Busy start to Otago holiday season

James Green (left) and Brandon Green, of Christchurch, are  staying at the Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park Creeksyde until Boxing Day before travelling up the West Coast. Photo by Christina McDonald.
James Green (left) and Brandon Green, of Christchurch, are staying at the Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park Creeksyde until Boxing Day before travelling up the West Coast. Photo by Christina McDonald.

Camping appears to be as popular as ever, with Otago camping grounds reporting a busy start to the holiday season.

The influx of holidaymakers started at the weekend but camping ground managers expect to be busy on Boxing Day, the traditional start to summer holidays.



The new operators of the Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park are counting down to the start of their first summer season.

Although Rudolf Sanders and Aggie Hofsteenge have had plenty of experience managing holiday parks, this will be their first at the Wanaka camp they manage for the Queenstown Lakes District Council, taking over at Labour Weekend.

Ms Hofsteenge said they had not had a chance to compare this summer's bookings with last.

''We've been so busy sorting things out I haven't even had a look.''

The couple also manage the Glendhu Bay Lakeside Holiday Park and Ms Hofsteenge said regulars were already setting up camp there.

The Lake Outlet Holiday Park, in Wanaka, beside the Clutha River outlet, is expecting a busier-than-normal Christmas Day.

Owner Tracy Addison said because of the way the statutory holidays fell, more ''Kiwi families'' had booked for the five days before Christmas.

''It seems to be people are starting their holiday that little bit earlier.''


Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea Camping Ground and Holiday Accommodation manager Mike King said his bookings were up by 5-10%, which he attributed in part to the Rhythm and Alps music festival in the Cardrona Valley at New Year.

Haast Beach Haast Beach Holiday Park lessee Lorraine Wallis said bookings were not as good as last summer's because of the problems with State Highway 6 between Haast and Wanaka.

Contractors are still stabilising the slip at Diana Falls brought down by heavy rain in September and the road is closed at night.

At the slip, it is closed from 7pm until 8am.

At Haast it closes each night at 6 and reopens at 7am, while across at Makarora it closes at 6.30pm and reopens at 7.30am.

The highway is also being closed at other times when there are further slips or heavy rain.

Ms Wallis expected holidaymakers to make ''last-minute decisions'' about visiting Haast, wary of being caught on the wrong side if there was bad weather.


North Otago

In North Otago, most campsites had already been booked for the holidays, with just a few places remaining, while the new Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, from Mt Cook to Oamaru, is being credited by some for attracting more people into the area this summer.

Accommodation outlets in the popular Waitaki Valley and Waitaki Lakes all reported positive bookings.

Otematata Holiday Park and Lodge co-owner Kirsty MacLeod said although accommodation was still available for the holiday period, some areas were fully booked about four weeks ago.

Kurow Holiday Park owner Chum Chamberlain said bookings were ''good'', at a similar level to last year, and he agreed the new cycle trail should help businesses.

The Omarama Top 10 Holiday Park reported ''very good'' bookings, with owner Arda Booiman saying this summer will beat last year.

Lake Ohau Lodge co-owner Louise Neilson said the lodge had experienced ''steady'' bookings in the run-up to the holiday.

''I think that we will be expecting that we are going to have lots of holiday-makers in the Mackenzie Country and the Alps 2 Ocean (cycle trail) is really going to be the thing that just starts taking off from now through the summer."

Lake Ruataniwha Holiday Park and Motels owner Kura Ritchie said the 2500-capacity facility had been booked up for Christmas and New Year since Labour Weekend.

On the east coast, the Moeraki Village Holiday Park is also fully booked for the holidays.


Clutha district

Holiday bookings are steady in the Clutha district, with many holiday park operators reporting a rise in bookings on a year ago.

Lake Waihola Holiday Park operator Brent Cowles said he was pleased with the number of bookings.

Balclutha Motor Camp managerJohn McGowan said he, too, was happy with the number of bookings, with camper van sites the most popular.

Beaumont Hotel and Holiday Park co-operator Gunni Egilsson said visitors often did not book. The Taieri Mouth Holiday Park was about 90% full for the Christmas-New Year period, manager Paula Poutu said.

Tapanui Motor Camp owner Dave Scott said the ground was fully booked for the next two weeks.

''We're probably a little bit up this year''.

Bookings in the Catlins are also going well, with YHA Catlins Coast and Holiday Park owner-operator Craig Perry reporting more group bookings than usual.

Nearby Newhaven Holiday Park and Pounawea Camping Ground also reported good bookings, with the latter full over three days at New Year, although cabins were still available.



New Year's Eve in Queenstown looks set to be a big one, judging by holiday park bookings.

Demand over the resort's party period has also spread to Kingston, with Hectors camp manager Annabelle Wilson saying despite being 40 minutes out of Queenstown, people had been calling since October about New Year's Eve bookings.

However, Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park Creeksyde co-owner Erna Spijkerbosch said she would ''venture to suggest that the peak is arriving a little bit earlier''.

At the Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park, the majority of campers would start to arrive from Boxing Day, general manager Peter Coppens said.

Bookings were still being taken for what is called the ''Bullring'' or the youth zone, which is the land earmarked for the proposed Queenstown convention centre.

It will operate from December 29 until January 4, primarily concentrating on the youth market.

Arrowtown and Frankton also have special accommodation for young people, with Arrowtown Holiday Park - which comes under the same management agreement as the Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park - also having a bullring.

Frankton Motor Camp is preparing for New Year's Eve, with staff member Shelley McLellan saying the camp would start to ''crank up'' from December 28.

''It's good but it's flat out. It's ... the calm before the storm.''

Glenorchy Camping Ground's Sue Roney said the busy period would come after Christmas and around the start of the new year.

The annual Glenorchy races on January 4 was expected to cause an influx.


Central Otago

Central Otago camping ground owners are bracing themselves for a ''full house'' over the Christmas and New Year break but some say holidaymakers are leaving it until the last minute to book while others claim freedom camping is affecting business.

Co-owner of the Larchview Holiday Park at Naseby, Matthew de Woeps,

said although bookings were good over Christmas and New Year and some campers booked early, there had been an usually high rush of last-minute bookings.

''Maybe it's the economy - people not knowing if they're getting annual leave or not,'' he said.

There was also a higher-than-usual number of people ''just wandering up, and not booking and that's a dangerous game to play if you want accommodation and does make it hard for forward planning.''

Freedom camping appeared to be having an impact on business, Clyde Holiday and Sporting Complex manager Lauren Direen said.

Stays at the camp were shorter overall and ''people seem to be going for the cheapest option. Everyone's hurting at the moment.''

Bookings at the Alexandra Holiday Park were similar to previous years, but instead of the influx being on December 26, it would be spread over December 26-28 this year, owner Janice Graham said. Cromwell Top 10 Holiday Park would be busy throughout January, co-owner John Searle said.

''The major influx will be on December 26 and 27 and at the peak, we'll have up to 1800 people here.''

''We're happy with our bookings throughout January and I think people have a wee bit more confidence in their jobs at the moment, so that's why our bookings are so strong.''