Guide at a Glance
Wellington, North Island, New Zealand
Car Tour, Sightseeing
Private Wellington Day Tour
Get To Know NZ Guide Mike Stearne
I worked in retail, in Queenstown, New Zealand. When the production of Lord of the Rings came to town I tried out and ultimately got a role as an extra in the first film. My job wasn’t going to give me time off so I quit! I was already a huge fan of Professor Tolkien’s books, so it was an easy decision. After that, I worked in a video store for a couple years where I regularly harassed the owners of a local 4WD tour company for a job. They eventually relented (partly because they were launching new LOTR tours), and I guided my first day tour in November 2002.
What is the best part of your job?
I love that I get to meet so many new people, and I learn as much as I teach every day.
Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?
As I get busier, I struggle with time away from home. I can be gone for 2-3 weeks on a longer tour. I always make sure to take some time off when I get home, to recover and spend quality time with my wife.
Your profile says that you are a passionate Lord of the Rings fan, what’s your favorite LOTR location?
I visit LOTR locations all over New Zealand and it’s so hard to pick one. Today my favorite location is at a place called 12 Mile Delta in Queenstown. You can lie on a riverbank at the exact spot where Frodo, Sam, and Gollum lay and watched the Haradrim soldiers and their Oliphaunts get ambushed by Faramir.
When you’re not busy guiding tours – what’s your favourite thing you do?
I’m a huge movie geek and love watching films, either at home or at the cinema. I’m also a car fanatic, but as a hobby that’s more expensive so I’m biding my time until I can indulge in car culture as well.
As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain to our readers what the benefits of hiring a guide are?
You are getting a passionate and informed local who knows which hotspots are great, and which are just hype. A good guide will take you off the beaten path and show you things most visitors never see. With the right guide, your experience of a place will be so much richer as they will make you feel like family.
Tell us something about New Zealand/Wellington that only a guide would know.
The caramel and rhubarb scones at Gipsy Kitchen are ridiculous.
A caring, enthusiastic personality, with great local knowledge. The more experience they have with different types of client, the better rounded they will be. For example, in one month I took care of a family of eight from Poland for two weeks, and a group of fifteen 70-90 year olds for 5 days. They had vastly different needs, but they all want to feel special and included. I place less priority on numbers and statistics and more on building an emotional connection to each place we visit.
And finally, have you got any tips for people who are interested in booking a guide like yourself, but aren’t too sure what to look for?
Trust your gut. You will be spending some very personal time with your guide, so you want to feel comfortable with them before you even meet in person. If this means a few messages or even a skype call before committing, your guide should be happy to oblige.
I fell into guiding back in 2002 after playing as an extra in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. I’m a passionate LOTR fan and ended up helping find locations for the official Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook. I’m the only private guide recommended for nationwide tours in the official Hobbit Location Guidebook.
I don’t just do LOTR, I love creating adventure themed itineraries around your timeframe, budget and interests. All of my tours are tailored to best suit your needs. Some examples are the Automotive and Aviation themed tour of visiting museums and motor sport events and airshows, the Beer and Food tour and adrenaline fuelled tours where you strap in for many of NZ’s most famous jumps, swings, rides and flights.
I love guiding now more than when I started and in order to keep my passion, I’ll soon start restricting my availability to six long duration, 10 days or more, tours per season.