Calm before the holiday hot-spot storm
'If there was any less swell it would be a lake'HARRY PEARL
Road authorities and surf lifeguards have reported a smooth start to the holidays on the Coromandel Peninsula, but both groups are urging visitors to take care.
Bouts of rain and menacing grey clouds kept swimmers and sunbathers to a minimum at Whangamata beach for much of yesterday, and surf lifesaving clubs up and down the peninsula reported a slow day.
However, some accommodation providers are already having a bumper December, with many Coromandel hot spots booked out until well into the new year. Mitch Jensen, head lifeguard at Whangamata Surf Life Saving Club, said it had been a quiet start to the season but he was expecting things to ramp up.
"It's slowly building. We did a couple of rescues last week. But it's normally from the 27th that we're busy."
Head lifeguard and chairman of the Trust Waikato Hot Water Beach lifeguard service, Gary Hinds, reported a calm and uneventful day further north, too.
"If there was any less swell it would be a lake," he said.
Mr Hinds said the beach was packed on Christmas Day, however, with about 400 to 500 beachgoers at the popular holiday spot.
Two reported shark sightings in recent days did not seem to deter swimmers at Waihi Beach. Head lifeguard Eden Bray said there were 200 to 300 people swimming and sunbathing at one point yesterday.
Despite the calm start, lifeguards have a familiar message for swimmers arriving over the next couple of weeks.
"Obviously swim between the flags, look out for the danger signs and parents need to make sure they are always watching their children," Mr Jensen said.
Ms Bray said people always needed to use the correct equipment when they entered the water.
The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) reported a relatively smooth start to the holidays on the region's roads, too. NZTA spokesman Anthony Frith said there had been no major traffic jams on the roads into the Coromandel.
However, he urged people travelling over the next couple of days to share the driving if possible, take breaks and be careful when passing.
Bookings at two of Coromandel's most popular holiday spots are pointing to a busy fortnight ahead.
Owner of Mercury Bay Holiday Park, Helena Stratford, said their campsites and units were fully booked until January 9, with numbers up about 20 per cent on this time last year.
Visitors were booking longer stays than previous years.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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