Happy Ruakaka campers all round

By Abi Thomas

Sian Brennan camped at Ruakaka Beach Holiday Park as a youngster with her grandparents, and returned about 12 years ago, telling herself she must go back again.

Last week, she did - setting up at the holiday park with her husband and sons Sean, 7, and Liam, 2.

They're just some of the thousands of people packing out camping grounds around Northland this summer, as people hark back to the good memories they had as youngsters, or try camping for the first time.

Some campgrounds have bookings right through to the end of February ranging from long-time regulars to new campers.

The Brennans arrived at Ruakaka from Massey in west Auckland on New Year's Eve, and stayed for a week, leaving Northland last Sunday along with hundreds of other holidaymakers.

The inspiration for the camping trip came on a whim - and they were lucky to get a site, as the campground was nearly full.

Son Sean had been enjoying playing with his stingray-shaped kite, while Liam thought the fireworks let off by fellow campers on New Year's Eve were pretty great.

Mrs Brennan was not worried about the occasional grey-weather day, saying an excuse to stay in the tent - out ofthe blazing sun - came as a bit of a relief.

Ruakaka Beach Holiday Park manager Mike Abel said while many of their campers were regulars, they had a new crowd in this year of mostly young families.

Elsewhere in Northland, campground occupancy was on a high.

Keith Wagener, owner of Wagener Holiday Park at Houhora Heads, said he couldn't remember the park being so full.

Over New Year, there was a period where the holiday park had just four free sites - a record for the large holiday park, as they usually tried to keep sites free for "walk-ins".

Mr Wagener said there were people from as faraway as Levin, Wanganui and Hawke's Bay who chose to make the trip north to Houhora.

He said the internet had offered certainty of bookings for campground visitors and owners as campers no longer had to cross their fingers and turn up hoping there would be a free site.

Most campers were long-time regulars, who were the grandchildren or even great grandchildren of people who camped at the park, but there were also a few people this year who Mr Wagener could tell "have never put up a tent before".

He said the general mood at the holiday park was bright.

"Everyone is just so happy this year ... it feels good as a camp owner to see people having a good time."

Maeanne Hona, owner of Tauranga Bay Holiday Park, said they were near capacity, with bookings right up until mid-to-late February.

While campers were enjoying the sunny conditions, the occasional spurt of bad weather didn't seem to bother the hard-core campers.

"The ones in tents are the long-time campers, they know how to cope - they just batten down the hatches," Ms Hona said.


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