THE wild weather that lashed the district cleared in time for the throngs of holiday-makers who made their way from near and far to enjoy the break in the Tumut Shire.
The bookings for local accommodation operators traditionally heats up from Boxing Day onwards but this year groups of families and friends settled in the caravan parks and motels in Tumut, Batlow, Talbingo and Adelong early to enjoy the festive season.
Blowering Holiday Park operator, Mary Schwind, said the facility had been ‘packed to the eyeballs’ and have had a huge holiday period.
“We are still going,” Mrs Schwind laughed. “It has been a lot busier than other years with a lot more people around this holiday period. We have actually had to turn people away and try to find them accommodation in town.”
The holiday-makers started to roll into the Blowering Road caravan park on December 22, with the park fully booked come Christmas Day.
Visitors from Maroochydore, Victoria, Sydney, Wollongong and Wagga have called the tourist park on the outskirts of Tumut home for the past two weeks, many with giant wake boarding boats or fishing tinnies in tow.
“We’ve had a lot of people staying with boats again,” Mrs Schwind said. “They would head up to the dam each day then back to us for the evening. We are already booked out for the Christmas week next year so word of mouth has really worked for us.”
Mrs Schwind said all those who made the park their home for the holiday period have been well behaved with many joining together for New Year’s Eve celebrations.
“People ordered pizzas or had barbecues but all seemed to join with one another for New Year’s,” she said. “There has been a really good atmosphere here. The cabins and backpacker units have been full and we have more campers trying to get in.”
The park has also been frequented by keen fishermen who have been spending their days mostly on the dam and catching a healthy share of cod and yellow-bellies.
Operating the holiday park for the past three years, Mrs Schwind is pleased that holiday bookings have gained in popularity and is looking forward to accommodating the solid bookings they have for the rest of the month.
“I think people are looking for affordable holidays,” she said. “The pool and the grounds have been well used and we are fully booked for this weekend’s Red Hot Summer concert.”
With numbers of campers on the foreshores of Blowering Dam down a little, many water skiing families and fishermen it seems have decided to stay at local caravan parks and take advantage of the comforts of having a bed and running water after a big day at the dam.
Leanne Smith from the Talbingo Tourist Caravan Park, said it had been a busy holiday period with business starting to slow down this week.
“The two weeks before Christmas we are normally a little quiet but this year people came earlier and spent Christmas here,” Mrs Smith said. “We had a fair few in over the Christmas period with another wave coming in for New Year. We have lots of regulars from Canberra and Wagga, people coming who ski on Blowering, come during this time of year.”
Many of the comments from the skiers staying at the Talbingo holiday park implied the numbers of boats and campers at the dam, that is currently 85% full, were fewer than last year.
“People were saying there weren’t as many campers so maybe it is a little quieter everywhere,” Mrs Smith said. “Since Wednesday we have started to quieten and so far for January bookings are a little slower. It will be interesting to see how it works out.”
Predominately campers are seeking accommodation up at Talbingo now the skiers and wakeboarders have packed up but as the Australia Day weekend draws closer, Mrs Smith is expecting business to peak once more.
“Australia Day weekend is always busy for us,” she said. “The fishermen start coming back too now the water is quieter. Good fishing has been recorded with a relative of ours from Sydney catching a 90cm cod just before Christmas. He’s back in the dam ready for someone else to catch now.”
In Batlow business was booming for service station operator Ronnie Burgess, who opened every day throughout the holiday period.
“We have been exceptionally busy,” Mr Burgess said. “We had lots of boats and caravans come through and have been really flat out.”
The tourists started rolling into Batlow the Friday before Christmas, with the Burgess family ensuring they had plenty of supplies on hand as most other local businesses were not open over the festive break.
“A lot of people who come up this way have been coming for years so they knew nothing much would be open,” Mr Burgess said. “We keep bread and milk and the essentials and sold a massive amount of ice over the period. We were open every day, although only for half the day on Christmas Day.”
He said many of the campers on the Batlow side of the dam would plan their trips to town for fuel and supplies with when the supermarket was open.
“Two roads on the Batlow side lead down to the dam and another one was opened just for the peak time,” Mr Burgess said. “The dam is really good for business. We are also the NRMA office so we did a few call outs as well. We sent a lot of people to the RSL Club for meals as they do a good dinner there.
“A lot of people like the Batlow side of the dam as there is more shade and it is not so steep. Things have quietened down, Wednesday was our quietest day for weeks.”
Mr Burgess also said they had received reports of good fishing conditions on the dam with a whopping cod measuring 1.2m long caught and then released.
Whilst Adelong was once a designated fuel up stop for many of the boats headed to Blowering Dam, those days have long passed since the local service station closed down with the town now seen as a holiday break destination rather than a quick stop.
For Cynthia Bierling, owner of Beaufort House in Adelong, putting the sleepy town on the destination map has been her and husband, Rick’s, dream for almost seven years.
“Through hard work, promotion and social media people are getting to know Adelong,” Ms Bierling said. “We have been very busy and have operated everyday for accommodation although we did close for meals on Tuesday. The past six months things have picked up, people are travelling inland again and there were enough places open in Adelong over the holiday period for people to eat and stay.”
Shortlisted as one of the 40 national finalists for the Hooroo Secret Spot competition, Beaufort House is helping to put Adelong on the tourist map, which has Ms Bierling thrilled.
“We are really looking forward to 2013,” she said. “We have been working so hard for this to happen. You have to run places mostly yourselves, especially on public holidays as the wages are hard to afford.
“For Christmas evening then again New Year’s Eve, we opened for pizza, coffee, cake and drinks open and did what we could and it worked out well. Adelong is kicking along quite nicely.”
Ms Bieling explained after the floods tore through the main street of Adelong in 2010, business took a severe hit, so it is nice for the future to look so positive.
“Things are slowly coming back again,” she said. “The 2010 floods affected eight months of business for us. Just imagine if got Adelong on the map and we were named as the best Secret Spot.”