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Russell Waterfront, Bay of Islands

© Northland Inc

The elegant town of Russell was New Zealand’s largest town before 1840 and once known as ‘the hell hole of the Pacific’ due to the rough behaviour of whalers, traders and sailors who settled there.

Russell: The first capital of New Zealand is also a world-renowned game fishing port. Zane Grey famously described Bay of Islands as ‘an angler’s El Dorado’ when he caught his first marlin here in 1926. Tuna, broad bill, kingfish and shark are other potential game fish catches.

A large fleet of world-class charter boats with skilled and experienced skippers caters for just about any type of fishing and for all skill levels. From hooking into a delicious snapper to saltwater fly-fishing, fishing in Northland today continues to live up to Zane Grey’s description. Today Russell is still a favoured spot for boaties who seek safe anchorage.

Russell sunset
Russell sunset

With waterfront restaurants and cafes that are the perfect place to catch the evening sun. Visit Zealand’s oldest licensed pub and Christ Church, New Zealand’s oldest church, which is still scarred with musket ball holes from the 1845 fighting.

The Catholic mission building of Pompallier, built from rammed earth, hand-printed 40,000 bibles in Maori and you can still see how they traditionally cured the tans for the covers and printed the pages of these beautiful pieces of art. Discover Russell's exciting past by visiting the museum, cafés, restaurants and craft galleries, while appreciating its colonial architecture.

Russell is the gateway to the Cape Brett Tramping Track (8 hrs), and the Okiato to Russell Walkway; a full circle walk with many start and end points, which includes a 5 minute ferry crossing between Opua and Okiato (on the Russell side).

You will find a wide range of accommodation available and you can also arrange sightseeing, adventure or fishing activity from the Russell waterfront. For self-drive explorers, take State Highway 11 to Opua and catch the vehicular ferry to Russell or leave State Highway 1 at Whakapara and travel the fully tar-sealed scenic coastal route via Oakura. There's also a passenger ferry service from Paihia.

Rawhiti is a small beachfront town about 30 km from Russell in the Bay of Islands and is a holiday haven with beautiful beaches and spectacular views. Most of the land in the area is owned by Māori.