Elisabeth Easther checks into Northland motel that's heavy on Kiwiana charm

How to get there:

Russell is four hours' drive north of Auckland, including the ferry from Opua.

Check-in experience: Warm, friendly and informative.


The room: Two bedrooms, a decent-sized living room and balcony. A queen in one room, bunks and a single in the other.

The bed: Dreamy soft beds, cloud-like linen, plenty of pillows. When it was time to sleep, the tick tock tick of the alarm clock had to stop. I took the battery out.

The decor: Kiwiana charm, old Tourism NZ posters, ornamental paddles and shelving made from painted beer crates. Super-groovy pendant lighting and a little record-album coffee table - Kim Carnes' Voyeur in mine. And the sheepskin rugs felt very nice underfoot.

Kitchen: If you fancy cooking you've got all the equipment, a sink, a couple of hobs and a microwave. But with so many good restaurants around, where's the fun in that?

Minibar: Quality plunger coffee and a range of teabags from Earl Grey to green, peppermint to English breakfast and a decent half-litre of milk.

Bathroom: The shower was amazing and the spa bath was the size of a small-ish swimming pool. Plenty of fluffy white towels.

Toiletries: The very appropriate South Pacific Soap Co's shampoo, conditioner, soap and moisturiser. It's coconut-based and smelt and felt really good — so you actually want to use the stuff, which is novel.

A bedroom at The Duke Motel. Photo / Supplied
A bedroom at The Duke Motel. Photo / Supplied

Who runs the place?


The lovely people who revitalised the Duke of Marlborough Hotel have put all their hospo knowledge to good use.

Also on site: A pizza oven, barbecues and a small swimming pool, although the bath is so big you could do laps in that.

What's in the neighbourhood? Tennis courts, pretty beaches, historic buildings, plenty of eating and drinking, Pompallier House, Russell Museum, Flagstaff Hill, Duke of Marlborough Hotel.

Getting around: Walk everywhere in Russell, or take the passenger ferry to Paihia and stroll around over there.

The swimming pool at The Duke Motel. Photo / Supplied
The swimming pool at The Duke Motel. Photo / Supplied


Sky TV and speakers for your device. Plus a selection of games including Trivial Pursuit, magazines and books including a Woody Allen and a Tony Parsons, not to mention a well-thumbed copy of

The Godfather


Stay connected: Free Wi-Fi at a decent speed.

The verdict: Groovy Kiwiana kitsch. And it's comfy too.

The Duke Motel is at 7 Wellington Street, Russell, Bay of Islands. Phone: 09 403 7008.