North Canterbury’s tourist meccas are enjoying a busy summer after a challenging few years.

Tourists are flocking back to Kaikōura and Hanmer Springs, as the towns bounce back from Covid-19 restrictions and the 2016 earthquake.

Kaikōura Mayor Craig Mackle says the town is “absolutely pumping”.

“I haven’t seen it this busy in a long time. It is wonderful. The food outlets are busy. I’ve seen The Pier [Hotel] absolutely pumping the meals out.”

Hurunui Mayor Marie Black says the roads through her district have been busy over the last few weeks.

“Whether it is to stop to enjoy a coffee or a long stay, it is good to see people taking their time and enjoying what our district has to offer.”

Destination Kaikōura manager Lisa Bond and chairperson Lynette Buurman say local businesses are enjoying a busy summer, without the staff recruitment challenges of the last few years.

“Over the last few weeks, Kaikōura has been really busy with many families and holiday makers enjoying the beautiful weather,” Bond says.

“I am pretty sure ice creams have been in hot demand. There have been plenty of people swimming in the ocean, biking the cycle trails and enjoying a stroll along the new link pathway along Esplanade.”

The town has hosted eight cruise ships visits so far this summer, with another nine scheduled visits to come.

Buurman is also business manager at Encounter Kaikōura.

She says passenger volumes so far this summer are on a par with pre-Covid levels — the summer of 2019/20 and at around 90% of pre-earthquake levels.

“I think all businesses will be having a good summer. Everyone is upbeat and we don’t have the staffing challenges we had last summer.

Tourists are flocking back to the seaside resort.

“It might ease off a little bit now that we are over those stat holidays, but our forward bookings are still pretty solid.”

The opening of Kaikōura EcoZip Adventures on December 20 has added another on-land attraction to complement the on-water activities, Buurman says.

Hurunui Tourism product development manager Graeme Abbot says visitor numbers are close to pre-Covid levels.

“‘It is going very well. We’ve had really good customer numbers and they’re all having a fabulous time.

“The internationals are back, but not fully back — but it is certainly returning. We are hearing lots more accents around the complex.”

He did not expect visitor numbers to return to pre-Covid levels for another year.

Families have been flocking back to Hanmer Springs

But the pools are back to being fully staff and have been operating full summer hours, after the staff recruitment challenges of the last three years.

Hanmer Springs has a growing list of attractions, including two new hydro slides which were added to the hot pools last year.

“A lot of people have been on the slides, which is what we want to see. Families are interacting and having a great time together,” Abbot says.

New walking and cycling tracks have been added, and the town has a new disc golf course to add to the mini golf and full-sized golf course.

By David Hill for Local Democracy Reporting (LDR)

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air