Madeline Crittenden Elliott Stewart

IT was the last work day before schools go back, the sun was shining and there was a possibility of scoring a “cheeky” four-day weekend – so who wouldn’t take Friday off?

Taking advantage of the country’s national day falling on a Thursday and the school year starting on Monday, it was estimated 50 per cent of Sydney workers took Friday off to create a four-day weekend.

Business Sydney executive director Paul Nicolaou said the warm weather up and down the coast had contributed to a suspicious amount of sickies pulled on Friday.

“Employers are advising that just over a half of their employees have taken advantage of the last day of school holidays, the warm weather and the events and activities happening in Sydney to have a four-day break,” he said.

“Even though many workers have taken Friday off, most employees will be back in full force next Monday.

“Traditionally in the past, most workers take off most of January and come back to work after Australia Day.”

Peak hour traffic into the city was a breeze, public transport uncrowded and shopping centres packed as the four day weekend rolled on.

Tourism Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond said Sydneysiders were making the most of “the last big summer weekend”.

“This is virtually the end of the of the summer holiday for many people and they are making the most of it,” she said. “There are some wonderful events in play around the country and in Sydney this weekend and there’s no doubt if you come into the city there are people everywhere.

“We are in for some pretty great weather and that will add to crowds this weekend.”

The Australian Retailers Association said people were splurging.

“Shoppers were out in force on Friday, with many shopping centres relishing an exceptionally busy weekday,” said Australian Retailers Association chief industry affairs officer Fleur Brown.

“With people returning from holidays, parents planning for back-to-school and workers taking long weekends and public-holiday leave in lieu – it was an extremely busy day for retail trade.”

Ryan Neilson works as a surveyor and was one of the thousands of Sydney employees who swapped the office for a dose of vitamin D.

“We took the Friday off so we could enjoy a cheeky long weekend,” he said.

“We have friends from Melbourne who have taken the weekend off as well and are here to see us.

“(We) thought the beach would be a great option to kick start the weekend.”

While hospitality venues in the CBD reported higher visitation from overseas visitors and local tourists, coastal towns and regional areas were flooded with city visitors. North of Sydney, Kristy Molloy, co-owner of the Bonny Hills Beach Hotel on the mid north coast said Thursday and Friday had brought carloads of city folk to the seaside town.

“Last week it died off a little bit compared to what it had been like over the school holidays,” she said.

“But we had a whole new group of people come through yesterday and then again today.”

In the south, the coastal town of Shellharbour was full of tourists, with the Ocean Beach Hotel bustling with thirsty visitors.

“Yesterday was definitely the busiest we’ve had for a Thursday and even (on Friday) there were more people than what we’d normally have at lunchtime,” staff member Casey Perrin said.

Further down the coast, Coolendel Camp in the Shoalhaven was experiencing a boom on par with last year’s October long weekend.

Coolendel owner Kyrie Miskin said the grounds were full of children and families.

“Things have really picked up and we have a really good mix of families from all nationalities and ages here for the weekend,” he said.