Great Kiwi camping holiday ever popular

With Christmas looming, temperatures rising and days lengthening, attention is turning to summer holidays. Otago Daily Times reporters have been surveying camping grounds and holiday parks in traditional Otago holiday spots and find that camping remains popular among families.

• Central Otago

Larchview Holiday Park co-owner Tracy de Woeps enjoys the peace before the holiday rush at the Naseby camping ground. Photo by Lynda van Kempen.
Larchview Holiday Park co-owner Tracy de Woeps enjoys the peace before the holiday rush at the Naseby camping ground. Photo by Lynda van Kempen.
With Christmas looming, temperatures rising and days lengthening, attention is turning to summer holidays. Otago Daily Times reporters have been surveying camping grounds and holiday parks in traditional Otago holiday spots and find that camping remains popular among families.

Camping ground owners in Central Otago are expecting the traditional ''full house'' during the Christmas and New Year break, although some said it had been quieter than usual for the rest of the year. Clyde Holiday Park manager Lauren Direen said 2012 had been the quietest in the seven years she had been at the camp.

''It's just a sign of the times, I guess.''

However, bookings were good for the main summer break, with the camp expecting to host an influx of up to 500 people.''

They're mostly all regulars - all Kiwis- three-quarters from Southland and one-quarter from Otago,'' she said. Early bookings were better than at the corresponding time last year, Ranfurly Holiday Park owner-operator Rona East said. The Ranfurly camp can accommodate about 200 people and it attracts mostly family groups.

A spokeswoman for the Omakau Domain Camping Ground said the place was ''chocker'' for the two race meetings in Omakau in early January and bookings were good from December 22 through until the second week in January. Last year at the peak holiday time, the domain accommodated 800 people over 10 days, she said.

Cromwell Top 10 Holiday Park co-owner John Searle said the camp attracted family groups and would host a maximum of 1600 people over Christmas and New Year. One of the ''regulars'' had holidayed in the camp for about 40 years.

The market had changed over the past few years.

''Tourism is picking back up again, but we used to have a lot more European visitors coming through who aren't visiting now. Over Christmas, though, it's mostly family groups, all Kiwis, and the lake is one of the attractions. School groups are among those we cater for the rest of the year,'' Mr Searle said.

The Larchview Holiday Park in Naseby also had business from school groups, especially at the end of the year, co-owner Tracy de Woeps said.

With the recession biting, people holidaying over Christmas had cut down the length of their usual stay from 10 days to a week, she said. Bookings were good for the first week of January in particular, when a host of events had been planned to mark the 150th anniversary of Naseby and the surrounding goldfields. Larchview could accommodate up to 700 people.

Christmas bookings at the Alexandra Holiday Park were on par with other years, owner Janice Graham said. Most of the holidaymakers would arrive on Boxing Day and the camping ground was usually at full capacity - about 2500 people - from then until early in the New Year. Visitors were mostly ''regulars'', sometimes several generations of the same family, she said.

By Lynda van Kempen

Wanaka

Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park head receptionist Aya Umebayashi said the park was already 80% booked during its busiest period from December 28 to January 3, on par with previous years. Only tent sites remained, which were usually snapped up by tourists. About 300 young people had booked at the park during the New Year period, which was slightly up on last year, Miss Umebayashi said.

A more family-orientatedatmosphere was expected at Wanaka Top 10 Holiday Park over New Year as, for the first time, people under 20 would not be permitted to stay, co-manager Patrick Perkins said.

''We've just had numerous times with lots of trouble with the young ones.''

Mr Perkins said 200 to 300 young people had already been turned away, and while that meant tent site bookings were slightly down, it would be better for the park in the long term.

''We might take a hit from it, but I think further down the track we may gain more families with less trouble.''

At the Lake Outlet Holiday Park, New Year bookings were ''significantly higher'' than last year, co-manager Glenn Tattersall said.

''We're basically down to non-powered camping. Everything else is pretty much booked solid.''

An area was set aside for up to 70 young people each New Year at the outlet camping ground and a ''reasonably stringent vetting process'' was in place, Mr Tattersall said.

Glendhu Bay Lakeside Holiday Park has increased its capacity this holiday season by about 5% under its new managers Keith and Chris Waddell.

Already the park had bookings for more than 3000 people between Christmas and the second week of January, but management would accept up to 4000 campers.

