Rooftop Sydney Harbour YHA, Sydney, New South Wales
Australia has backpacker accommodation to suit every taste (and budget). We've rounded up nine 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, NEW SOUTH WALES
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 archaeological 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.
DREAMTIME TRAVELLERS REST, CAIRNS, QUEENSLAND
Those who want to party hard in Cairns, 1700 kilometres (1000 miles) north of Brisbane in Far North Queensland, 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 day-on-the-Great-Barrier-Reef stories.
UNITED BACKPACKERS MELBOURNE, MELBOURNE, VICTORIA
This hostel is incredibly well situated – across the street from Flinders Street Station and Federation Square in Melbourne’s centre – 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, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
On the tip of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula about a seven-hour drive from Adelaide, Port Lincoln draws travellers for its shark cage 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). Managers Debi and Robert are incredibly welcoming, the place is spotless and the tariff is ridiculously low, at about AUD$16 a person for a dorm room in off-peak.
MONTACUTE BOUTIQUE BUNKHOUSE, HOBART, TASMANIA
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, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Lonely Planet named this port city just south of the Western Australian capital, Perth (about five hours’ flying time from Sydney), as one of thecities to visit in 2016. And 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 to 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, and all the facilities are shiny and new, including a spacious communal 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, QUEENSLAND
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 (about 1300 kilometres, or 800 miles, north of Brisbane), 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 now 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, NORTHERN TERRITORY
It’s probably not much of a secret any more – being Number 1 on TripAdvisor for specialty accommodation in the area – but don’t hold that against Alice’s Secret Travellers Inn, located in Alice Springs in the Red Centre, a 17-hour drive south of Darwin. 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. Owner Seb’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, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
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 an extra AUD$10-$15 a night 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.
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