Russell, New Zealand

A short ferry ride from Paihia, Russell in the Bay of Islands is today a small, quiet town, mainly involved in tourism. However in the past, Russell had a much more tempestuous history. Russell, New Zealand was originally known as Kororareka. Up until the 19th century the region was populated mainly by Maori. However early in the 19th Century European whalers were attracted to the region, who started trading with the local Maoris. Russell soon starting attracting other immigrants; including more than its fair share of thugs, convicts and other undesirables. As a result Russell became known as the "Hell Hole of the Pacific".

The area around Okiato, about 7 kms away from Kororareka was originally named "Russell" after Lord John Russell, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies. However it was Kororareka that later became known as Russell. In 1845 the local Maori leader "Hone Heke" ransacked the town, and cut down the Union Jack on Flagstaff Hill. The British put it back up, so Hone Heke cut the flag down three more times.

Today due to the warm, sub-tropical climate, Russell is popular for weekends away, tourists, boating, swimming and fishing. The best beach for swimming is at Long Beach, over the hill at Russell, walking away from Paihia. There are many old historical buildings including Pompallier House, Christ Church and the Shrine of St Peter Chanel. Russell Museum has interesting items detailing the Maori and European history of Russell. For the energetic, the Russell Walkway is a 21km walk through native forest, including magnificent kauri trees. Parts of the walk are steep, and muddy, so boots are recommended.

There are lots of great small bars, cafes and restaurants, many serving delicious gourmet food. Try some of the local wine, the original French winemaking traditions brought by the missionaries continues even today. In the evening, sit back and enjoy the spectacular sunsets.