''There'll be no 'camp full' sign out here this year,'' Mrs Waddell said.

By Lucy Ibbotson

Clutha

Bookings across South Otago camping grounds are looking good this summer.

Balclutha Motor Camp manager Mick Corden said reservations for the Christmas/New Year period and January/February were going well, matching last year's bookings.

''It should be one of the best Christmases yet.

''We've got a lot of bookings from Christchurch, people coming to spend the holidays with family.''

Elsewhere in South Otago, camping grounds in Lawrence, Kaka Point, and the Catlins were also positive about summer reservations.

Denise Anderson, of Kaka Point Camping Ground, said bookings were going well but people were staying for shorter periods - three days at a time instead of a week.

Other campgrounds were expecting reservations closer to the time.

By Helena de Reus

Otematata

A traditional Otematata family holiday spot reopened for business ahead of schedule last month with the aid of the Otematata Volunteer Fire Brigade and nostalgic locals.

The Otematata Holiday Park and Lodge had been closed for the past three and a-half months, but new lessees Brent Cowles and Kirsty MacLeod said they had been overwhelmed by the support they had received from the local community to get the park back up and running.

Mr Cowles said a mountain of work was needed to get the holiday park back up to standard, but locals had rallied to the cause.

''We spent four days up there trying to knock the grounds into shape. We have taken out 13 trailerloads of rubbish and tree clippings.

''The swimming pool was full of slime and the local volunteer fire brigade went in there on Wednesday night for us and pumped it all out and cleaned it with their high-pressure hoses.

''The support has just been tremendous. The community up there have just got behind us. We have had 722 'likes' on our Facebook page, and there are some really great stories coming on there of how people remember camping here when they were kids and how they intend to bring their own children back for a holiday.''

He said the holiday park reopened two weeks earlier than planned, and in November was already 50% booked for the Christmas period.

''I have already got quite a number of bookings. A lot of the regulars that used to come here before they shut it down have come back and rebooked with us.''

The shop and takeaway would also reopen this summer and work would start on redecorating the lodge.

''We are going to be very family-orientated - just lots of activity-type stuff to try and make it a real community feeling within the camp.''

Elsewhere in North Otago, Danseys Pass Holiday Park, the Herbert Forest Camping Ground and the Kakanui Camping Ground have reported capacity or near capacity bookings for the holiday period.

andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz

By Andrew Ashton

Queenstown

Reservations for accommodation during the Christmas and New Year period in camping grounds around the region have improved following sluggish demand in November. Queenstown, Wanaka, Te Anau, Kingston and Glenorchy are all but booked out from December 28 until January 3, traditionally the parks' busiest period.

Queenstown Lakes District Holiday Parks manager Greg Hartshorne said bookings are building and he expected all three of the council-owned grounds in Wanaka, Queenstown and Arrowtown to book out as per usual.

This comes after a slower than usual November, he said, which was certainly down on last year's Rugby World Cup visitor influx.

Queenstown's Top 10 Holiday Park Creeksyde was also fully booked from December 28 after a quiet November.

Glenorchy Camping Ground manager Sue Roney said cabin bookings were increasing and the camping ground would probably be full from Christmas until January 5 and 6 when the Glenorchy Races would be held.

''People are starting to think about that weekend now - it will be the biggest day ever.''

She had noticed more families from around the country were booking with them than in previous years, which indicated ''a change in the Kiwi family holiday'' from overseas to domestic travel, Mrs Roney said.

In Kingston, another traditional family holiday spot, bookings from December 28 were looking similar to last year, Hector's Holiday Park manager J.

P. Cunliffe said.

The park was already booked out for New Year's Eve. Te Anau's Lakeview Holiday Park manager Roger Hyde said they were already slightly ahead of last year's bookings for December and January, with many people booking earlier than usual.

While there had been a steady increase in reservations since Labour Weekend, he had noticed New Zealand families were staying for a shorter time and international visitors were staying longer.

However, neighbouring camping ground Te Anau Kiwi Holiday park still had plenty of space. Owner Bradley Malloy expected this would change within the next few weeks.

Both Kingston and Te Anau had a strong return visitor rate due mainly to their southern family client base.

''It's pretty domestic based. We get the same families coming back year after year.''

Mr Malloy said.

By Olivia Caldwell