I love this hostel. Like, really love it. If I could stay here forever I would. It’s worth staying here just for the free chocolate cake every day!
Sequoia Lodge Backpackers is a small hostel in Picton. It’s part of the BBH hostel group, of which there are many hostels across New Zealand. BBH is a network of hostels similar to YHA/Base etc. My experience with their hostels so far has been fantastic. Generally, these hostels feel much more homely than the bigger brands. It feels like you’re staying in someone’s home and the people are often very chilled and friendly.
The hostel has many great features: a good sized kitchen/lounge area, free wifi, a hot tub and they bake chocolate pudding every day for the guests. 8pm is cake time. You can tell it’s nearly cake o’clock as a crowd starts to gather near the kitchen. Honestly, the cake is AMAZING – you’ll want to be there in time to get some before it runs out :)
Three nights in a female dorm in mid-February 2015. I decided to stay here based on the great reviews I’d read online. Having previously visited Picton, I knew some hostels to avoid and the rough area I wanted to be in. Which leads me nicely onto the location…
This hostel is quite a walk from most of the town’s attractions. You basically follow the railway line to get to the hostel. Picton is only a small town, so the fact the hostel is outside the centre doesn’t matter so much. There’s a supermarket (Fresh Choice) about a 5-10 minute walk away, with the beach/bars another 5 after that. It is quite a long way from the Interislander ferry terminal and station, but that wasn’t too much of a problem for me. I expected to have to walk to the hostel from the ferry but was amazed/thrilled to see a van waiting for anyone who might be staying here. The hostel employs a number of people, and one of their jobs is to drive the van to the ferry terminal and offer lifts to guests. I didn’t have to book anything in advance, but if you definitely want this service, it might be a good idea to email/call them in advance to request a pick up.
Staff / Guests
The “woofers” here are all friendly, as you’d expect! For those not familiar with the term, a “woofer” is someone who works somewhere in exchange for a bed and sometimes food. It’s a common practice here in New Zealand. The hostel seems to be run by a couple maybe in their 50s or 60s (I’m terrible with ages) who are friendly. The man is usually the one on the front desk while the lady seems to organise the building itself. She’s often the one who pops into the dorms to change bedding etc.
The guests in the hotel are much more chilled and friendly than in any other hostel I’ve been to. I have made some lovely friends here during my stay. Most people seem relaxed and honest – proper travellers who respect each other and keep the space clean. I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels were I felt a bit awkward as they were more like party hostels for teenagers. This one isn’t like that. This one is like staying in a house with a big family. It’s great!
The hostel gets really quiet from about 10pm onwards which is great if you want a good night’s sleep. All the guests are courteous and I didn’t encounter any loud/rude/drunken people.
If you DO want to party and enjoy the town, I’d recommend staying in a different hostel. You won’t find many party people here and it’s quite a walk/stagger back from the bars. You’d be better off in a hostel by the water front :)
I stayed in a 6-bed female dorm with en-suite bathroom. The rooms here are basic but comfortable. There isn’t much space to store belongings though, so with six of us in here, it did get a little cramped. Luckily, all the girls in my dorm were lovely so we all worked around each other and it worked well. A six-bed dorm is made up of 3 bunk beds and a desk. The bunk beds are better than other ones I’ve stayed in because they’re wooden rather than metal. This might not seem that important but it stops them squeaking/wobbling so much. As a result, I hardly noticed I was in a bunk bed at all and slept very well. The room is really clean and the en-suite is nice and big. There’s one shower room, a toilet room and a large middle area with sink/mirror etc. I was a little worried this wouldn’t be enough space for 6 girls, but it worked fine.
One thing to note with this hostel is that they don’t lock the dorm doors. Everything runs on honesty and trust. I found this a bit strange at first and was really worried about my belongings. However I soon realised that everyone is in the same boat. No one wants to steal your old clothes or torn backpack! There are small lockers you can use for free (you’ll need a padlock) if you’re worried about essentials (passport etc). I just kept those in my pocket though and left the rest of my stuff on/by my bed.
Power in this dorm was better than some others. Again, there was only one outlet in one corner of the room, but this time they provided an extension cable which boosted that to 6 outlets. One each! Perfect.
Kitchen and Common Areas
There’s also a good supply of power in the lounge/dining area, so you needn’t worry about your gadgets running out of power. The lounge is fairly small, but cosy and plenty of room given there aren’t that many guests here. During my stay the hostel was fully booked but it never felt cramped.
The kitchen is well equipped with plenty of pots/pans/cutlery etc. There is free tea and coffee available, as well as a good selection of cooking essentials (salt, pepper, herbs, oil) so you don’t need to waste money buying those.
Away from the main area, there is a separate TV room with sofas. I didn’t use this but it looks well set up for watching movies. There’s also a smaller lounge area with sofas, books and boardgames.
Outside, there is a covered decking area with more tables. This would be lovely in summer!
The Hot Tub!
The hot tub is free to use! It’s booked in 30 minute slots by writing your name/time on the board in reception. A bit of advice here: make sure you check it a decent time before you go in it. Last night we tried to use it but it had been refilled and wasn’t hot. Had we checked sooner we could probably have secured a different slot – by the time we realised, all the slots were taken. It shuts at 10pm, so make sure you get your name on the board early!
Any Other Tips?
Chocolate cake o’clock is at 8pm. It’s fresh out of the oven and served with ice cream. It is delicious! Don’t miss it!
There are laundry facilities here but I haven’t needed to use them. I can’t review them but they do shut at 8pm. If you need to get some laundry washed and dried, do it early!
As seems common with BBH hostels (from the ones I’ve stayed in at least), they close the kitchen and common area at 10am for an hour to clean it. This is a bit impractical but it does mean the kitchen is thoroughly cleaned daily. Just be sure to get your tea/coffee/breakfast by about 9:30am to beat the rush. Otherwise you’ll be waiting til after 11!
There’s a giant chess set and a hammock outside near the hot tub, if you like that kind of thing :)
The wifi isn’t the best but it does work. I can’t get it to work in the dorm but it’s usually fine in the common areas. The only time it doesn’t work there is when it gets busy late at night and there are too many people trying to use it.
Plenty of street parking nearby if you have a car. That didn’t seem to be a problem for anyone I met.
If you want a towel, ask in reception. I got to borrow one for free :)
Did I mention chocolate cake yet? 8pm in the kitchen! I might have to ask for the recipe because it is THAT good.
If the wifi doesn’t work for you and you need better internet, head to the town’s library. It’s open 7 days a week (times vary) and has free GOOD internet. Be aware that it gets busy so it’s best to get there early if you want access to a table/power. They don’t let big backpacks in, so leave that at the hostel. They also claim the internet is capped at an hour but it isn’t. As long as it’s not too busy you could stay there longer – just try to be fair to the many other people trying to use it!
Town activities: cinema, aquarium, museums, plenty of bars and restaurants (although they are fairly expensive), a nice beach/park, lovely trail walks around the coast, water sports/tours.
BBH Hostels, like many chains (eg YHA) have a membership card. Buying a card will give you discounts on your stay plus various activities/transport. If you intend to stay in a few hostels (more than 10 nights) it’s worth picking up a card to save some money.
The weather is very changeable in Picton. Yesterday it was very hot and I got sunburnt. Today it is very cold and rainy. Pack clothing to suit a variety of weather conditions!
Link me up!
Interislander Ferry (Wellington <-> Picton)
P.S. I feel a little like GLaDOS with this blog post but the cake is most definitely not a lie, it is very delicious :)