Andy Monkhouse struck both goals for Pools, who were denied a last-day win by a late equaliser from Jamie Proctor, who also fired a double.
Hughes stressed there was no quick-fix and that League Two would be a testing division to come out of.
He said: "I know what we`re up against and I know there will be a lot of hard work done in the close season.
"You have to be invigorated and excited, but I`m encouraged as looking at this performance you wouldn`t think that we we are a relegated team."
Hartlepool faced a massive task to stay up after a shocking start to the season, but Hughes felt his side should not have gone down.
He said: "I was hoping for a good start (after replacing predecessor Neal Cooper), but the confidence wasn`t there.
"I`ve had a good response and the boys know I`m with them. Now I`m looking forward to next year."
Hughes had nothing but praise for the band of 417 travelling fans, 130 of whom dressed as penguins as an end-of-season fancy-dress tradition was maintained.
The Scotsman added: "I take my hat off to all of them. It was a great effort. It was all about the supporters. I`m just a little bit disappointed not to close with a victory."
- Sports & Recreation
- Jamie Proctor