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Relax & Unwind at the Scourge of the Pacific
There’s something about places that are westward facing across water. Like Waikiki, in Hawaii. Every evening thousands of people from around the world go to the beach to watch the sun dip down over the Pacific. Like Russell in the Bay of Islands in summer when hundreds of people sit on the beach and at waterfront bars and cafes to watch the sun set over the boats offshore and over Paihia across the water.
But a special magic of Russell is that if you go soon, before Christmas, or later in autumn, you can share that view with just a few lucky others.
Other than the sunset, Russell is not really much like Waikiki. And not really like anywhere else in New Zealand. Because in this small compact seaside village and its margins there are: historic buildings like the Anglican Church and Pompalier house, bars, cafes, restaurants of all kinds – Duke of Marlborough perhaps the best known (with reports of Mick Jagger there last year!).
And while you relax there you are literally sitting on history. Because in 1838 before all of the above, it looked like this. And if you look up any histories of the town you will find it was called the “Scourge of the Pacific” – with good reason.
Real violence broke out in 1845 when what was called the Northern War began with this well-known event, followed by the destruction of the town. The headstones on graves in the Anglican Church yard a short walk behind the waterfront bring this all to life, as do the bullet holes in the church. Somehow knowing about this violence makes the waterfront seem just that much more peaceful now.
Russell is especially well-suited to mobility impaired “access travellers” – it’s all flat, but with so much you can do close at hand. Historic Pompallier House and the Anglican Church are maybe 5 minutes flat walk/wheel from the waterfront. Russell mini tours departs from there and takes in all the places of interest – (intact) flag pole included.
While from the wharf you have access to all of the Bay of Islands – and if you are especially keen - Cape Reinga, right there. Everything from hole in the rock and dolphin cruises, to access friendly fishing charters, tall ship sailing, evening dinner cruises and the ferry to Paihia and the Treaty House.
You can take it slow and follow the road out to the outer Bay of Islands passing by all kinds of bays and inlets, or much closer at hand just go up and over the hill to Long Beach. If you are mobility impaired DON’T walk or wheel, it’s too steep. Long Beach is like being at a quiet beach anywhere along the Northland coast – pohutukawa fringed, with plenty of flat grassy places to sit or stroll along.
At the end of the day, a choice. Catch the ferry to Paihia and try one of its restaurant or bar options. Or stay at a Russell bar or restaurant and catch that sunset. If you stay 2 days or longer you can do both!