COAST FILLS UP
By BELINDA SCOTT
THEY'RE here ? and if they're not here already, they'll be here today, so if you plan to hit the Pacific Highway, plan for delays of up to one-and-a-half hours as the visitors stream in.
Coffs Harbour Highway Patrol supervisor Sergeant Paul Thorn said motorists travelling north on the Pacific Highway on Saturday had to wait up to one-and-a-half hours because of the volume of traffic on the highway and he expected the same situation today, so people should plan ahead.
Sgt Thorn said bottlenecks had developed at Kempsey, Kew and Macksville on Saturday, especially at the one set of traffic lights at the bridge at Kempsey, but the improved Bray Street intersection in Coffs Harbour had coped well.
"Saturday is the busiest day we have had in a long time," he said.
Although there had been no arrests for drink-driving, highway patrol officers had issued 60 speeding infringement notices in the Coffs Harbour area alone, so drivers also needed to slow down, he said
Double demerit points for traffic offences remain in force until January 2.
Sydney holidaymakers traditionally arrive on the Coffs Coast around midday on Boxing Day, but Sgt Thorne is hoping many of them have arrived early this year.
But Colin Sambrook, the night manager of the Park Beach Holiday Park, will put up the caravan and camping park's 'no vacancy' sign this morning.
"We are already booked out from the 26th until January 4, and we expect to be full for a couple of weeks after that ? that's been normal for us for the last three or four years," Mr Sambrook said.
"I've been fielding that many phone calls ? and people don't want to believe you when you say 'it's full'," he said.
Vacancies may be thin on the ground at many tourist accommodation locations this week, with many resorts and holiday units also close to capacity, but last-minute holiday organisers should get lucky in January.
"I think we'd all like the phone to ring a little more from about January 7 onwards," said Coffs Harbour Visitor Information Centre's Brian Bowers.
Mr Bowers said visitors still preferred to pay a premium for accommodation during the peak Christmas-New Year period, which includes the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race sailing carnival, rather than wait until later when prices were lower.
He said the VIC had been 'a madhouse' on Saturday as visitors arrived wanting information and accommodation.
Mr Bowers said on Sunday the VIC was seeing a lot of overseas visitors, including large Asian family groups of up to 10 or 12 people wanting accommodation.
Popular with visitors are the Big Banana, with its new World of Bananas attraction; the Pet Porpoise Pool, which is offering three shows a day over the holiday period and the Spirit of Coffs Harbour, which is offering a special $35 four-hour BYO lunch school holiday ride, slide and dive cruise.