• Swim with the Dolphins cruise – 4 hours

  • Cape Brett Hole in the Rock Cruise – 3 hours

  • Best of the Bay Super cruise, the original Cream Trip – 6 hours

  • Urapukapuka Island, walk, swim, sunbathe on a white sand beach - 1.5 hours to all day

  • Excitor – 1.5 hr high speed jetboat ride to Cape Brett

  • Minibus Tour – departs from the wharf on the hour – 1 hour


Drive Times

Auckland - Russell 3.5 hours via State Highway 1 and vehicle ferry; 4.5 hours via the unsealed and winding coast road through Oakura.


Tip: Take the short ferry hop from Opua, 15 minutes south of Paihia to Okiato.  Then it is only another 10 minutes drive into Russell.  The ferry operates as a shuttle service departing every 10 minutes between 6.40am and 10pm daily. 

Russell Population: 1,000
Region: Northland

A charming historic seaside village with a colourful past, it is now a peaceful and pleasant spot for holidaymakers.  Take the time to stroll along the waterfront and enjoy the comings and goings of the many craft from the wharf.  Many ocean going yachts moor here to make their first landfall after cruising the Pacific.  Climb Maiki Hill for a wonderful view of the bay then reward yourself with a cold drink in the Duke of Marlborough Hotel, which holds the country’s oldest licence.  Many of the old buildings tell the story of a colourful past.

History and Culture

A lawless trading centre, Russell (originally called Kororareka) was known as the “hell hole of the Pacific” in the 19th century.  This was due to numbers of intoxicated and brawling whalers and seafarers on shore leave, boosted by escaped convicts from Australia.  Their presence attracted “ladies of the night” who plied their trade in the many hostelries which did a roaring trade.  The flagpole atop steep Maiki Hill above the town was felled four times by disgruntled Maori chief Hone Heke over disputes with the European colonisers of the country in the 1840’s.  Pretty Christ Church still carries bullet holes from the Maori wars.  Russell later became the first capital of New Zealand, a title held until 1841 when it was decided to relocate the seat of power to the more central location of Auckland, then ultimately to Wellington.


 "Pompallier Mission, Russell"

For more information about Russell and the region, click through to our Discover New Zealand Northland Region section


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