I am Mike Stearne, a born and bred New Zealander based in Wellington, New Zealand.
I grew up in Otautau, a small town in Southland of about 800 people, nearly as far South as you can get. I moved to Queenstown in 1997 when I was 19 and although it’s only 2 hours from where I grew up, Queenstown is a different world to the rural South! My first jobs in Queenstown had nothing to do with tourism, but the industry is everywhere and it was just a matter of time before I got my first guiding job - at Nomad Safaris. It was 2002 and The Lord of the Rings tourist phenomenon was just getting going.
In 1999 I was fortunate to spend a week working as an extra on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I was a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books as a teenager and it was such an exciting opportunity to be involved in this epic trilogy. I played an Uruk-Hai – one of Saruman’s orc soldiers. We fought at the end of the film in a place called Amon Hen. I didn’t know it at the time but this was the catalyst for me starting my career as a tour guide – one who gets to share my love of The Lord of the Rings on a regular basis.
At Nomad Safaris I drove 4WD tours, both historic gold mining tours and Lord of the Rings film location tours. I led convoys, trained guides, developed tour content and did driver instruction on 4WD training days. Importantly I also spent time in sales and marketing, which taught me so much about the New Zealand tourism industry, which has been of huge benefit since starting my own company.
I met an American girl on a Lord of the Rings tour in 2004. We stayed in touch after the tour and after being pen pals for 2 years we decided to give it a shot as a couple. We married in Portland, Oregon in 2012 and try to get back to the Pacific Northwest whenever we can.
We’ve lived in Wellington since 2010 and I spent years working for a couple of local tour companies, before starting my own company - MiketheGuide.com in 2013. MiketheGuide offers custom nationwide and day tours (especially for my nerd brethren!), and continues to run alongside Obsidian. As both business keep growing, I’m going to cap the number of nights I spend away from home, limiting my nationwide tours to around 10 weeks per year. Meanwhile, I’m going to keep adding the best possible drivers and guides I can to the company, ensuring we always offer the highest level of service and satisfaction!
Thanks for being a part of our adventure!