The Nelson region baked at 30 degrees Celsius for Christmas, sending families to the beaches and rivers.
At Rabbit Island, caretaker Tui Appelman said the sand was too hot to walk on. "It was 31 degrees here on Christmas Eve and we pretty much got that on Christmas Day."
The beach became a tent city of gazebos as families sought shelter from the sun.
The MetService rated Nelson and Whanganui among the country's hotspots at 30C at 2pm yesterday. The national high was 32C in Alexandra and Roxburgh.
Holidaymakers flocked to Maitai River swimming holes and Kaiteriteri, which was set for its traditional Boxing Day influx today.
Among the Kaiteriteri visitors were Wellington couple Kayla McMahon and Alex Allan were cooling off in the water after driving over from Nelson.
Three days earlier they had given Ms McMahon's father in Nelson, Ken McMahon, a wonderful Christmas surprise when they showed up unannounced to stay until Christmas Day.
After waiting for a taxi at Nelson Airport for an hour on Friday night, Ms McMahon was worried her father would be asleep. Her stepmother was in on the surprise and, when the doorbell rang, instructed her husband to answer it.
"He swore at my stepmum. ‘You knew, you knew', he said, but he was rapt. We haven't had Christmas together for years," said Ms McMahon.
Ms McMahon and Mr Allan were among hundreds of people enjoying Kaiteriteri on a sweltering Christmas Eve.
Another family group at the popular spot was the Turners, from England, whose fish and chip stop on the beach on Christmas Eve was part of a Nelson's greatest hits tour.
Guided by son-in-law Sam Chalmers, their week-long itinerary included kayaking in the Abel Tasman National Park, strolling the Nelson Market, catching kahawai near Ruby Bay and a "traditional Christmas morning" at Rabbit Island.
Mr Chalmers, whose father, Neil, is the principal of Mapua School, lives in Melbourne with his wife, Maria. He was showing her family the highlights of his childhood.
Kaiteriteri Reserve manager Rob Guild said the campground would reach its capacity of about 1800 campers after today.
He said some campers, spooked by a forecast for rain, had arrived early to avoid having to pitch their tents in wet weather.
At 8am on Christmas Eve, he was greeted by three groups from Christchurch who had driven up to set up camp, only to return to Christchurch for Christmas Day and then drive back again on Boxing Day.
The major change at Kaiteriteri this summer is that beachfront and domain lot parking is for day use only.
Mr Guild said most people seemed to have adapted well, although the major test was to arrive today. Long-term parking is available at Bethany Camp on Martin Farm Rd and in pay car parks north of the boat ramp.
- The Nelson Mail
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