Raglan heaving with holidaymakers

Last updated 05:00 01/01/2014

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Retailers and accommodation outlets are cashing in on Raglan's position as Waikato's prime holiday spot as hundreds have flocked to the coastal destination to see in the new year.

More international tourists are discovering the popular town and Raglan Surf Emporium owner John Clapham said the summer holiday had seen an explosion of visitor activity.

"We go Christmas eve and it just goes through the roof for two weeks and it's on for young and old. After that, the weekends are just out of control," said Mr Clapham.

New Year's Eve dawned with full sun and a stiff sea breeze but beachgoers remained undeterred.

Manu Bay and Raglan Harbour were busy and the annual Raglan parade drew a crowd.

"Definitely everyone's got a spring in their step. I think compared to years gone by, they are feeling like they could be coming out of that recession, everyone is really positive and they've had a good year and are really positive about 2014," Mr Clapham said.

The rainy Christmas weather proved a boon for retailers as visitors packed the shops, he said.

Locals tended to stay away from town during the mass influx, which can more than triple the population of the area.

"We go from five and a half thousand up to 15, 20, 25 thousand people depending on how full everything is and if the weather is right and the waves and the fishing," he said.

Raglan Backpackers manager Casey White said visitors arrived in droves from the beginning of November and it would only get busier as the first week of the new year kicked in.

"The season started earlier for us than it normally does," he said. "I don't know what to put it down to but there are quite a few Germans here, so maybe increased tourism."

Mr White has managed the backpackers for four years and said the popularity of the town had boomed in that time.

"Raglan has just been a more popular spot," he said. "If the sun is out and there's some surf, then we're full."

November sales at Orca Restaurant and Bar outperformed the same month last year. Part-owner and manager Corrina Wells said more people were willing to dig deep for more expensive beverages.

"It is definitely feeling better or equivalent," she said. "Definitely the increase in the sale of craft products, the more expensive beers rather than just the cheap ones and that's been quite interesting to watch."

She had owned the business with her father and sister for five years and said they expected to be run off their feet for the rest of the holiday season.

Raglan Chamber of Commerce board member Charlie Young said his town was "heaving" and put it down to its "soul".

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"It just has the right kind of vibe. I think it is one of the freest towns around and I think there is a lot of free thought and a lot of different characters here.

"It's full of it and it is hard to describe. You've just got to be here." elton.smallman@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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