So here goes:
Auckland: City Garden Lodge
One night, my first night in New Zealand = $30NZD ($24USD). I wasn't able to use my BBH discount because I booked online. It was complicated. The hostel owner gave me the tip to just call future hostels and not book online because then I wouldn't get charged a booking fee.
A hike up a steep hill, about 15-20 minutes from the town center. Pretty views. As it was my first hostel, I didn't have much to compare it to. The bathrooms were clean. The bed was fine, and I was in a dorm with all women. There were spices/ herbs, free tea and coffee… and free wi-fi just up to a certain Mb limit.
Wanaka: Wanaka Bakpaka
Three nights, my first stretch of a two week West Coast self-guided tour = $75NZD ($61USD)
Big dining and lounging area. Big kitchen with lots of sinks and cooktops. No cooking oil, shared salt and pepper, or spices and herbs, except for some fresh herbs from their garden. That was the downside. But otherwise, it was a great hostel. Great location– short walk to the town center, right on the lake with an amazing view. Clean and spacious bedroom with a bathroom and shower right in the room! No free wi-fi (except for a really small bit for free when you check in). This was probably my favorite hostel because I really liked Wanaka overall.
Franz Josef: Glow Worm Cottages
Three nights, in the midst of rain and clouds and in a tiny tiny town = $66NZD ($54USD)
Cozy little hostel in the middle of a tiny village. Big co-ed dorm room. Good shower facilities. Big kitchen with lots of sinks and cooktops. Shared salt and pepper but that was it in terms of food (no oil or spices and herbs). Small-ish dining and lounge area. TV with DVDs and VHS but not many people used it. Nice view. Pay for wi-fi and internet.
Punakaiki: Te Nikau Retreat
Two nights = $48NZD ($39USD)
Sets of cottages and guesthouses scattered throughout the rainforest. Rata Retreat was a dorm with a nice kitchen and living area and nice views. Cooking oil, spices and herbs, and salt and pepper provided! No cellular signal in this remote town, so you had to buy wi-fi or pay to use the computer. Nice walk to the beach. A bit of a hike from the Pancake Rocks, but they had free pick up and drop off to the bus stop. My bed was quite lumpy. The bathroom facilities were OK (a bit low on the shower pressure). They sell freshly baked bread and muffins ($5/$2) which were both delicious. And really nice owner.
Nelson: The Bug
Four nights = $88NZD ($72USD)
Crowded co-ed dorm room but clean and fresh linens. Clean bathrooms. Nice open kitchen with cooking oil, herbs, salt/pepper provided and free freshly baked bread in the mornings. 15 minute walk into the town center, located in a more residential part of town. Free bus station pick up and drop off by the hostel owners. Free wi-fi, which was a big plus. Top rated on the BBH website. Really friendly owner with her dogs.
Hostels are definitely cheap and easy in New Zealand. And the ones I stayed at were clean, homey, and comfortable. I met some really nice people along the way, people that I've become Facebook friends with and hope to stay in touch with!
You definitely have to be in a certain frame of mind to accept hostel-hopping. You have to be open to sharing rooms with others, sharing cooking and eating space with others, and be open to chatting with whoever wants to chat. At the same time, you have to be OK with just being alone, too. And I was open to all those experiences. I mean, what do you expect for $20-25 per night!? But these hostels were definitely nice and worth staying at.