Colette Kershaw and husband Tim own the Russell Booking and Information Centre. They share their insider tips for exploring New Zealand's first capital.
Russell sits right on the edge of the Bay of Islands, and is easily accessible by car ferry, passenger ferry, or scenic coastal drive. The food and drinks are delicious but the view from the Russell waterfront adds an extra special layer. We love sunset dining, whether it's fish and chips in paper on the beach or fine dining with a tasty glass of local wine.
The Russell Mini-Tour is a great little tour that takes you around Russell while sharing local history and tales, and up to Te Maiki, Flagstaff Historic Reserve, where you can take in the most amazing 360-degree views of the Bay of Islands. The tour is only 55 minutes long, so there's plenty of time to head into one of the waterfront bars and restaurants for a drink, or walk the length of the waterfront with a coffee in hand.
Pompallier Mission is another great spot to visit. It is actually one of nine Tohu Whenua sites (landmarks that tell stories) in Northland. You can take a guided walk through the Mission, there are beautiful gardens, a gift shop, and great coffee and pastries at the cafe.
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Finally, you can squeeze in a meal at The Gables. The Gables is a beautiful heritage building made of pit-sawn kauri on whalebone foundations, serving fine food with tasty tipples on the Russell Waterfront.
One thing most visitors don't know is that we have the oldest wooden church in New Zealand, built in 1835, which survived the sacking of Kororāreka. You can still see the musket holes in the church if you look closely.
The best places to get amazing views include Long Beach, Queen's view, Tapeka Point, Flagstaff Hill, or sunset dining on the waterfront. Basically anywhere in Russell has a special view.
Many visitors are also unaware that Northland, and the Bay of Islands in particular, produce great wine. Sage Restaurant at Paroa Bay and Omata Winery are both unmissable, they have fantastic food and wine, and exceptional views over the bay.
The people and sense of community spirit that every visitor feels when they arrive in Russell, combined with the history, make it a charming little town that everyone should visit.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com