Close

We've updated our Covid-19 policy - find out more >

Our Story

We have been keeping it real since 1954! It all began when a young, local couple, Les and Lady Olive Hutchins, bought the Manapouri-Doubtful Sound Tourist Company with the dream of sharing the spectacular wilderness of Fiordland with the world. Starting small, the pair took groups of visitors on multi-day trips into remote Doubtful Sound, by boat and foot.  

Over the years we have expanded to add experiences across Southern New Zealand but have always stayed true to our humble beginning, our passion for sharing our backyard and our commitment to protecting the special places we operate.

Today we are proud to operate: 

Tourism provides a unique opportunity to connect people with precious and remote places. We need to get out into nature to appreciate its power and importance. By creating rich and immersive experiences our goal is to amplify our guests' love and respect for nature, so we can work together to protect our wilderness for future generations.  

Today I am more convinced than ever before that conservation is the real cornerstone of New Zealand’s tourism industry. Tourism and conservation need each other for mutual survival and the right direction to is to take more notice of conservation issues, not less

Les Hutchins 1998

Our conservation roots and the fight to save Lake Manapouri

In the early days, the future of Fiordland National Park came under threat from hydropower expansion, and the proposed raising for Manapouri and Te Anau Lakes for power generation (this would have been detrimental to the unique landscapes and natural habits in the region). Les and Lady Olive joined fellow conservationists in the hard-fought campaign to save the lakes. The successful Save Manapouri campaign has often been referred to as the birth of the conservation movement in New Zealand.

Les and Olive Hutchins

From this point onwards RealNZ become committed to conservation and investing revenue into conservation activities across Southern New Zealand.

Les Hutchins had a lifetime interest and involvement in Fiordland National Park and conservation issues. In 1973 Les was named one of the founding Guardians of the Lakes and held that position for 26 years. He spent 12 years on the New Zealand Conservation Authority and was a founding patron of the New Zealand National Parks and Conservation Foundation.

Les was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1998 and made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (the non-titular equivalent of a knighthood) for services to conservation and tourism in 2002.

His contribution to this special part of New Zealand continues through the Leslie Hutchins Conservation Foundation (established in 1994).  Les passed away on 19 December 2003 at the age of 79 leaving the company in the capable hands of his wife Olive and son Bryan.

Les was also posthumously inducted into the Fairfax Media New Zealand Business Hall of Fame in 2011 for his pioneering tourism work.

Rescuing Queenstown’s Lady of the Lake

The TSS Earnslaw is an integral part of Queenstown’s pioneering history and to this day a Queenstown icon. After a solid career as a vessel for the New Zealand Railways, providing an essential link between isolated farming communities along the shores of Lake Whakatipu, the TSS Earnslaw was due to be scrapped in 1968.

Les & Lady Olive Hutchins made the decision to purchase the steamship and spent the proceeding yearly painstakingly restoring it to its original condition.

To this day everything you see is pretty much like it was over 100 years ago. In fact, the TSS Earnslaw is the only hand-fired, commercial passenger-carrying steamship in operation in the Southern Hemisphere, making her one of the most unique experiences in the world.  

Tourism provides a unique opportunity to connect people with precious and remote places. We need to get out into nature to appreciate its power and importance. By creating rich and immersive experiences our goal is to amplify our guest's love and respect for nature, so we can work together to protect our wilderness for future generations. 

The History TSS Earnslaw Steamship

More information: