Just over half a million people flocked to its beaches between December and February, putting it ahead of Auckland (376,000 visitors) and the Coromandel Peninsula (353,000).

Aucklanders flocking north to hit the beaches after Christmas made up the vast majority of Northland’s annual summer tourism boom and over half of the region’s 1.5 million visitor nights occurred in January, with 80 percent of the holidaymakers starting out in Auckland, the survey found.

In the South Island, Canterbury, excluding Christchurch, was the busiest holiday spot with 329,500 visitors and Nelson was next with 204,600 in the three months to the end of February.

On average, visitors stayed a day longer in the Nelson region compared with Canterbury.

The AA’s Traveller Monitor Survey analysed more than 25,000 responses since July last year.

It found that while more people holiday during summer, they tend to spend less.

“What these numbers show is that we have significant visitor capacity during the summer which is largely underutilised the rest of the year,” said AA Club Operations General Manager Peter Moxon who explained that Christmas and the long summer days are when Kiwis traditionally travel to their favourite holiday spots. “What this provides for is an opportunity for both regional tourism organisations, tourism operators and other industry participants to work together in order to encourage more Kiwis to start travelling in the off-peak periods when there is plenty of capacity to accommodate them.”

During the three month summer period, domestic overnight visitors spent $2.68 billion which was nearly $500 million more than the previous three months.

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