From a simple wooden maze in 1973 to today's thriving multi-attraction business, Puzzling World has enjoyed a fascinating history.
From humble beginnings, Puzzling World has been constantly evolving. For over 50 years it has pioneered a new type of visitor attraction and provided Wanaka with a top-quality tourism icon.
As a family-run business, the themes of fun, affordability and uniqueness are just as evident today as they were in the beginning.
Always striving to provide the best visitor experience possible, Puzzling World continues to grow and evolve.
Join us as we scroll through the archives and enjoy the journey of history and growth of this iconic and award-winning attraction.
Stuart & Janis Landsborough sell their home to buy 7 acres of land on the outskirts of Wanaka. In 6 weeks they build the original 1km long “Wanaka Maze”. Admission: Adults: 50c, Children: 20c
Mini Golf is added to the fun – 18 holes on the front lawn. aMAZEing croquet follows two years later – sited on the land where the Sculptillusion Gallery now stands.
The first Puzzle Centre is established – one table and 5 puzzles. Wanaka population: 1,100
Puzzle Centre extended, Maze adds 500m of over-bridges - making it the world’s first ‘3-D’ maze. Business now called “The Greatest Maze on Earth”
Over the next 3 years, Stuart designs 20 “Super Mazes” in Japan, 2 in the USA, 2 in Australia & 1 for Auckland's 'Rainbows End' theme park.
“Illusions” is opened in downtown Wanaka – a shop, gallery & attraction displaying a “wonderful world of visual illusions”. A year later this is moved to Queenstown.
The exhibits are then included in the first Illusion Room – The Hologram Hall followed by The Tilted House (& Tumbling Tower exterior). “Eccentricity” theme established along with another name change – now 'Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World'
Leaning Tower of Wanaka added to front lawn, two more illusion rooms, Ames False Perspective and Hall of Following faces added.
Roman Toilets added and Puzzle Centre greatly extended.
Stuart retires, business passed to Heidi and her husband Duncan Spear
The Sculptillusion Gallery is opened & a complete refurbishment project begins
A complete re-surface of paths, boards and painting of the Great Maze, 4 millionth customer served. PW win Tourism and Supreme categories in inaugural Ignite Wanaka awards.
Covid-19 closes NZ Borders, 50% drop in customers, a new website & e-shop launched.
Puzzling World’s 50th anniversary is celebrated with a community fun day, followed by a VIP evening and launching a series of projects, including two new illusion rooms, a new courtyard, garden space and finally a 25-metre-long mural.
“You want to build a maze, here in Wanaka - you must be crazy!”
When Stuart and Jan Landsborough sold their house to buy seven acres of barren land to build a maze in a town of just 800 people, many questioned their judgement.
Six weeks, 12,000 wooden planks and a lot of hard graft later, ‘The Maze’ opened on the outskirts of Wanaka just in time for the 1973/74 summer holidays. In its first year, they welcomed 17,600 people.
Years later, the Puzzle Centre was established (with just one table and five puzzles) and over-bridges were added to the maze – the first in the world to go “3-D”.
Taking his ‘Super Maze’ concept global Stuart then designed twenty-five similar mazes for Japan, USA, Australia and Auckland between 1985 and 1988.
More innovations followed when the first Illusion Rooms were added before the famous Roman Toilets were built and in 1999 came the iconic Leaning Tower of Wanaka and a third extension to the Puzzle centre was welcomed.
In 2004 Stuart retired and handed the reins over to his daughter Heidi and son-in-law Duncan Spear who have continued the theme of continual innovations. In 2012 they opened The Sculptillusion Gallery, followed by 2 new illusion rooms in 2023 and have many future plans to ensure Puzzling World’s 200,000+ annual visitors continue to have an experience they’ll never forget!