cairns

Those who want to party hard in Cairns generally head for Gilligan's on Grafton Street. But if you want your Cairns a little less boisterous (and like to get to sleep before 4am), Dreamtime Travellers Rest, a couple of blocks over on Bunda Street, is an excellent alternative. Set in an old Queenslander home, it's quirky, bright and colourful with a lovely tropical garden setting. There are private and dorm rooms, a bar, pool and plenty of common areas and chilled-out spaces where you can play a game of chess, read a book or compare your Great Barrier Reef stories.

United Backpackers, Melbourne, VIC © United Backpackers

United Backpackers Melbourne

This hostel is incredibly well situated - across the street from Flinders Street Station and Federation Square right in the centre of Melbourne - but that's not the only drawcard here. United Backpackers Melbourne also has a reputation as being one of the cleanest hostel options in the country, with spacious common areas, a movie room, basement bar and a big kitchen with plenty of prep and storage space (and a filtered-water tap). The nightly activity program is great if you're a solo traveller, from Tuesday's "tacos and trivia" to Sunday's pool competition.

 Port Lincoln YHA, Port Lincoln, SA © YHA

Port Lincoln YHA, Port Lincoln

On the tip of South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, about a seven-hour drive from Adelaide, Port Lincoln draws travellers for its shark cave diving and swims with impossibly cute Australian sea lions. The award-winning Port Lincoln YHA is the ideal location from which to do both (along with everything else the region has to offer). The team are incredibly welcoming, the place is spotless and the tariff is ridiculously low, meaning you can spend more on the exciting adventures that await.

Montacute Boutique Bunkhouse, Hobart, TAS © Montacute Boutique Bunkhouse

Montacute Boutique Bunkhouse, Hobart

Hobart is hot right now, thanks to a new generation of young chefs, a growing community of craft brewers and the extraordinary Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Explore all that’s happening in the Tasmanian capital, an hour’s flight from Melbourne, from Montacute Boutique Bunkhouse in historic Battery Point, a short walk from the famed Salamanca Market. A former private home, Montacute is probably the most upmarket budget accommodation option on the east coast, with polished timber floors, gleaming white timber beds, Tasmanian wool blankets, fireplaces, antique furniture and a broad timber deck. The good news? You don’t pay more for all that elegance.

Fremantle Prison YHA, Fremantle, WA © YHA

Fremantle Prison YHA, Fremantle

Freo, as it's universally known, doesn't disappoint, with great food, a vibrant arts scene, fabulous bars and excellent beaches. This World Heritage-listed former prison, recently transformed into a YHA hostel, is a great base to explore all of that. Stay in the original cell block (ghost sightings need to be reported directly to staff), in the new purpose-built hostel or in one of the well-preserved guard's cottages. There are private rooms and dorms as well as a spacious commercial kitchen. Fremantle train station is a 10-minute walk away and the trip into Perth takes about half an hour. 

Base Backpackers, Magnetic Island, QLD © Base Backpackers

Base Backpackers Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island might not be on the well-travelled backpacker route around Australia, but it should be. A largely unspoilt patch of green just off the coast of Townsville in Far North Queensland (just over a four-hour drive south of Cairns), it’s got divine beaches, a fringing reef and a very laid-back ambience. Located in Nelly Bay on the southern end of the island is Base Backpackers, part of the Base chain of hostels found throughout Australia. Charming A-frame cabins are scattered through the bush, and have stunning ocean views from their decks, as does the pool and the terraces surrounding the bar. Female travellers might appreciate the women-only Sanctuary dorms, which include a pamper package on arrival.

Garden area at Alice’s Secret, Alice Springs, NT © Sebastian Krasemann

Alice's Spring Travellers Inn, Alice Springs

It’s probably not much of a secret any more – but don’t hold that against Alice’s Secret Travellers Inn, located in Alice Springs in the Red Centre. In a quiet street about seven minutes’ walk to town, Alice’s is only small (maximum 28 guests) but what it lacks in size it makes up for in eccentricity. The owner's quirky touches range from painted-tyre plant holders and a sand-filled water-bottle chess set to funkily decorated old caravans repurposed as accommodation. The perfect stopping-off point on your way to, or from, Uluru.

Beaches of Broome, Broome, WA © Beaches of Broome

Beaches Of Broome, Broome

Before you head off into the Kimberley, treat yourself to a couple of nights at this slightly-more-expensive option in Broome on the Western Australia coast, about 2200 kilometres (1300 miles) north of Perth. For a bit above normal backpacker rates, you’ll enjoy a little resort-style living at Beaches of Broome, with its great pool, café and bar, and within walking distance of Broome’s famed Cable Beach (and its equally famous camel rides). Rooms and common areas are always clean, breakfast is included and staff are very helpful with everything from bus timetables to booking tours.