Standing at the entrance to Downtown Backpackers hostel in Wellington it was hard to imagine its previous life as a historical hotel. Gazing skywards it became clear that this art deco building was no ordinary backpackers hostel.
Beginning its life as the Hotel Waterloo back in 1937, it opened with 102 rooms accommodating 125 guests and set new standards for furniture and interior design. Through the 1980′s the hotel fell into decline and towards the end of the decade it closed its doors for the final time.
During the Queen’s Coronation Tour of New Zealand in 1953 the hotel hosted the Queen’s entourage. Luxuries that were afforded then were still evident when the building reopened in 1991. The target audience however has changed as the hotel rooms were converted to house travelling backpackers.
Location and Interior of Downtown Backpackers, Wellington
We chose Downtown Backpackers primarily for its vicinity to the capital’s train station from which we would be departing two days later. It was also a short taxi ride from Wellington’s inter-islander ferry terminal and ideal after a three hour journey across from the South Island.
Taking the elegant staircase up to our room we found it to be a good size with a double bed, desk and TV within the main room.
The room’s selling point however it the original tiled bathroom. Though it now looked dated in comparison to most hostel accommodation in New Zealand, it was a romantic reminder of a different generation.
Wanting to explore Wellington we found everything within a short walking distance. The Beehive and the main shopping street of Lambton Quay are just five minutes away. Further afield it is a ten minute walk to the famous Wellington cable car a 20 minute journey by foot the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.
Eat in a Ballroom or spend an evening in the Downtown Bar
Though we didn’t eat there we popped our head into the on-site cafe which used to house the Hotel Waterloo ballroom. The dance floor may no longer be in use but the high ceilings and windows etched with the hotel emblem make sure the building’s heritage is kept intact.
So whilst the type of guest may have changed through the years the building remains as it once was and that can only be a good thing.
Photos supplied by Downtown Backpackers