Enjoying summer - whatever the weather

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 09:12 09/01/2014
Ada Ashby
ALI KIMBER-BATE
MATCHING PAIR: Ada Ashby (left) and Sabine Kimber-Bate in their Guns N' Roses Christmas T-shirts at Rabbit Island.

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The weather gods may have treated summer with flippant disregard but the abundance of activities over Tasman's holiday season has rolled on regardless and drawn holidaymakers in their droves.

Visitors and locals alike have donned the appropriate attire and flocked to jazz festivals, outdoor movies, harness racing, market days, motorcycle racing, cardboard boat races, beach beauty contests, book fairs, and bands.

Highlights of the recent round of festive sports saw Wakefield's Kaine Ransby and Christchurch's Kate Boreham strut their stuff before friends, family and complete strangers to win the respective titles of Mr and Miss Kaiteriteri at the popular resort's annual festival.

About 6000 people attended the two-day Interislander Summer Festival Nelson Harness Races at Richmond Park where famed reinsmen from the Dunn family brought home a quantity of winners.

Boysenberries and cream and 45 stalls selling pottery, crafts and local produce drew huge numbers of people to the annual Riwaka Market Day while about 4500 people partied to touring bands at the Riwaka Hotel and even more enjoyed the dynamic week-long Woollaston Jazz and Blues Festival.

The weather blew away any chances of holding the popular Tata Titanic Cardboard Boat Race on Sunday, but budding sea-dogs will have their chance to contest the title on January 19.

Out-of-town holidaymakers filled the region's hotels, motels and camping grounds to capacity with operators reporting visitor numbers returning to pre-Canterbury earthquake levels, said Nelson Tasman Tourism chief executive Lynda Keene.

"There is a really positive vibe out there," she said.

She said the region's campgrounds, which were usually packed with Cantabrians, had been "rocking" and were anticipating a strong end to the season.

Golden Bay's Farewell Spit Ecotours owner Paddy Gillooly said business was up slightly from last summer, but overall it was too early to know how the season was going.

Abel Tasman National Park had been at capacity since December 23, meaning about 500 people in huts and campsites every night, with another 900 at Totaranui, said the Department of Conservation's Nelson visitor centre supervisor, Paul Thornton.

Darryl Wilson of Wilson's Abel Tasman said the almost daily patchy weather saw client numbers rise and fall and forced the cancellation of some key products.

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"It hinted at a great season and if the weather had been stable it would have been fantastic. There has been a strong domestic focus among visitors and a real mix of nationalities, which is great."

He was cautiously optimistic about the remainder of the tourist season.

Nelson-Tasman Economic Development chief executive Bill Findlater said the resurgence of tourist numbers, and the district's positive primary sector, was helping lift the region's economic mood and provide economic surety for its future.

- Nelson

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