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.

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