Hundreds of people hit the beach to celebrate Christmas as temperatures exceeded 27degC in Queenstown yesterday.
Tourists, backpackers, holiday workers and locals took advantage of the beautiful sunny weather to spend the afternoon and evening socialising at Queenstown Bay.
Liberal amounts of both sunscreen and beer were splashed about. The district-wide public drinking ban runs from 8pm to 8am, and becomes a 24/7 ban from December 27 to January 6.
Vicky Cooper, from the UK, and friend Nicole Walker, from Canada, were part of the throng.
“It’s a surreal Christmas for us, unlike anything we’ve ever experienced,” Cooper says.
“We’ll only be here a few hours – we’ve got to work tomorrow, but it’s a great way to spend the day,” adds Walker.
Queenstown Lakes District Council was better prepared this year for the festive onslaught, with banks of extra portable toilets, bins and skips at the ready.
Police and council ambassadors also patrolled the beach. By 9am this morning, possibly earlier, the beach was clear of rubbish.
Acting Sergeant Ian Madden, of Queenstown Police’s Alcohol Harm Prevention Team, at 4pm yesterday, said: “At this stage, it’s good natured.
“We’ve had a walk through and a friendly Christmas chat with everyone, just reminding everyone to look after their mates, drink responsibly, maybe put some waters in between the beers.
“And also just re-enforcing that a 8pm, with the alcohol-free zone, there’s an expectation that there’s no alcohol then.
“Everyone’s been great, everyone’s happy, so we’re hopefully that the work we’re doing now, the constant reminder, come 8 o’clock we’ll be good.”
Queenstown had enjoyed a sunny, peaceful and adventurous start to Christmas Day.
Hundreds of people took morning strolls through the resort town, with several taking a dip in Lake Wakatipu while others paraglided down from Bob’s Peak, and the faithful attended morning service at St Peter’s Anglican church, on Church St.
Paragliders Angelique Vinnedge, Billy Waller, 25, and Sophie Rolleston-Smith, 27, from Canada, the USA, and UK respectively, but living in Queenstown, were packing up their wings after an exhilaratingly jaunt.
Vinnedge says: “This is the start of a tradition.
“It was splendid, perfect conditions, a beautiful sunny day. We’re going to go and have a big pot luck dinner, a scavenger hunt and maybe the beach in the evening.”
Waller adds: “Maybe if it’s not too windy another flight, in the evening, land on the beach.”
At Queenstown Bay, Irish couple Ali O’Regan and Myles Carey, who live in San Francisco and arrived yesterday on a two-week trip, carried on their tradition of taking a Christmas morning dip.
O’Regan says: “We go for a swim in Ireland every year, it’s a tradition, so our families are going to be very jealous when they see this – it’s a lot warmer here!”
Meanwhile, scores of parishioners celebrated Christ’s birthday at St Peter’s 9am service.
Rev David Wright was full of Christmas cheer during the service and shook everyone’s hand as they left, including Kitty, 9, Mariam, 5, and Mani Zaki, 8, who helped extinguish the candles after the service – all but the Christ candle which will remain lit.