Russell is a pleasant 15 minute ferry ride from Paihia. The town is a quaint and very quiet place with just a few shops, cafes, restaurants and a range of fine accommodation. That hasn't always been the case though as its 19th century nickname will testify. "The Hell Hole of the Pacific" was a renowned spot for whalers and traders to enjoy their shore leave! Following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Russell briefly became the capital of New Zealand, but during the Northern Wars the town was virtually destroyed and the capital subsequently shifted to Auckland.
The Christ Church is just a few minutes walk from the ferry terminal and is New Zealand's oldest house of prayer. It still has bullet holes sustained during the Northern Wars! Marlborough Hotel sited on the waterfront proudly holds New Zealand's oldest liquor licence. Incredible views of the Bay and its islands can be enjoyed from Flagstaff Hill. This is the site of the Nga Puhi chief Hone Heke's notorious flag-pole protests. The current flag-pole is the fifth to be placed there after he had ordered destruction of the previous four to protest the hanging of Maketu and broken treaty promises.
Russell is also home of the Bay of Islands Swordfish Club. It's the oldest game fishing club in New Zealand and home of the world's largest striped marlin ever caught with rod and reel at 243 kg (536 Ibs). Many big game fishing and sightseeing charters operate and pickup from Russell.
Christ Church in Russell is New Zealand's oldest surviving church. Built in 1836 it still bears bullet holes it received during the fighting and battles in the 1840's. The building itself is very well cared for and is open to view most days of the year.
Experience the Bay of Islands the old-fashioned way with a cruise on the R. Tucker Thompson, a traditional gaff-rigged schooner with her own unique history. On the Full Day Sail, be as active as you like – take the helm, help set the sails, ride the bowsprit and climb the rigging – or simply relax while the crew command this impressive ship as she sails across the Bay. During your sail, the crew will share some of the rich history of the area with you. Step ashore and explore a secluded island or take a swim while your barbeque lunch is prepared.
About the R. Tucker Thompson - Built from 1970-1985, the R. Tucker Thompson’s design is based on the halibut schooners of the North West American coast. With a lofty rig of varnished oregon spars, Kwila decks and bulwarks and brasswork features, she looks the part of a 19th century working ship: purposeful and square-shouldered, but fast enough to out-run the law!