A HEATWAVE across the Sunshine Coast saw thousands of people flock to Eastbourne and soak up the sun despite it being officially autumn.
Beach bathers sizzled as thermometers showed highs of 25 degrees (or 77 Fahrenheit) as Sussex basked in its sunniest ever start to October.
A bandstand show on the seafront sold out on Friday evening – with 1,600 revellers enjoying the concert – and powerboat tours operating out of Sovereign Harbour were completely booked out.
The town’s hotels and guesthouses benefited from a late rush in bookings with many visitors keen to turn their day trips into overnight stays while others upped sticks and headed for the coast after a flurry of flabbergasted forecasts in the run up to the weekend.
One of those happy hoteliers was Darren Weir who runs The Mowbray opposite the Eastbourne theatres. He said, “We were full to the brim and could have sold our rooms twice over for Saturday. It was madness.”
It was a similar story for The Guesthouse East. Owners Sarah and Carl Stanger said they could not accommodate everyone who wanted to stay at their hotel. Mr Stanger said, “On Saturday, which was a scorcher here in Eastbourne, we were flooded with last minute calls all afternoon and evening from day visitors keen to prolong their sunny seaside experience.
“I think we had to turn down more bookings on Saturday than any day throughout the whole summer.”
And it was not just hotels and bed and breakfasts which benefited from the Indian summer.
Staff at Fusciardi’s ice cream parlour were inundated with requests for knickerbocker glories and traditional ice cream cones.
Marino Pesce said, “We had loads more people coming in than we normally would. We have been busy all week.
“We have sold an awfully lot of ice creams – in fact, we actually sold out at one stage.”
The tourist information centre reported a steady increase in visitors – with more than 300 more people popping in to its town centre base than normally would on a Saturday at this time of year.
Bus tickets to local beauty spots Beachy Head and Seven Sisters proved particularly popular while at Drusillas in nearby Alfriston, the zoos resident lemurs were treated to chunks of fruit set in blocks of ice.
According to Eastbourne Borough Council’s head of tourism it was just the pre-winter boost the town needed. Councillor Neil Stanley could not contain his delight, saying, “What a fantastic weekend we have just enjoyed in Eastbourne.
“The beaches were absolutely packed with visitors and residents all wanting to make the most of the late sunshine and it was fabulous to see clear blue skies and bright sunshine, while autumn leaves continued to fall on the ground.
“The weekend’s heatwave also brought a real boost to businesses in the town with visitors booking last minute breaks on the coast to enjoy the great weather while it lasts.
“We were pleased to welcome more than 500 conference delegates this weekend for the Rotary 1250 Conference at the Devonshire Park Centre and I’m sure the fantastic weather was a real added bonus for their visit.”