Day 346 on the Road
Russell: The First Capital and “The Hell Hole”
Today we are exploring the Bay of Islands town of Russell with Russell Mini Tours! If you like this video and want to see more 365 Days: 365 Activities in New Zealand then jump on over to our epic YouTube Channel!
We’re just anchoring up in Russell – New Zealand’s first capital city. I can’t wait to start exploring.
So as you can see today it is raining quite a lot so we’re making our way to Russell. The good thing with Russell is that the ferry across is really cheap – it’s a dollar. And the ferry with your car is really cheap – it’s five dollars.
The car ferry to Russell is a quick drive from Paihia in a place called Opua Bay and the departures are literally every 10 minutes so we don’t have to wait for long.
On top of being super cheap, the crossing is super quick as well it only takes us 10 minutes to make our way to Russell despite the fact that you can drive to Russell but that’s a huge time saver to take the ferry and you know, for a few dollars why not?
As we are unboarding from the ferry we are heading to Russell. It’s only a short drive about 5 minutes until we reach the little township. But the weather is not playing ball with us so we decide to find ourselves a tour so we can hear all the history of Russell.
It was a really wild sort of a town. Along the waterfront here, there would have been 17 grog shops and brothels – so it was quite an interesting sort of a place.
Nice we’re gonna have a good time here.
There were 25 ships here in the bay at any given time. There was no police force here of any kind at all until the late 1830s so it was a really wild sort of a town. Known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific.
Our guide, Chris from Russell Mini Tours, tells us all about the fascinating history of Russell because yes, Russell used to be the first capital of New Zealand. As we learned yesterday when we were at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, we learned that the Bay of Islands area is where the nation of New Zealand began so there’s so much to unpack here.
The first part of the tour takes us along the waterfront where we see rows and rows of heritage buildings which were built around the 1800s. They are built out of kauri, which are these huge tall trees that are now protected in New Zealand and the foundations are apparently made out of whale bones – how crazy is that?
Chris shares with us loads of local stories and the who’s who of the town.
So we just learned that the policeman home is also the jail, so literally the guy is living next to the cell of the guy he just put in jail.
Becuase Russell was the first capital of New Zealand that’s the place where a lot of Firsts happened. It was the first swordfish club settlement, God knows why, it was also the place where the first church was built, it was also the place where the first hotel and pub was which we’re gonna be checking out a little bit later, and it was also the place where the first Christian wedding took place in New Zealand.
After checking out the town we are gonna be taking some altitude we are heading to Flagstaff Hill, which is a major historical point here in Russell. And it is also an awesome place to get an amazing birds’ eye view of the town.
And speaking of birds, we are checking out some birds. As soon as we arrive on the car park. Those are not kiwi birds, they are weka, they are basically the tourists kiwi bird because a lot of tourists think they are seeing a kiwi bird while this bird is actually very common. And a fun fact we haven’t seen weka on the North Island so far but we are stoked to see them right here, but enough about that, we are heading to Flagstaff Hill and the flagstaff itself.
And there is something very obvious about this flagstaff right here, the view is pretty but there is no flag.
Laura, where is the flag on flagstaff?
The flag kept being pulled down by Hone Heke one of the Maori warriors from back in the day, or one of the chiefs – he kept pulling it down cos the British were arseholes and they still are to this day.
There are two sections to Flagstaff Hill, there is the side with the flagstaff on it and there’s the side with this massive sundial on top of a mosaic map of the Bay of Islands which is a good place to get your bearing while you are up here at this amazing viewpoint and we can see the different bays and inlets of the islands, the boat harbour and the little town of Russell itself.
As we make our way back to the town and some beaches and inlets, we head to some more quirkier parts of town which Chris tells us more about.
Moving houses in New Zealand is very common especially up here in Northland. Physically moving the buildings. This one came from Whangarei about an hour south of here three years ago.
Russell Mini Tours has been an awesome way to see the town without getting wet which is really crucial for us as Robin’s case can’t get wet but there’s more things that we want to check out.
What are you doing Robin?
I am literally doing what you asked me to do. Did you get your shot?
What are you going in there?
Welcome to the Hell Hole of the Pacific!
Alright, so after a well-deserved public humiliation right in the city centre of Russell, we are now heading to the Duke of Marlborough.
So we are in the oldest licensed pub in New Zealand.
Alright, so since we are in the the oldest pub in New Zealand we are not going to be ordering a pint of beer we’re gonna be ordering a flagon of ale what is it you may ask? Well, exactly a pint of beer.
The whole place looks so historical it’s decorated with a bunch of relics from back in the days, especially a tonne of whaling relics cos Russell was a whaling hot spot, not that we agree with whaling but it’s a part of New Zealand history.
You’re looking very ravishing today Robin, is that a new sling you’ve have?
Yeah, it’s actually by Karl Lagerfeld.
You should get some patches for it.
So after witnessing Laura’s worst pick-up line every we head back to the ferry toward Paihia.
To make our way there we take the same ferry which is still only $5 for our car and the both of us. It’s a super short trip, we get to see Russell from a whole new perspective and on top of that we save heaps of time cos if you choose not to take the ferry and drive over land to get back to Paihia it takes ages, I mean, no joke – it is a waste of half a day.
We are now heading to Base Pipi Patch where we’re gonna be spending a nice relaxing evening.
They did all sorts of different things with it.
Urgh! This is not one of the activities we’re gonna be doing in New Zealand’s Biggest Gap Year. I’m telling you right now guys.
Shrinking Robin’s Head.
We are not shrinking Laura’s head.