Australia's best hostels
Australia has backpacker accommodation to suit every taste (and budget). We've rounded up a few of the best.
By Deborah Cooke
Whether you’re planning a Red Centre adventure or just want to relax on an empty beach, Australia has an incredible array of affordable accommodation options for backpackers. Book in for a couple of nights or settle in for longer.
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.
The Surf House, Byron Bay
When it comes to affordable, fashionable and friendly accommodation in Byron Bay, The Surf House is your go-to. Perfectly situated in the heart of the town, this unique hostel – housed in a Heritage-listed building— is only a short stroll away from Byron’s popular Main Beach, as well as the town’s best bars, restaurants and boutique shops. The Surf House offers the ultimate Byron experience; grab a complimentary surfboard and learn to surf before enjoying the hostel’s rooftop bar, complete with local brews and music. Choose between modern shared dorms and private rooms fitted with an ensuite and balcony.
Perched in the heart of Cairns, the award-winning Gilligan’s has everything you’ve dreamed of for an epic stay. Whether you’re looking for somewhere to relax after an action-packed day or a dance floor to let your hair down, Gilligan’s resort swimming pool, bars and night club are sure to suit your travel needs. Enjoy some alone time in one of their private hotel rooms or make some friends in a shared dorm. If you’re an eco-conscious traveller, Dreamtime Travellers Rest, a couple of blocks over, is an excellent eco hostel alternative. Set in an old Queenslander home, it's quirky, bright and colourful with a lovely tropical garden setting.
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
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
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, Perth
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
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.
Alice's Secret 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
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.