The first permanent European settlement in New Zealand, Russell is a charming coastal town in the Bay of Islands region. It’s home to an excellent cultural heritage museum and a 19th-century French mission and is a short ferry ride from Urupukapuka Island.
Things to do in Russell
Discover the town’s long-established history at the Russell Museum, which details the indigenous Maori culture and the impact of European settlers in the region. Get up close to Maori taonga and an original whaling vessel, then stroll through grounds planted with traditional Maori herbs.
Visit the 19th-century Pompallier Mission where church texts were translated from Latin into the local Māori language. The rammed-earth printery stands as New Zealand’s oldest industrial building and is surrounded by magnificent gardens that can be explored on a guided walking tour.
Take in the sweeping Bay of Islands views from atop Flagstaff Hill, which rises to the north of Russell’s town centre. It played a significant role in early relations between the local Māori tribe and British colonial forces, with walking trails leading through its kiwi-inhabited bushland.
Make a day trip to beautiful Urupukapuka Island to snorkel, kayak and paddleboard on one of its many stunning beaches. Visit the Island Conservation Centre at Otehei Bay to learn about the island’s prehistoric and colonial history or participate in a traditional Māori cultural workshop.
Getting around Russell
Russell is around 3.5 hours’ drive from Auckland or 1.5 hours from Whangarei Airport, with the drive including a ferry ride from Opua across the Waikare Inlet. The town of Russell is small enough to explore on foot and ferries access the surrounding islands.