Fullers’ inception can be traced back to a family sailing trip in the summer of 1981. George Hudson and his son Douglas saw a tired and worn out procession of wooden ferries slowly ebb past their own boat.
Since the completion of the Harbour Bridge, Auckland’s once booming ferry operation had become neglected – and was figuratively and literally running out of steam. The Hudsons realised the potential for a successful, revamped ferry service, and strove to do something about it.
By the end of that year, the Hudsons purchased both North Shore Ferries and Waiheke Shipping Company and began revitalising the two decrepit fleets.
From the early steam ferries to today’s modern catamarans, a lot has changed. In 1984, the Hudsons founded the company, Gulf Ferries, and began transitioning the slow, wooden fleet into a sleek, modern operation. The arrival of Gulf Ferries’ first catamaran, Quickcat, was revolutionary for Waiheke Island – it made the 9-to-5 commute to Auckland City a reality. The fleet’s replacement continued in 1988 with the arrival of Kea for the Devonport services.
Over the coming years, Gulf Ferries drove multiple expansions – including the purchase of Fullers Corporation Ltd.’s assets in receivership. Recognising the value of the Fullers brand name, all companies amalgamated under a new name, Fullers Group Ltd, in the early 1990s.
George continued to play a significant role in the company until 2007. After many successful years, he stepped down from Chairman, but Douglas continued to lead Fullers Group as Chief Executive.
In 2009, Souter Holdings purchased Fullers Group. Led by Scottish entrepreneur Brian Souter, the Group welcomed Fullers into its portfolio of top New Zealand transport and tourism operators.
In the same year, Souter Holdings purchased ferry operator 360 Discovery Cruises, adding a unique focus on eco-based tourism. 360 Discovery has seen substantial growth of its own, expanding to offer commuter services to Beach Haven, Hobsonville Point and Gulf Harbour communities.
In 2015, Souter Holdings was renamed InMotion Group, reflecting the company’s focus on growing its urban, city to city, charter and tour businesses. Its business portfolio includes ManaBus.com, nakedbus.com, and Howick and Eastern Buses – all complementary to Fullers’ and 360 Discovery’s roots in marine transport.
After recognising the need for additional sales and marketing support, Fullers Group launched a speciality agency to tell the important stories behind each brand.
Roam Experiences was launched in 2016, promoting the Group’s wide range of exceptional travel adventures – from transporting visitors to the most epic destinations, to helping them explore when they get there.
Combining the group’s bus and ferry services to create streamlined tourism experiences was the next step in InMotion’s growth and development. This came to fruition under a new tourism strategy in July 2017, which brought ManaBus.com and nakedbus.com under the Fullers Group umbrella.
A shift in leadership structure welcomed Mike Horne into a newly created role as Chief Executive Officer for the expanded Fullers Group. Mike currently oversees the entire group, driving a transition into a digitally-savvy tourism and leisure business. Douglas transitioned to the Board of Directors where he continues to help set the company’s overall strategy – drawing on his more than 30 years of service to Fullers and the maritime travel industry.