It was like a January weekend in Wānaka’s CBD this Queen’s Birthday weekend, with filled restaurants and cafes setting up waiting lists or having to turn guests away at the door.
It was the first long weekend since lockdown restrictions have eased to allow for domestic travel.
“Anecdotally, people visiting came from as close to home as Queenstown for a staycation and as far afield as Auckland, with a good number of Dunedin, Southland and Canterbury holiday-homers and first-time visitors coming to Wānaka for the long weekend,” said Ignite Wānaka Executive Officer Naomi Lindsay.
“First time visitors are great as they hopefully enjoy their trip so much they'll choose to come back at a different time of year.
“With bluebird afternoons on Sunday and Monday, Wānaka really showed off her natural beauty to our out of town visitors, and already we've seen some epic photos taken across Wānaka and Hawea over the weekend.
“Our LoveWānaka campaign, in conjunction with Lake Wānaka Tourism, has been a great success, providing businesses with a platform to share their business offering, including deals, to those wanting to visit Wānaka. This gave Kiwis the perfect opportunity to explore their backyard. From what we've seen online, people love Wānaka as much as we do,” said Lindsay.
Although too soon to see official stats and figures for the weekend, many cafes and restaurants on the lakefront reported an increase on last year’s Queen’s Birthday weekend takings - from 10 to 30 per cent, even with the fewer tables and slower rate of turnover due to Alert Level 2 table service restrictions. Some places were caught off guard by the influx of patrons, with reports of restaurants running out of ingredients, cafes running out of coffee, and some even having to close early.
Accommodation providers were also the closest to fully booked they’ve been in a while.
Peter Sutherland, owner of The Moorings Wānaka, said it was the “busiest Queen’s Birthday weekend” they’d had since coming to Wānaka four year ago, with tourists taking advantage of the lower rates post-coronavirus.
The crowds may have been mainly restricted to the centre of town, though, with Albert Town’s Prince Albert pub, Albert Town Fish Co. takeaway and newly rebranded Henrietta’s chicken restaurant taking “significantly less” than last year.
“We had support from our regulars and locals but missed a lot of our usual out of town long weekend holiday makers and tourists,” said manager Cassie Hailes.
Read edition 977 of the Wānaka Sun here.