A peaceful and picturesque township set deep in the Bay of Islands, Russell is renowned as a big-game fishing centre and as a holiday town of major historical interest. Its tranquility belies the frantic activity of its wild early days when, as the centre of the first European settlement, it was known as ‘the Hell-hole of the Pacific’.
The first capital of New Zealand and one of the first European settlements. The town is rich in history with a variety of shops and services that do not spoil the old charm. Hours can be spent in the museum tracing the towns history from the first European settlers, whaling and marine history.
Points of Interest
The Waterfront: The Strand today has a serenity it seldom knew in the early days when it was crowded with grog shops overlooking a bay in which whaling ships from the world over lay at anchor.
Police Station Building (c. 1870) was originally the customs house, built when the Bay of Islands saw a considerable amount of overseas shipping and when the American whaling industry was still flourishing. The grog shops have long gone but the Duke of Marlborough Hotel claims to hold the oldest liquor licence in the country.
Christ Church (1836): Even were it not for the memorable events it has witnessed, Christ Church, as the oldest surviving church in the country, would have a special place in history. Unlike most of the very early churches it was built not as part of a mission station but by local settlers.
Pompallier House: Perhaps misleading both in its name and its elegance, the dwelling was, in fact, never Bishop Pompallier’s home and it began as the austere mud printing house which now forms its inner core. Bishop Jean Baptiste Franc;ois Pompallier (1801-71), a Frenchman and the first Roman Catholic Bishop of the South-West Pacific, arrived in 1838 to establish the first Roman Catholic mission in New Zealand at Kororareka (Russell).
Shrine of St Peter Chanel: A simple, modern shrine which is unique within New Zealand. Father Chanel, a Marist missionary in the Pacific under Bishop Pompallier, was martyred in 1841 by natives of Futuna (a French possession in the Horne Islands, north of Fiji.
Russell Museum: Displayed here is a scale model of Cook’s Endeavour and a small collection of items of historical interest. These include the original subscription list for the Christ Church building appeal (1834) and Colenso’s own copy of his first printed placard (1836).