Thunder and rain likely tomorrow

WAVE RAVE: From left, Maria Macdonald, 14, of Oreti,   Maddisen Andrews, 13, and Quinn Andrews, 11, both of Winton,  enjoy the water at Riverton. 
WAVE RAVE: From left, Maria Macdonald, 14, of Oreti, Maddisen Andrews, 13, and Quinn Andrews, 11, both of Winton, enjoy the water at Riverton. 

Thousands of southern holiday makers enjoyed some of the best weather in New Zealand at the weekend but thunderstorms and rain were predicted in the lead-up to the new year.

Metservice weather forecaster Tuporo Masters said Invercargill had the "best weather in the country" yesterday, with a high temperature of 26 degrees Celsius.

The H&J Smith clock in the city centre registered 30 degrees Celsius.

On Saturday the Metservice website listed Invercargill as the fourth hottest place in the country with a temperature of 25.4 degrees celsius.

Wanaka was hottest with 26.4 degrees celsius and Queenstown was second with 25.8 degrees celsius.

Despite the sunny skies, MetService issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Southland yesterday afternoon, with thunder and some rain arriving in Invercargill before it cleared. But dark skies loomed last night..

"We issued a severe thunderstorm watch for all of Southland, Central Otago, and down the spine of the Alps," Tuporo said. There were several "sparks" of lightning northwest of Invercargill. The heat caused the thunderstorms.

People in Southland, Queenstown, and the Central Otago area should expect westerlies and showers in the leadup to the new year, Tuporo said.

Sunscreen was a must for the campers making most of the blue skies and flocking to Central Otago and the Queenstown Lakes District regions.

Dani Balschun a staff member at Queenstown Top 10 holiday park Creekside, said it was "basically fully booked" from today.

Most of the campers were foreign tourists from Germany, Sweden, Singapore and Australia, Ms Balschun said.

The Albert Town Camping Ground manager said they were "very, very busy" checking in campers while Alexandra Holiday Park owner Janice Graham said all the units at the park were snapped up and campers, mainly from Invercargill, other Southland areas and Christchurch, were still arriving.

Southland camping grounds were prospering from the great weather, too.

Whistling Frog Cafe and camping grounds manager Nicole Bridson said they were almost fully booked.

"Over Christmas it was pretty rainy and wet, so people are in a much better mood, playing backyard cricket and having barbecues," she said.

Te Anau Lakeview Holiday Park can cater for more than 1000 occupants, and park manager Carmel McDowall said they were "relatively full" and there were "a lot of sunburnt people around".

Gerry Oudhoff, of the Beach Road Holiday Park in Otatara, said he had owned the park for about eight years and this summer was set to be one of the best yet.

"We're absolutely pumping, it's been fantastic, a really good summer," he said.

The camping ground has room for about 150 people and was about 85 per cent full.

The Southland Times