Activities in Russell and the Bay of Islands
There are lots of events and fun activities for everybody to enjoy and experience in and around the Russell area, from catching a ferry across to Paihia to visiting the famous Waitangi Treaty Grounds to adrenalin-fuelled action. We hope you enjoy the many different ways to explore this spectacular part of the country.
Just five minutes’ walk from Russell wharf you’ll find New Zealand’s oldest surviving Roman Catholic building, Pompallier. Built in 1841-42, it has been used as a printery, tannery and storehouse for the French Marist mission and is now a working museum.
Another building to admire is Christ Church, the oldest existing church in New Zealand, which still carries musket ball holes from the New Zealand Land Wars.
Wining and dining
Vineyards – Omata Estate is 8km by car and is open for wine tasting and The Omata Kitchen serves gourmet platters and wood-fired pizzas. If you need transport, there is courtesy transport from Russell township or the Okiato car ferry which can be arranged in advance.
From Russell there is a clearly signposted walking track through native bush and a board walk that takes about 2 hours. You can also hire kayaks and come by water. There is a spot to safely tie up and is a 15-minute walk from the water up to the vineyard. Russell Kayaks offer a guided tour and a pickup, so you only have to kayak one way.
Flagstaff Hill – Stroll up and look out to incredible views of the Bay of Islands. At low tide, start by walking around the rocks from the northern end of Kororareka Bay to Watering Bay, where a marked track leads through bush to Titore Way. 300 meters along on the right another track leads to the top of Flagstaff Hill (Te Maiki). At high tide just head up Wellington Street and you will come to a marked track about halfway up on your left.
Russell to Long Beach is perfect for those who fancy a lovely stroll to an even lovelier, sandy bay. Pack your togs, and book and head over to Long Beach via the Long Beach Walkway. A nice and short scenic track, it takes about 20 minutes leisurely stroll. The quickest route from Russell to Oneroa starts at the northern end of The Strand, walk through Kent Street and follow Long Beach Road to the camping ground. Follow the paved walking track you’ll see to the left.
Full Circle – Bay of Islands Walkway takes you, as the name would suggest in a full circle. It’s a great walk with water views and also some nice bush cover – not to mention two ferry rides! It’s about a 4.5-hour walk and requires a reasonable level of fitness as there are some reasonable steep bits on the Russell coastline.
Start this walk in Russell and catch a ferry over to Paihia then follow the Paihia to Opua walkway on a well-established track. A scenic 5.5km walk along the coast, through bush and over a mangrove boardwalk. From here, you can catch the car ferry to Okiato and start on the Okiato to Russell walkway which follows the coastline into Russell.
Things to do in the bay of Islands
Opua Forest Lookout Track is a pleasant 30-minute return walk through regenerating forest to a lookout with stunning views over a valley of kauri trees. You can start the walk at School Road, Paihia.
Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail
The trail’s most popular section, and easy ride, starts at Ōpua, next to the boat yard, and follows the former railway line along the river to the aptly named Long Bridge at Taumarere (current end point of Bay of Islands Vintage Railway) and from there to Kawakawa, a distance of 11km. The trail is open to walkers, but dogs must be on a lead.
Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
A family-friendly mountain bike park located off Bayly Road, Waitangi Mountain Bike Park provides the perfect introduction to mountain biking with lots of easy, scenic trails that you can take at your own pace. With over 40km complete and a further 30km of trails to be developed in the next few years, it offers 30 trails of varying difficulty with great flow and features, from introductory downhill riding, jump trails, cross country and beginner trails. There are plenty of fast, flowing berms, rollers, jumps and grade 2 and 3 runs to more Intermediate and advanced tracks – grade 3, 4, and 5 – that are great fun for more advanced riders. https://ridewaitangi.nz/
Deep Sea Fishing
There are a number of tour operators providing deep sea fishing and dive tours. At the wharf you can catch a game fishing boat to hunt for marlin, tuna, broad bill and sharks.
Bay of Islands cruising
Many of the Bay of Islands daily cruises use Russell as a departure point out to the Bay of Islands. Explore some of 140+ remote islands including the world famous ‘Hole in the Rock’.
Charter a yacht
Vigilant is a 42ft cutter available for shared or private day charters or sunset charters from Russel wharf. The evening cruise is perfect for those who wish to experience the Bay of Islands at the most spectacular time of day. https://sailing-bay-of-islands.co.nz/
See the Bay by air
Salt Air operates scenic helicopter flights giving another perspective of the region’s magnificence. There are many booking agents and tour operators based in Paihia or Russell that will organise your requirements.
The Ngapuhi people, New Zealand’s largest Maori tribal group, are the historical custodians of the region, including the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The Waitangi National Trust estate – New Zealand’s most historic site as the ‘Birthplace of the Nation’ is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on the 6th of February 1840. A visit will illustrate the rich history and key events that shaped New Zealand as it is today.
Operating from the Paihia wharf, you get a very different perspective of the inner bay being towed across calm waters on the end of a 380m towline.
A trip from the Paihia wharf is another experience not to be missed. While not for the faint-hearted, instruction by the experienced tour guides will enhance and ensure real enjoyment.
Sea kayaking adventures provide a more “grounded” experience of the local bays. Coastal Kayakers offer half day, full day and multi-day tours that cater to all levels of experience.
The Waitangi Golf Club is the local course, with another 10 clubs within an hour’s drive. Visit the world famous Kauri Cliffs Golf Club if you want a professional quality challenge coupled with outstanding scenery.
Ride through the Waitangi pine forest to the top of Mount Te Puke and enjoy the breath-taking views of the Bay as you ride down to a stunning beach for a swim with your horse. After a picnic in the bay, you ride back to base where you learn about the owners’ important conservation efforts in the area www.horsetrekn.co.nz.