On this important hill, learn about New Zealand’s early Māori and colonial history, look for iconic birds and take in the stunning views of the Bay of Islands.
Flagstaff Hill, or Te Maiki in Māori, has been an important vantage point for centuries. It remains popular today for those same views and its historical significance. Enjoy the 360-degree vistas of the Bay of Islands and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on the horizon.
Feel that you have earned the views from the top of Flagstaff Hill by making the walk up to the top from the historical village of Russell. Follow the directions from the northern end of The Strand, which runs along the picturesque waterfront of the town. The walk is a 1.5-mile (2.5-kilometer) loop along a beach and up through regenerating manuka coastal scrub.
As you approach the top, you will realize why this hill has always been a strategic spot. The Māori of this area saw the benefits of this vantage point early on and made terraced sections near the top to assist in their defense. These terraces are still there today.
Once at the top, take in the breathtaking views. Emerald-hued islands and rock formations dot the bright blue waters of the aptly named Bay of Islands. The colonial town of Russell clings to the hill and rolling hills stretch out to the southwest.
Stand beneath the tall flag pole that gave the hill its name. It’s not the original, however. The first few flagstaffs were cut down by local Māori to send a signal to the European settlers, who had made nearby Old Russell their capital. This protest followed the signing of the Waitangi Treaty in 1840, just across the bay.
While at the top of the hill, head to the sundial. This point offers even more stunning views. While walking around the hill at dawn, dusk or at night, be very quiet and listen out for curious weka and shy kiwi, the iconic flightless birds that call this hill home.
Flagstaff Hill is always accessible and free to visit. As well as a walking trail to the summit, there is a steep road up, with a parking lot at the top.