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RussellNew Zealand

Discover colonial charm, a colorful history and picturesque oceanfront scenery when you visit New Zealand’s oldest town. 

Stroll through Russell’s charming narrow streets to find historic architecture, gift shops and relaxing oceanfront cafés. Visit some of New Zealand’s oldest buildings and discover the town’s history as a Maori settlement and European whaling port. Walk along the nearby cliffs for stunning sunset views before returning to the town for a dinner of locally caught fish in one of the town’s superb restaurants.

Russell, formerly Kororāreka, was first settled by European whalers in the early 19th century and is the oldest “pākehā” (European) town in New Zealand.It was once known as the “hell hole of the Pacific” due to the debaucherous antics of the whalers and seamen that settled here. Today, Russell’s charming colonial buildings, pleasant restaurants and peaceful ambience have given it a reputation for being one of the most desirable destinations in New Zealand.

Learn about the antics of the sailors and the early battles between the local Maori people and the European settlers that took place here when you visit Russell Museum. This intriguing museum also contains a scale model of Captain Cook’s ship, The Endeavour. If the town’s history interests you, visit New Zealand’s oldest industrial building, Pompallier House. This historic building was built in 1841 and contains an original printing press and tanner, both of which are still operational today. Nearby, you’ll find New Zealand’s oldest church, built in 1836.

Notice the pretty colonial architecture throughout the town as you wander along the streets. Find souvenirs in the gift shops or enjoy a coffee break in a café.

The best way to get to Russell is by ferry, as driving there requires a considerable detour. Take a short ferry trip from Paihia and keep an eye out for dolphins as you cross the water.

Russell is located in the Bay of Islands and has a mild year-round climate, making it a pleasant place to visit in any season. Indulge in luxury accommodation in peaceful and historic Russell or find budget lodgings across the water in Paihia.

Top hotels in Russell

Estimated price for 1 night / 2 adults
The Duke of Marlborough Hotel
The Duke of Marlborough Hotel
4.5 out of 5
35 The Strand, Bay of Islands, Russell

Situated on the waterfront, this luxury hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Russell Beach, Russell Museum and Tapeka Point. Russell Christ Church and Flagstaff ...

4.5/5Wonderful! (397 reviews)

"Very helpful and friendly staff. Excellent restaurant for dinner, average breakfast buffet with ridiculous additional charge for any tea or coffee. Excellent location. Standard room was clean with a comfortable bed but just too small to be practical (nowhere to stand a suitcase, tiny en-suite) and ..."…"

Reviewed on 12 Mar. 2020

The Duke of Marlborough Hotel
Russell Top 10 Holiday Park
Russell Top 10 Holiday Park
3 out of 5
1 James Street, Russell, Northland
NZ$95
per night
1 May - 2 May

Situated in Russell, this beach holiday park is within a 10-minute walk of Tapeka Point, Russell Beach, and Russell Christ Church. Russell Museum and Long Beach ...

4.3/5Excellent! (29 reviews)

"The whole complex was clean and tidy.....no hassles and where able to come and go as we pleased....enjoyed the view from our unit and would like to be able to come back in the near future.....loved our stay....thank you"…"

Reviewed on 11 Nov. 2019

Russell Top 10 Holiday Park
Motel Russell
Motel Russell
3 out of 5
16 Matauwhi Road, Russell
NZ$109
per night
9 Apr. - 10 Apr.

Situated near the beach, this motel is within a 5-minute walk of Russell Christ Church and Russell Museum. Russell Beach and Tapeka Point are also within 10 ...

4.5/5Wonderful! (191 reviews)

"The staff were very helpful and friendly and went out of their way to help"…"

Reviewed on 16 Feb. 2020

Motel Russell

Popular activities in Russell

Russell Beach
Image for Russell Beach

Russell Beach

4.5/5(238 reviews)

Wander along the jetty for wonderful views of Kororareka Bay, get out on the water in a boat and enjoy alfresco dining along the beachfront.

Flagstaff Hill
Image for Flagstaff Hill

Flagstaff Hill

4.5/5(111 reviews)

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.

Russell Museum
Image for Russell Museum

Russell Museum

4/5(49 reviews)

Learn about Russell’s Māori heritage and the history of European settlers through this vast collection of photographs, documents and other objects.

Russell Christ Church
Image for Russell Christ Church

Russell Christ Church

4.5/5(61 reviews)

This charming and peaceful 19th-century church is a prominent historical landmark, while the surrounding cemetery is a good spot for a stroll.

Paihia Beach
Image for Paihia Beach

Paihia Beach

4.5/5(335 reviews)

Go on fishing charters, swim in the sea and browse shops and restaurants near Paihia’s main beach, the site of an annual swimming event that attracts competitors from around the country.

Haruru Falls
Image for Haruru Falls

Haruru Falls

4/5(180 reviews)

Walk along the banks of the scenic Waitangi River and admire this beautiful horseshoe-shaped waterfall. Continue on the trail to the famous Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Top activities in Russell

Bay of Islands Tall Ship Sailing Adventure
Image for Bay of Islands Tall Ship Sailing Adventure

Bay of Islands Tall Ship Sailing Adventure

96% of travellers recommend
NZ$159
Per adult
Bay of Islands Sundowner Sailing
Image for Bay of Islands Sundowner Sailing

Bay of Islands Sundowner Sailing

NZ$68
Per adult
5 hour Bay of Islands Cruise and Island Tour
Image for 5 hour Bay of Islands Cruise and Island Tour

5 hour Bay of Islands Cruise and Island Tour

100% of travellers recommend
NZ$110
Per adult
Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Flight - 20 minutes
Image for Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Flight - 20 minutes

Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Flight - 20 minutes

100% of travellers recommend
NZ$260
Per adult
Te Hoenga Waka; Maori Canoe tour & Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Image for Te Hoenga Waka; Maori Canoe tour & Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Te Hoenga Waka; Maori Canoe tour & Waitangi Treaty Grounds

100% of travellers recommend
NZ$135
Per adult
Cape Reinga Airplane Flight & Drive Half Day Tour
Image for Cape Reinga Airplane Flight & Drive Half Day Tour

Cape Reinga Airplane Flight & Drive Half Day Tour

100% of travellers recommend
NZ$450
Per adult

Reviews of Russell

4.8

Top Destination

5 - Excellent
59
5 - Excellent 81.94444444444444%
4 - Good
12
4 - Good 16.666666666666668%
3 - Okay
1
3 - Okay 1.3888888888888888%
2 - Disappointing
0
2 - Disappointing 0%
1 - Terrible
0
1 - Terrible 0%

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

1 Mar. 2020

Russell is a beautiful, good vibe place. I love it there ❤️

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

22 Jan. 2020

This visit we opted for smaller tour operators and rate them very highly: Sea Shuttle - a 4-5 hour adventure to Roberton Island and Urupukapuka Island for snorkeling, paddle-boarding and nature walks. Russell Nature Walks for Kiwi spotting at night.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

31 Dec. 2019

Wonderful place to spend time.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

17 Dec. 2019

Russell is a beautiful destination and will surely return. Having accommodation that was clean and the owners ever so helpful was a bonus.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

3 Nov. 2019

Oh it is just beautiful .One of the BEST places in the WORLD

5/5 - Excellent

Tru

3 Nov. 2019

The Pompallier mission and printers is very interesting. The Russell Boat Club served an awesome steak