our stories

Ultimate Hikes has been guiding walkers over the Omanui/Mckinnon Pass and the Harris Saddle for over 30 years.

Thanks to the vision of Sir John Davies

Sir John Davies began his business life in the late 1960s with Six dogs and a Volkswagen* and built a transport business that spanned the South Island.

His vision for the future of Queenstown began when he entered local government in the 1980s and as Mayor he was instrumental in turning Queenstown airport into a tourism hub with the first jet aircraft landing in 1989.  When his term as mayor ended, John decided to diversify his hugely successful transport business into the tourism sector. 

The opportunity came in 1989 to purchase the concession for the Routeburn Track guided walk and so began the Davies family’s dedication to providing extraordinary experiences in New Zealand’s most diverse and magnificent National Parks.  John followed up the purchase two years later with the historic Milford Track guided walk. 

Over the last 30 years the family has continued to innovate and improve these incredible hiking activities to meet and exceed the expectations of walkers from New Zealand and around the world.

* Six dogs and a Volkwagen, The Sir John Davies Story by Neal Wallace was published in 2021 and is available to purchase through Ultimate Hikes.

Once you start work with Ultimate Hikes it's very hard to leave. Here are some stories from the team about why we love doing what we do.

Noel Saxon - General Manager

Noel began his professional career as a builder and then project manager.  He came to John's attention after building the station building extension - where the Ultimate Hikes Centre is located, and also managing a large build at Aoraki Mount Cook.

John saw his potential as an ideal manager to oversee the many moving parts of a remote visitor location and particularly in the management and maintenance of the lodges on track and upgrades.

Over 15 years since Noel began as manager, extensive improvements have been made to both infrastructure and logistical management.

Listen to his recollection of those years and learn what drives him to continue to strive to provide the best experience for our walkers. 

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Robert Romauch - Forty years on the Milford Track

Robert Romauch started his career with the Government's Tourist and Hotel Corporation back in the late 1970s.  Originally from Christchurch and still a keen Crusaders fan, Robert has lived in Queenstown and Te Anau.  At the time of John's purchase of the Milford Track, Robert was managing operations of the guided walk in Te Anau.

Robert has been an integral part of Ultimate Hikes over the last 30 years and has many many stories he can tell.

Listen to him talk about the transition from the THC to private ownership and Robert's re-collections of the changes in track management over the years.

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Shaun and Lara - guiding super stars

If you've walked the Milford,  the Routeburn or the Grand Traverse over the past ten years or so you could well have met Shaun (Seamus) or Lara.

Between them they have walked countless thousands of kilometres over the hills and through the valleys of the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks.

Shaun began his career with Ultimate Hikes as a guide over 12 years ago.  He loved the job so much he kept coming back until Noel realised his people skills and experience had become invaluable to the business and promoted him to guide manager.  He is now the track operations manager overseeing the day to day operations on track and is responsible for our  strong Health and Safety focus.

Lara has eight seasons under her belt and is a senior guide - whose skills and experience keep her busy across both tracks, though we think she has a soft spot for the Routeburn Track.

If you ask our walkers what they like most about their walks - they will tell you it's the guides and we agree.

Listen to Shaun and Lara talk about why they kept coming back and what they love best about these iconic walks.

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John and Jacqui Davies reflect on 30 years.

The Davies family walked the Milford Track and many others in the South Island, long before John invested in the guided walks. 

John's daughter Jacqui guided on the Routeburn and Grand Traverse walks during her university holidays, and on graduation spent many years working on the operational side of the tracks where she was instrumental in managing improvements made over the years.

John and Jacqui reflect on why John bought the businesses, his philosophy behind the success of the walks and why Ultimate Hikes is the perfect business to reflect their joint passion for New Zealand's great outdoors. 

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