To round off our coverage of the best hotels in New Zealand, this blog post looks at those hotels which, broadly speaking, sit to the south of the Tranz Alpine train line  – from Greymouth to Christchurch through the Southern Alps. 

As in our previous posts that cover the best hotels at the top of South Island and the best North Island hotels, our selection of hotels in lower South Island are not based on algorithms or the amount a hotel may pay to third party sites to be at the top of their lists. 

We’ve selected hotels that we’ve personally stayed at and worked with over the past thirty years, all of which have scored consistently high with our travellers as they’ve made their journey through the country’s key sites and destinations. 

The Best Hotels in Hokitika 

Oftentimes, travellers are encouraged to go down the West Coast of South Island. If you do choose to do this, we think it’s more than worth stopping in Hokitika for a while. It’s a town that is a little more “local“ in feel than some of the more “touristy” hot spots on the South Island – giving you a real feel for what New Zealand life is really like. 

There are several local artists based in the town and you can visit their studios and workshops to see glass blowing, wood carving, jade carving and sculpture designs.

Hokitika, 150 years ago was a very different place than the town you will find today since this was the main centre of the West Coast gold rush, which was depicted in the recent BBC adaptation, The Luminaries. It’s worth calling into the small museum to view the fascinating photographs of the men and their mine workings dotted across the hillsides as they panned for their precious metal.

There is really only one hotel to consider in Hokitika and that’s the Beachfront Hotel. As the name suggests, it is located right on the beach and the hotel’s Ocean Restaurant is elevated above the water, so you can enjoy a delicious fine dining experience while watching the waves break on the beach.

A sunset view from the deck at Beachfront Hotel - Best South Island Hotels - Silver Fern Holidays
A sunset over the sea from the deck at Beachfront Hotel.

The Best Hotels in Franz Josef Glacier 

Around a 40-minute drive down the coast from Hokitika, you’ll arrive at the first of the glacier townships. These small villages are primarily there to support the tourist industry that has evolved and there are a number of options available that enable visitors to walk to, walk on and fly around the glaciers and Mount Cook. 

The Scenic Franz Josef Hotel is the largest hotel in the area and has two distinct wings,each having its own charm and atmosphere, and making the most of the superb views, tranquil location and surrounding native bush.

In our opinion, the Te Waonui Forest Retreat is probably one of the best hotels on the West Coast – with prices to match!

This is a 5-star rated hotel with four separate wings, all linked by a covered walkway. The guest rooms are luxurious and spacious with excellent amenities, including high speed internet access, plush wool and down duvets and even a personal pillow menu!

Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be enjoyed in ‘The Canopy’ restaurant, where an open fire, and subtle rainforest theming adds to the warmth and ambience of the space.

Next would be Westwood Lodge, OK this is more of a bed & breakfast than a hotel, but it would be a massive oversight for us to omit it, it certainly deserves to be considered the “best of” because it is such a stunning property in a fabulous location.

The lodge is located right in the forest of World Heritage Westland National Park, with spectacular views of Franz Josef Glacier. The accommodation includes guest rooms with beautiful garden views, a breakfast restaurant with a range of dining options and an expansive lounge to relax in after a busy day. Natural wood is a feature of the architecture throughout this accommodation.

Fully immerse yourself in nature at the Te Waonui Forest Retreat.

The Best Hotels in Fox Glacier  

Like its counterpart, accommodation in Fox is primarily there to serve the tourist trade around the glaciers. And here we’d pick out Te Weheka Distinction Hotel

The hotel is well located for Fox Glacier village and the beautiful Lake Matheson, which are just across the road and about a mile down the track. With fantastic views of the whole Mount Cook panorama reflected in the lake’s deep waters.

Each room is beautifully put together with a living area and balcony, so you can fully immerse yourself in your surroundings from the comfort of your room. If you’d prefer, you can also curl up with a good book and a glass of wine in front of an open fire in the cosy lounge area (which has its own library!), looking out over the Cook River Valley

The Best Hotels in Wanaka 

Over the Haast Pass and you’re into the completely different environment of Mount Aspiring National Park, with its scenic range of lakes and mountains.  

As Wanaka’s only hotel located directly on the shores of Lake Wanaka, Edgewater Resort is a special place to stay. Having recently undergone full refurbishment, the hotel offers fabulous accommodation and excellent facilities, making it a lovely place to base yourself to explore Wanaka and the surrounding area.

Its location ensures you can relax by the calming shores of the lake, but it takes just fifteen minutes to walk into Wanaka township, so the location is hard to beat.

The cosy lounge cafe that overlooks Lake Wanaka at Edgewater Resort.

The Best Hotels in Queenstown

The town’s moniker as the Adventure Capital of New Zealand means there’s plenty of accommodation available in Queenstown – catering for all the adventure junkies as well as those who just wish to enjoy the scenic delights of the area.

When looking for the best hotels in Queenstown, we recommend two smaller properties which are more homely and personal than the rather corporate offerings of the larger hotels.

First, Chalet Queenstown. This is a small boutique hotel just a ten minute walk through the Queenstown Gardens to the centre of town.

The property has 7 well-appointed guest rooms which have a balcony with either lake or mountain views and triple sheeted beds with feather duvets for maximum comfort. There’s a guest lounge and garden patio to relax in and put your feet up after the day’s activities and there’s a laundry service if you need it, too!

Next is Brown’s Boutique Hotel. Perfectly located in a quiet street in the heart of Queenstown, this is a charming, European-inspired boutique hotel. Each room has a balcony which offers stunning views to the lake and mountains. There is also a small patio garden area often used for barbecues in the summer months.  

A room with a view at Brown’s Boutique Hotel in Queenstown.

The Best Hotels in Te Anau 

Travelling alongside Lake Wakatipu and under the shadow of the Remarkable mountains, a three hour drive will take you to the small town of Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland World Heritage Park.

There are a range of self-contained apartments in the town, but really only two hotels, both under the Distinction brand. Our favourite, because it sits right on the lake, is The 4-star rated Distinction Te Anau hotel and villas. It has a pool, sauna and spa and is surrounded by gardens which look out to the Fiordland mountain ranges. 

For those visitors contemplating one of the track walks, this is a good base because most of the operators begin their briefing at the hotel.

Across Southern Otago and you’re on the east coast and Dunedin, where we favour the recently refurbished Fable Dunedin

Head north and you’re into the mountains of Aoraki/Mount Cook. There isn’t much choice when it comes to hotels here, and the only one that’s in Mount Cook village itself is The Hermitage.

You won’t be disappointed though, the hotel offers superb views to the mountains and hosts the Sir Edmund Hilary Alpine Centre, with information and photographs of the great man’s mountaineering exploits, which are definitely worth a peruse.

Whilst you might stop in Tekapo en route to Christchurch, in our view the hotel accommodation is not as good as the Hermitage and it would mean back-tracking on the road to drive to the mountains.

Incredible views of the mountains from the Hermitage Hotel.
Incredible views of the mountains from the Hermitage Hotel.

So, that concludes our “round-up” of the best hotels in New Zealand. Of course accommodations are always being updated, refurbished or newly built, so there may be others who become worthy contenders in the near future (check out Sudima Hotels who are on a buying spree at the moment!), but we hope the selection chosen in these blogs have given you some food for thought as you choose where to stay on your travels around New Zealand!


If you still aren’t sure which hotels are right for you as you plan your New Zealand trip, just give us a call and one of our knowledgeable team will be on hand to help.