A WET and lacklustre summer did little for tourists keen for some sun, surf and sand but it is a different story this week with holidaymakers taking advantage of the fine autumn weather and flocking to the region in droves.
Two of the region’s most popular Easter holidays destinations, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens, are ready to hang up no vacancy signs for the long weekend.
A Lake Macquarie City Council spokeswoman said all Lake Macquarie holiday parks were fully booked with people on standby in case of a cancellation.
She said visitors were mostly from the Hunter and Sydney.
‘‘Our holiday parks are usually fully booked for the Easter long weekend and we have noticed this year that even weekends between the New Year and the Easter period have been heavily booked too,’’ she said.
‘‘In previous years there has been a lull between the two holiday periods.’’
The spokeswoman said Swansea Gardens was to accommodate 85 arrivals yesterday.
Port Stephens Council visitors’ information and event co-ordinator Kim Latham said the Nelson Bay area was close to capacity for the long weekend but there were still vacancies for the rest of the school holiday period.
‘‘Holiday parks, hotels and motels are pretty full,’’ she said.
‘‘We are taking some last minute calls and I think that’s because people are holding off to see what the weather does.’’
Ms Latham said crowds were starting to roll into Nelson Bay early yesterday and accommodation was expected to reach capacity last night.
Barrington Tops was expected to be the No.1 Easter destination in the Hunter following last month’s capture of suspected double murderer Malcolm Naden.
It was widely accepted the state’s most wanted man was hiding in the Barrington Tops area and tourists kept their distance, which greatly affected the local economy.
Jo Thomas from Tourism Hunter confirmed yesterday the Barrington Tops camping area was close to capacity for the long weekend and accommodation was filling up fast.
‘‘Slowly but surely people are starting to ring and make bookings again,’’ Ms Thomas said.
‘‘We are expecting a lot of day trips and overnight stays from the Port Stephens area and tourists from outside the Hunter are starting to come back.
‘‘I assume a lot of that has got to do with the capture of Malcolm Naden.’’
A big crowd is expected at Poley’s Country Music Camp, named in honour of former Barrington Tops country music singer/song writer Noel ‘‘Poley’’ Everett.
The camp is over four days at Barrington Tops and the Mustang Car Club Nationals will also be held over four days at Newcastle’s Foreshore Park.
Another feature of the long weekend will be the Historic Morpeth Cruise tomorrow.
‘‘These events attract thousands to our region, not only boosting local tourism, but also creating opportunities to showcase the Hunter and its attractions,’’ Ms Thomas said.