A Family-Owned Guiding Business
The Bryant family has been involved in guiding nature enthusiasts on walks around Queenstown and Fiordland for more than 130 years. That experience has created a reputation, not only for a detailed knowledge of the region and all it has to offer, but also for being able to cater for wide ranges of groups and individuals with a huge choice of terrain, pace and commentary.
Richard Bryant, a fourth generation local and his wife Elaine, carried the family mantle for many years before passing GWNZ onto Peter and Karyn Hitchman. Both have remained connected to the business in spirit and in passing on a lifetime's knowledge of the flora, fauna, history and geology of this beautiful region. You can read more about the Bryants and their new adventures here.
Now the business has moved on again to the largest Maori family in the South Island - Ngāi Tahu. Keeping it in the family.
The early days of the family guiding business, make todays sealed roads, bridges and iron clad huts seem just so much easier than travel as the country was being settled. It makes for an interesting and nostalgic journey.
The following is a transcript of the letter pictured on the left sent to Richard Bryant's Grandfather in 1895.
Mr R. C. Bryant
Glacier Hotel, Kinloch.
It is a common complaint that too little is known by the outside world regarding the beauty & variety of the scenery & wonders of New Zealand. With a view of mitigating this we two years ago published an issue of 10,000 of a book called "New Zealand as a Tourist [Health] Resort" for free distribution at our offices abroad and to new arrivals in the Colony. Favourably reviewed by the press in all parts of the world, it has been in great demand amongst tourists, and the edition having now run out we are preparing a second. Not being produced for sale, but solely for the purpose of drawing attention of the travelling public to New Zealand, we notwithstanding lavished great care & expenditure upon it; a number of associations companies forms individuals interested in the development of the tourist.
A real slice of history...
In the 1870’s a hotel was established at Kinloch, at the head of Lake Whakatipu, by R.C. Bryant, which saw the first steps toward a visitor industry; with the Bryants offering guests experiences on the Routeburn by foot or on horse back.
From 1912, the SS Earnslaw had started, and would continue a schedule running to the head of the lake 3 days a week - Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The Earnslaw, is a twin screw steamer that had a cruising speed of 13 knots and a capacity for 1035 passengers; 1500 sheep; seventy head of cattle; or 200 bales of wool.
Original bridge across the Routeburn - no longer there
She also occasionally carried cars or buses to Glenorchy and Kinloch. She connected with Kinloch on these days, unloading tourists for the Bryant family to transport to the Routeburn. At first, horse drawn wagons were used, then Oakland cars and finally a small fleet of Ford buses. In 1942, an open top 1937 Chevrolet bus was brought up to Kinloch on the SS Earnslaw to join the fleet of six buses operated by R.H. Bryant of 'Routeburn Valley Motors', one of the first tourist operators in the region.
The last year that Routeburn Valley Motors operated was in 1971. With a direct road from Queenstown to the Routeburn Valley completed in 1962 and a bridge built across the Dart River, the Steamer SS Earnslaw stopped sailing to Kinloch around the same time, as her services were no longer needed.
Today we continue the legacy of Harry Bryant and his family. Transporting and guiding tourists into the Routeburn Valley and onto the track by providing half and full day walks, not only on the Famous Routeburn Track, but on many of the surrounding tracks in the Mt Aspiring National Park.