About Russell and the surrounding area

The legend goes that a Maori chief, wounded in battle asked for some penguin booth to be brought to him. After drinking the broth he said “Ka reka te korora” (how sweet is the penguin).

Thus - Kororareka  - korora, the blue penguin - reka, sweet. In 1844, Kororaeka was renamed Russell.  today Russell is a quiet seaside village and an exciting discovery for all tourist and visiting yachts.

The town is very conscious of it’s unique heritage and is concerned to preserve its historic character and the natural beauty of the Bay.

We hope that you too will enjoy the tranquility and the beauty of Russell - Kororareka and the Bay of Islands during your stay.

The Bay of Islands boasts 144 Islands and many secluded bays it is one of the finest maritime parks in New Zealand. There is an abundance of marine life, including whales, penguins, dolphins, gannets the famous blue and black marlin. The Bay offers many activities to choose from; sailing, diving, hiking, sky diving, jet boating, beaches, dolphin excursions, golf, fishing charters, fine harvested local food, wine, arts and crafts, Cape Reinga, Ninety Mile Beach and cruising to the Hole in the Rock.

Its sense of community is evident from the pride in supporting its local school, the number of volunteers that help out with a wide range of activities from sport through to manning of local clubs. Visitors will quickly discover that this community is a special place that welcomes all comers and makes them feel at home and still keeps its village flavour.

The settlement, nestled between green headlands, shows signs of its past in street names and building styles. The wharf, built originally in 1879 is still the main route into the town. Before road access was put through in the 1930s visiting steamers tied up here as they brought supplies and travellers.

Buildings line the waterfront still - many historic like the Duke of Marlborough hotel (the fourth on the site) and the Victorian Gothic Customhouse (now Russell's police station).

At the south end of the waterfront sits Pompallier House, site of the first Roman Catholic Mission to New Zealand. Established in 1842 it is now restored to its original French Lyonnaise style, the only one of its type in the country. Leather making, printing and bookbinding can be seen once again.

One street inland Pompallier's "rival" the Anglican Christ Church is the oldest existing church in New Zealand and has also been restored - except for the musket ball holes in the old weatherboards, visible reminder of the fierce fighting near the church during the 1845 Battle of Kororareka.

Above the town on Maiki (the high place) Hill stands a flagstaff, originally the symbol of British authority and cause of conflict between Maori and the British which led to 1845's battle. It flies New Zealand's original flag twelve days a year.

There is an App which provides a self guided walk about the history of Russell Kororareka and another about the Flagstaff on  Maiki Hill which can be downloaded at http://hikoitahiwalks.co.nz.

The settlement has spread during the twentieth century to the outskirts of the town - Long beach/Oneroa, Matauwhi, Tapeka, Te Wahapu but on headlands, in valleys and on the coast evidence still exists of earlier Maori occupation.