(L-R) Lachie, Scott, Brendan, Alanna, Denis and Marilyn Columb.
New Zealand’s most pioneering off-road adventure tourism company reaches a momentous landmark this month as ‘Off Road Adventures Queenstown’ celebrates its 25th anniversary.
The Queenstown-based company has grown from humble beginnings to become the largest operator of its kind, not only in New Zealand but across the globe.
Still owned and operated by original founders Denis and Marilyn Columb, the business now boasts a range of trailblazing adventure tourism products, from rentals to tours with motorcycles, quad-bikes, four-wheel drive and side-by-side buggy tours. A brand new product – the Wakatipu Wine Adventure – is also being launched to mark 25 years, combining a four-wheel drive tour with stop offs at local wineries.
What sets this company apart is its unique history and family connections. Back the late ‘80s Denis Columb was a self-employed plumber – one with a deep passion for motorcycles and a desire to explore the country’s most spectacular scenery. One life-changing day, he was approached by two German tourists and asked if there was somewhere they could hire motorcycles. Ever one to seize an opportunity, Columb quickly assured them that “no one does, but if you meet me here tomorrow I’ll take you for a three-hour ride.”
That first ride turned into nine hours as Hans and Ralf where having too much of a good time to stop. The positive repercussions of their trip soon snowballed and word spread quickly that there was now someone in Queenstown who could “take you on the ride of your life”. Today, the business now owns around 135 vehicles.
A defining factor for Off Road Adventures was the love and support Denis received from wife Marilyn and children Brendan, Lachie, Scott and Alanna. All four unique and talented children, lucky enough to call Queenstown home, were heavily involved from the start and have developed into “integral cogs” in the Off Road wheel.
Denis and Marilyn are hugely proud of their children’s achievements. Between them they’ve won more than ten national titles in Motocross, Supercross, quad-bike racing and downhill mountain biking, with possibly more to come.
“Our eldest son Brendan was born with a huge hole in his heart and we’re very proud of his achievements and his commitment to life,” said Denis.
“Middle son Lachie raced motorcycles and quads and has a national ATV title as well as a silver medal at the world’s toughest six-day endurance event. Youngest son Scott has seven New Zealand Supercross titles and two New Zealand Motocross Championship titles while Alanna races downhill mountain bikes and has made the world top 12.”
All four still work for Off Road Adventures, while pursuing their own goals. Today, the family of champions have returned home from their worldwide pursuits to be in Queenstown for this historic anniversary.
As well as their strong family support, Denis and Marilyn have assembled a solid team around them, with over 100,000 commercial tours and 320,000 hours of guiding throughout the region under their belts – this invaluable experience being the biggest asset to their customers.
An ethos that has lasted for 25 years is “still as strong as ever” said Columb.
“Our passion for what we do and going that extra mile to ensure the client is safe and has had the best possible time is the underlying factor in everything we do.”
Evidence of this can be seen with some exciting new developments, including the re-introduction of epic multi-day trail and adventure riding and buggy tours across Otago and Southland.
Groups have a unique opportunity to stay overnight at Off Road’s very own adventure conference centre in the Hakataramea Valley. The property is All Black captain Richie McCaw’s former schoolhouse that they bought in 2005 and have converted into an amazing remote off-road base with sleeping capacity for 40 people, a bar, tennis courts and swimming pool, all surrounded by a stunning mountainous landscape.
Here is where the company plans to take tours this summer across the mountains of Otago and put to the test their new fleet of Yamaha WR trail bikes, XT1200 Yamaha Tenere adventure bikes and their 1000cc CanAm and Polaris Race Buggies.
Closer to Queenstown, Off Road is introducing a brand new four-wheel drive scenic tour called the ‘Wakatipu Wine Adventure’, stopping off at world-renowned Amisfield and Chard Farm wineries.
“It’s a great new option where people can sample the best of the Wakatipu region in just four hours” said Columb.
It’s no secret that Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world and Off Road Adventures has taken over 250,000 clients on exhilarating trips over the years, including its fair share of famous names.
“We’ve had lots of fun showing celebrities our mountain tops, including Lord of the Rings actors Orlando Bloom, Sean Austin and Elijah Wood. We’ve featured on ‘The Amazing Race’, Scott and I entertained Henry Cole from ‘The World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides’, and Lachie played host to Jason Mamoa from ‘Game of Thrones,’ said Columb.
November 5, 2014