Russell on a song: Free and frugal things to do

A closer look at some of the superb places and hidden gems the Russell area has to offer.

Part I: Free and Easy in Russell, Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands, where half of Auckland comes to play and where the rich come to stay. Well there's a bit more to Russell and the area than meets the eye. In this article we look at some of the wonderful things to see and do in the Russell area for nothing!!

Toretore Island

Tucked away at the end of Te Wahapu Road (on the road between Opua  and Russell) is the quite stunning Toretore Island. At the end of Te Wahapu Road walk around the shore to the right and there it is. Access can be limited at high tide but a five minute walk along the island will give you breathtaking views of Paihia and Russell and a perfect place to sit and relax and maybe even see some dolphins jumping.

Long Beach

Situated a couple of minutes drive from the centre of Russell, Long Beach is a beautiful long expanse of golden sand. In the summer time it is also home to a couple of coffee shops. But if you are looking for something a bit more peaceful walk to the end of Long Beach and follow the short track (it looks like a V at the southern point) for some more privacy. Just don't tell anyone!!


Northland is probably not known as a great wine producing region but it's a region on the rise and in the greater Russell area are a couple of hidden gems.

Omata Estate

With stunning views out to Paihia and pretty good wine to boot, Omata Estate is a perfect place for the adults to relax and unwind. With wine tasting at $5 (free if you buy a bottle) and antipasto platters also available. Also keep an eye out for the vineyard dog Molly

Paroa Bay

If you took the back road via Helena Bay you would have seen a turn off to Paroa Bay Winery. With spectacular views looking out over Paroa Bay and beyond with some pretty good wine to boot, Paroa Bay is a pretty good spot to spend a mid summers afternoon. You also

Flagstaff Hill

Sitting atop of Russell is the historic Flagstaff Hill. A short drive from the town centre, Flagstaff Hill was a key place in the Maori Land Wars where Maori warrior Hone Heke chopped the Flagstaff on more than one occasion. It is also a great place to get a lay of the land, with views of Paihia, Russell, and both Oneroa Bay and Tapeka Point, Flagstaff is well worth a look.

Christ Church

New Zealand as a country is 164 years old, but this church in the Russell Village is 168 years old. Built in 1836 the church was a vital place in New Zealand's early years. It was in 1840 that William Hobson (before the Treaty of Waitangi) extended the boundaries of New South Wales to include New Zealand. Now the church and graveyard is home to a number of notaries including Hannah King who was the second European girl to be born in New Zealand. This is a great place to see a beautiful piece of New Zealand history


The Bay of Islands has soo many good walks they decided to name a weekend after it. With a variety of walks for everyone from the walking warrior to the wee ones and the parents variety it most certainly is. The must do walks include the Cape Brett walk and the Russell Paihia Circle Day Walk. 

PART II: Cheap and Easy in Russell

The second part of this Russell area special looks at the things you can see and do that won't cost the earth and will allow you to see a lot more of the Russell area than you thought was possible.

Helena Bay Cafe and Gallery

The conventional wisdom to get to the Bay of Islands is to go straight up SH1 from Whangarei. But take the turn off just past Hikurangi and head along the coast road to this little hidden gem along the way. The cafe has an extensive art gallery that showcases plenty of the wonderful artists in the area. With stunning views looking out over the Bay, great service and food this is the perfect way to start your Bay of Islands getaway. Oh and keep an eye out for the Newfoundland dogs too!!

Made in Russell

Stuck for gifts for family and friends who can't be with you in paradise? Well there's a number of shops in Russell Village that can help you with that special something to take back to reality.

Source Living is where you can get all of your essential soaps and skin care products, all produced locally. Indulge in some Lavender soap or Manuka Healing Cream after a day in the Bay of Islands sun.

Newport Chocolates is where handmade chocolate is made and who doesn't like chocolate? From Guinness and cranberry (yes Guinness!) to raspberry lime and chilli there is bound to be something that will tantalise your taste buds. And of course because the chocolate is made on site there's the smell!!

South Sea Art is a bit of a one stop art shop showing off the wares of the  many wonderful local artists in the greater Bay of Islands area and offering a good range of art supplies to set you on your way after being inspired. South Sea Art is well worth a look

Russell Cinema

Russell has a cinema? Well kind of. Every Friday Saturday and Sunday at between 5 and 7pm the town hall puts on a film. These aren't some 1940s black and white films no one has heard of but films from around the world people might find interesting. Examples include the feel good kiwi film The Z Nail Gang and the Nick Cave biopic 20,000 Days On Earth. At $10 for adults and $5 for kids it's a unique Bay of Islands experience and a great way to spend an evening. Think projector screen with seats you help put away at the end of the film. You can even nip across the roads to Four Square to get some sweets to enjoy during the film, or take a blanket and pillow.

Fish and Chips

Ahh the great kiwi tradition, fish and chips. Well Russell not only has a couple of great places (including the Crusty Crab and Duke of Malborough) to get your 'f+c fix' but a stunning waterfront to sit and enjoy them. There's nothing better than sitting out on the water front under a pohutukawa in the evening enjoying a kiwi classic whilst watching the world go by.

Pompallier Mission

Everyone knows about the history behind Waitangi and how important it is to the fabric of New Zealand and how we became a country. Well a hidden gem sits in Russell for all those who have an interest in history. Pompallier Mission is a working printery and tannery which was built in the early 1840s and was first used to translate religious texts into Maori. Take a walk around for free or take a highly recommended guided tour for $10.


With all of this ocean around, surely there must be somewhere you can go after a long day pining for the one that got away. Well you're in luck. A couple of kilometres from the Village centre on the right hand side along Russell Rd are a couple of oyster farms, selling mostly oysters but plenty of other sea food to tempt your taste buds. Keep an eye out as there is no sign out the front.


Then there is the Russell Smoke House on Florence Ave - think fresh fish slowly smoked using manuka honey for a minimum eight hours and with a variety of fish that includes hapuka, king fish and tarakihi. You will soon forget about the one that got away.

Now, having seen all of these wonderful cheap and free things to do in the Russell area you're probably going to be pretty tired so you may want somewhere to rest!!!

Russell Orongo Bay Holiday Park

Nestled away in Orongo Bay just five minutes drive from Russell Village is the Russell Orongo  Bay Holiday Park. Set in picturesque surroundings where you can meet an amazing variety of birdlife including wekas and pateke. Russell Orongo Bay Holiday Park  has a number of accommodation options to suit everyone and any budget. With a pizza oven, camp fire, swimming pool and a smokehouse (for the fish you caught!!) it's an ideal place to relax and unwind. Make sure you head across the road to the boardwalk at high tide to hear and see the flounder and parore hunting amongst the mangroves. You should hear the distinctive sound of the kiwi at night!

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