Russell (Kororareka) Bay of Islands, New Zealand is a vibrant, picturesque community that attracts visitors from New Zealand and all over the world.


The wharf in Russell. Bay of Islands, Far North, North Island, New Zealand
Russell Wharf.
General Information

A peaceful and picturesque township set deep in the Bay of Islands (Pewhairangi), Far North, Russell (1Kororāreka). With water temperatures varying from around 23c during summer down to 18c during winter, brings the presence of game fish from December. This is one of the reasons that make Russell renowned as a big-game fishing centre and as a holiday town with a major historical interest. The town is linked by ferry to 2 Paihia and 3Waitangi. At 4Opua, a vehicular ferry operates to 5Okiato, a short drive from Russell. The Town can also be accessed by road from 6Kawakawa to 8Whakapara.
Picturesque Russell. Bay of Islands, Far North, North Island, New Zealand Picturesque Russell.
Kororāreka, Russell was the first capital and largest town in New Zealand in the 1830s.
Attractions and Activities
Restaurants cater from cafe and bistro dining to the world class, and even a vineyard restaurant nearby. Bars range from the famous Duke of Marlborough hotel to the Bay of Island Swordfish club. There is even a pizza restaurant with take out, or delivery service.

The wharf is a hive of activity with ferries, game fishing boats, tourboats and private boats. A number of attractions leave from Russell wharf including the fast Excitor trip to the hole in the rock, R Tucker Thomson sailing ship, fishing charters and dolphin encounter cruisers. Hours can be spent in the museum tracing the towns history from the first European settlers, whaling and marine history. Even the headstones at New Zealand's first church have a story to tell.

The Bay of Islands Swordfish Club hosts a number of annual big game and fishing events each year. Two annual music festival events held annually are the Bay of Islands Country Rock Festival, which takes place in May, and the Bay of Islands Jazz & Blues Festival in August. September is the month of the Oyster with the Russell Oyster Festival, which celebrates the start of the Pacific oyster harvest with entertainment and competitions. The Russell Festival a fun day for all the family happens around the middle of October.
Sundial in Russell. Bay of Islands, Far North, North Island, New Zealand
Russells Sundial

People visiting Russell are well served with a wide variety of shops and services. During the busy summer months most businesses stay open 7 days per week and in the quieter time of the year 6 days per week. Shops include supermarkets, bakery, butcher, liquor, video rental, hardware, news agent, business centre, famous fish and chips, antiques, gifts, fuel, fishing tackle, dive filling, attraction booking offices, fashion, antiques, pottery, chemist, and medical clinic.

Flagstaff at Russell. Bay of Islands, Far North, North Island, New Zealand Flagstaff. Russell

Pre European Russell was known by its Māori name of Kororāreka. The name reflected a legend about a wounded chief asking for a penguin and on tasting the broth said “Ka reka to kororā." (How sweet is the penguin.). Today, little blue penguins still come ashore after dark on the beach at Russell, and sometimes to nest under the floorboards of waterfront buildings. Russell just one of many small settlements in 9 Pewhairangi ( Bay of Islands ), and was originally home to the Ngare Raumati iwi (tribe), but is now also home to Ngapuhi, the largest iwi in New Zealand . In November 1769, James Cook the English explorer, anchored off 10 Motuarohia Island , by the Russell peninsula. At that time the Bay of Islands Maori population was large with many pa (fortified village) residing in the bay. James Cook's description of Kororāreka was "A noble anchorage". By the early 1800’s the bay was harbouring whalers, traders and timber merchants, resulting New Zealand’s first European outpost to grow at Kororāreka. With good deep water off shore, it was ideal for visiting ships like Pacific whalers who used it as a base to re-supply, have repairs done, and to give their men shore leave. The population consisted mainly of whalers, sealers, deserters, prostitutes and recently released convicts, making life on the waterfront rough, rowdy and sometimes violent.

It became the first European settlement, an was known as “The Hell Hole of the Pacific”. Law and order in the settlement was largely non-existent so responsible settlers sent a petition to King William IV asking for the help from the crown. The new colony needed a capital but Kororāreka was considered unsuitable because of its unsavoury reputation. Instead the first capital was established up harbour at Okiato and called Russell. But capital did remain long in Russell and was moved to Auckland . With this move, shipping by passed the Bay of Islands bringing about an economic downturn, making local Maori unhappy with the decision. As an act of defiance local chief Hone Heke defied the crown, by cutting down the flagpole four times, at Russell before launching a devastating assault on the settlement. This became known as the Battle of Kororāreka and was won by Māori. Who sacked and burnt the town, sparing only Christ Church , Pompallier and a few buildings at the south end of the beach. The settlers evacuated and fled to Auckland , and it was years before any European settlers returned.

Game fishing plays a big part in the towns economic and tourist life both now and in the past. The Bay of Islands Kingfish Club was formed in 1910 and as different species were caught, its name was changed in 1924 to the Bay of Islands Swordfish and Mako Shark Club. Today, as the Bay of Islands Swordfish Club , it is the second oldest existing game fishing club in the world, after California ’s Tuna Club of Avalon (1898). In the 1920s Zane Grey, an American writer and fisherman visited the Bay of Islands and made his headquarters on Urupukapuka Island . His writings about the game-fishing Eldorado of New Zealand attracted world wide attention to the Bay of Islands for game fishing.

Maori Translations
1 Kororāreka;
  Kororā - blue penguin
  reka - sweet, pleasant, agreeable
2 Paihia;
  Pai - good
  hia - here
  It is believed that Reverend Henry   Williams came  to New Zealand   knowing only a few words of  Māori,   one of them being ‘pai’meaning good.  When they   came to Paihia, he turned   to his  companion, a Māori   chief, and   said ‘Pai here’.
3 Waitangi;
  Wai - water
  tangi - weeping, mourning.
4 Opua;
  O - the place of
  pua - flower
5 Okiato;
  O - the place of
  kiato - a receptacle for holding sacred   objects.
6 Kawakawa;
  Native Tree
7 Taumarere;
  To fall, or a cord passed over the ridgepole of a   house, or tranquil season
8 Whakapara;
  to make a clearing in the forest
9 Pewhairangi;
  Bay of Islands
10 Motuarohia;
  Motu - island
  arohia - reconnaissance. The island that was spied   on.


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