Russell (New Zealand)
Russell is a charming, elegant township in the Bay of Islands, in the Northland region of the North Island of New Zealand. A short passenger ferry ride across the bay from Paihia and the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi, this historic town is one of the earliest European settlements in New Zealand, dating back to the early 19th century. Kororāreka, as it was then known, was a lawless trading centre where whalers, seafarers and merchants mixed with adventurers, deserters and escaped convicts from Australia. Today Russell is still a favoured spot for boaties who seek safe anchorage. You will find a wide range of accommodation available and you can also arrange sightseeing, adventure or fishing activity from the Russell waterfront. If you're planning to do any island or bush hiking, be sure to call into the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre.
Okiato, the port on the Russell side for the vehicular ferry from Opua, is also known as Old Russell, as it was the original Russell, when present-day Russell was still Kororāreka. Old Russell was New Zealand's first capital, in 1840, until Auckland was declared the capital in 1841 and the transfer of the administration was completed in 1842.
Take State Highway 11 to Opua and catch the vehicle ferry to Okiato (Old Russell), seven kilometres from present-day Russell. The ferry sails every 10 minutes from one side or the other, starting from Okiato at 06:40 and finishing with the 22:00 sailing from Opua. Car and driver $11, additional passengers $1.
Alternatively, drive the long way round on a now fully tar-sealed, scenic, coastal route via Oakura by turning off State Highway 1 at Whakapara, about 26 km north of Whangarei.
Take a passenger ferry from Paihia. Return fares $12 adults, $6 children (under 15 years). The slower ferry takes about 15 minutes. First sailings 07:00 from Russell and 07:20 from Paihia. Final sailings Oct-May 22:00 from Russell and 22:30 from Paihia, Jun-Sep 19:00 from Russell and 19:30 from Paihia.
- Pompallier Mission, The Strand. Nov-Apr 10am-5pm, May-Oct 10am-4pm. Part of the French Catholic mission headquarters to the Western Pacific, which was in Russell. Erected in 1841-42, this building was a print works and tannery. It is the oldest industrial building in New Zealand. The guide may let you try tour hand at operating a printing press. Set in colourful gardens. $10.
- Russell Museum, York Street (one block from the waterfront). Jan 10am-5pm; Feb-Dec 10am-4pm. Small two room museum with a local history collection. Adult $10.
- Christ Church, Church Street. The oldest remaining church in New Zealand. It still has holes made by musket balls during the Battle of Kororareka between British forces and Maori dissatisfied with British rule on 11 March 1845. The churchyard contains graves of the Maori chief Tamati Waka Nene (c. 1785-1871) and men who died in the 1845 battle.
- Cruises in the Bay of Islands. Many cruises that depart Paihia also pick up and drop off passengers at Russell. See the Paihia article for cruise info.
- Swimming is better at Long Beach, over the hill, than the town beach.
- The Gables Restaurant, ☎ +64 9 403-7670. 19 The Strand. Relaxed fine dining restaurant on the waterfront specializing in local seafood, wine and top cuts of NZ beef and lamb. One of the oldest buildings in the country, it has beautiful wooden floors and panelling, and whale bone foundations.
- Hone's Beer Garden & Burger Bar, 10 York St. Set amongst palm trees, never without a relaxed reggae vibe, Hone's serves up casual meals - home-made burgers, fish 'n chips and salads.
- Tapeka Del Mar Beachfront Holiday Home, ☎ +64 21 367 700. This vacation rental at Tapeka Point has 4 bedrooms sleeping up to 13 guests. All linen is included. On a swimming beach, with a row boat and kayaks.
- Duke of Marlborough Hotel, 35 The Strand. Opened in 1827 as "Johnny Johnstone's Grog Shop", this the oldest hotel in the country. from $125.
The police station is on The Strand on the waterfront. ☎ +64 9 403-9090 Fax: +64 9 403-9091