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Travel guide

Russell, Bay of Islands things to do

  • 2 minutes

Bay of Islands, Northland

In this Article

Best bits, your only guide to a grea holiday

Unearth the jewel in the Bay of Islands and find out about Russell. You will discover a pretty town facing the harbour. The town now thrives on visitors and is a magnet for people visiting Northland and nearby Waitangi. However if buildings could talk you would hear chatter about the ‘Hell Hole of the Pacific,’ the problem of prostitution, drunken sailors and escaped convicts who lived in the lawless society of early Kororareka. The Place of Sweet Penguins in the early 1800’s. Whaling was the reason for the rapid growth of the settlement with up to 34 ships riding at anchor in the safe harbour at any given time. Walk into the past and enjoy the intact original street plan and names from 1843. Many of the buildings seen in Russell reflect this time period and the building’s story is fascinating.

Russell, New Zealand
Bay of Islands, Northland


  • Bullet holes in the local church from the 1845 Battle of Kororāreka
  • Placid beautiful foreshore, once the hellhole of the Pacific
  • Heritage sites from Pompallier House & Duke of Marlborough hotel
  • Picturesque bays and inlets inviting visitors to take a cruise to the hole in the wall rock formations

Russell is easily explored on foot. In the peak summer season it could be difficult to park a motorhome in Russell as there is no dedicated car park rather roadside parking whereby the long length of a motorhome makes parking problematic. Leave your transport at your STAY unless absolutely necessary to have wheels. Motorhome drivers will have issues parking as Russell is equally stringent on traffic parking as Paihia.

Key heritage sites in Russell

Bay of Islands Snorkelling

Visit the #1 snorkelling spot here in the Bay of Islands on your memorable snorkelling trip, we will see and interact with an abundance of sealife and explore a big archway in a well-established Rahui in Maunganui Bay (No take area.)

learn more @BOISnorkelling
@BOISnorkelling @BOISnorkelling
@BOISnorkelling @BOISnorkelling
@BOISnorkelling @BOISnorkelling


Stay options in Russell

Options range from luxury, family friendly campgrounds or the historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell.


Driving from Paihia (Waitangi) & Kerikeri to Russell involves a car ferry crossing.


The day starts with a ferry crossing from Russell Ferry Terminal to Opua then onto Paihia and Waitangi. A ferry ride from Russell to Opua is a must do for visitors. Opua Ferry terminal / Russell Ferry Terminal in peak season has a considerable queue of cars. As the ferry does not take forward bookings an early start is recommended in the busy summer months. People watch, enjoy the ambiance of a bustling transport link between the holiday vibe of Russell and the road towards Waitangi. For holiday makers waiting patiently for their turn on the car ferry is a well placed fish n chip shop.

Ferry to Russell, New Zealand
Ferry to Russell

The pedestrian ferry between Russell and Paihia departs directly opposite the Duke of Marlborough hotel.



Best Bits travel guide is published by Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.

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