Historic buildings and a seaside setting give Russell a romantic quality. It’s hard to believe this town was once called the ‘hell hole of the Pacific'.
Russell, originally named Kororareka, is a charming historic township in the Bay of Islands. However it was once known as ‘The hell hole of the Pacific’, because it was a shore leave destination for sailors, whalers and traders during the 19th century. Later it became the first capital of New Zealand, though it was soon replaced by Auckland, and later Wellington.
A stroll around the streets will lead you to the Catholic Mission ‘Pompallier’, which is New Zealand’s oldest surviving Roman Catholic building. Built in 1841-42, under the direction of architect Louis Perret, it was used as a printery, tannery and storehouse for the French Marist mission. Pompallier has undergone extensive award-winning conservation work and is now a working museum where past methods of tanning, printing and bookbinding can be appreciated.
Another building to admire is Christ Church, the oldest existing church in New Zealand, which still carries musket ball holes from the New Zealand Land Wars.
Russell is popular a holiday town, with plenty of shops, restaurants, bars and accommodation. At the wharf you can catch a game fishing boat to hunt for marlin, tuna, broad bill and shark. Nearby Long Beach is a nice place for a swim.
Russell is accessible by road, but the easiest way to visit is to catch a ferry from Paihia, which takes around 15 minutes.
Functional facts: Approx. population 8200, information centre, ferry service to/from Paihia, vehicular ferry to/from Opua.