Born in Hampton, London in 1947 (near the world famous Hampton Court Maze) Stuart Landsborough left home at the age of 19 to take up a ₤10 assisted passage to Australia. After working in the mines, ski-fields and tourist industries there he moved to Mt Cook, New Zealand to work in the popular ‘Hermitage’ resort – part of the Government-owned Tourist Hotel Corporation (THC).
It was here he met his future wife Jan who, after both transferring to the Wanaka THC, helped Stuart to hatch a scheme to design a unique tourism venture that many (including the bank) saw doomed to fail.
In November 1973 construction on the Great Maze began. As a traditional Hedge Maze would take years to grow they decided to design the world’s first modular wooden Maze. 6 weeks of labor, 12,000 planks, over 300 posts and hundreds of litres of paint went into the original design.
Four years later they added a small room for the customers to enter while they were waiting for their friends to finish the Maze. By chance they put a couple of puzzles on the single table and found that people loved to try them. People didn’t want to leave in a hurry. The world’s first ‘Puzzle Centre’ was born.
In 1983 the Puzzle Centre was greatly extended, “The Maze” was enlarged and over-bridges were added to create a further dimension. The Landsborough’s became the proud winners of “The New Zealand Tourism Enterprise Awards”, the premier award of those days.
Shortly after this Stuart was approached to design Great Mazes in Japan.
In a period of three years Stuart designed twenty 3-D Mazes in Japan, two in the U.S.A, two in Australia and one in Auckland. Each Maze was designed to comfortably take up to 1,500 people at a time. The ‘modern-style’ maze concept became a Billion Dollar industry.
It was after the 20th anniversary of the business when Stuart realised he was missing out on most of the middle-aged and older market. He decided to create a product that was perfect for all ages and all nationalities - visual Illusion Rooms. He then decided to embrace a theme of puzzling eccentricity and changed the business name from ‘The Maze & Puzzle Centre’ to ‘Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World’
The theme was really quite obvious. People travel the world to see places like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the pyramids of Egypt or the wildlife in Africa. Why not Eccentricity in Wanaka? By consolidating his ‘Illusions’ shop in Queenstown into the current Wanaka Maze venture he invented the Illusion Room concept, designing two rooms - the Hologram Hall and Tilted House.
Puzzling World now has five illusions rooms, including our own inventions, the Hall of Following Faces and the new Sculptillusion Gallery.
Since 1999 an almost non-stop extension programme has made the business particularly suitable for tour groups. This has included extending the Puzzling Centre/Café to seat over 150 people, the large and ever-popular public toilets that have the added dimension of being an attraction in their own right, the addition to the front lawn of the hugely popular Leaning Tower of Wanaka and of course the latest addition - another Illusion Room that follows the mantra of offering unique concepts to add intrigue to visitor’s experiences.
Together these sites are possibly the most photographed attractions in New Zealand.
Puzzling World now attracts over 200,000 people a year from all ages and all corners of the globe.
In 2004, Stuart handed over the reins of the business to his youngest daughter Heidi and her husband Duncan to manage the business and continue its growth ensuring his vision for Puzzling World is carried out well into the 21st century