Bay of Islands activities

From the white sandy beaches of Long Beach and Tapeka both within 2 kilometres of Te Manaaki, the beautiful Cape Brett peninsula and some 150 islands of the Bay, the historic places of Russell, to the attractions of the far north, there is something for everyone.


Here are some of the activities we enjoy around Russell.


The Kauri Tree Short Walks in Russell Forest

If you are short of time but wanting to view magnificent Kauri trees there are 2 short walks through native bush available. The Ngaitonga Grove Walk takes about 20 mins and the Ngaitonga Twin Bole Track is even shorter taking about 5 minutes to complete. If you have a bit more time and energy there is also the Ngaitonga to Russell Forest 21 km day tramp.


Elliott Bay Surf Beach

Elliot Bay is a beautiful white sand beach, popular with both swimmers and surfers. It is situated 27km South East of Russell. You will need to cross private property to access the beach, where you will find an honesty box to pay your way.


Gabriel the Steam Engine in Kawakawa

The railway at Kawakawa was the first railway to run a rail passenger service in the North Island. Today the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway is the most northerly railway in New Zealand and is the only working railway in the world where trains travel down the middle of a State Highway. Gabriel is the star attraction of the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway. He was built in 1927 and is a fine example of a working steam engine – the only one of the class left in the world.  Today the railway operates on part of the former Kawakawa to Opua track and offers train rides to visitors using both steam and diesel locomotives.


Cycle Trail Kawakawa to Opua

The cycle trail from Kawakawa to Opua is part of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail (PouHerenga Tai) which is an 84km trail from Horeke in the West to Opua in the East. It can be ridden in either direction (or both ways if you’re really keen).

The trail between Kawakawa and Opua begins with a 4km ride on Gabriel the vintage steam train which travels from Kawakawa to Tauarere Station. Then the cycle trail follows the old rail line beside the Waikare Estuary for 7km to Opua.

From Opua you can take the car ferry across the estuary to link up with the road to Russell.


Paroa Bay Winery

Paroa Bay winery is a new family owned boutique vineyard which produces traditional handmade, sustainable wines. It is located in a beautiful setting among the hills of Paroa Bay near Russell.  You are most welcome to taste the wines before buying and perhaps take a stroll along the vineyard walkway and spot native birdlife.


Omata Estate Winery

Omata Estate Winery is situated close to Russell on the way from the Car Ferry at Okiato, and is a lovely place to stop en-route or on return from Russell for a wine tasting, platter style lunch, or just to enjoy the amazing views overlooking the bay.  Omata restaurant is open daily in summer for wine sales, tastings and food platters subject to venue bookings. In the winter months they offer wine tastings and sales but its best to ring and check opening times.


Flagstaff Hill Lookout in Russell

Flagstaff/Maiki Hill, directly north of Russell township, is an important landmark. During conflicts between Maori and early British Colonials in the nineteen century, Ngapuhi chief Hone Heke and his allies cut down the flagpole 4 times between 1844 and 1858 before allowing a fifth flagpole to be erected.  You may choose to drive up Flagstaff Hill or to follow the pleasant 2.4km (30 minute) loop walk from town through regenerating coastal forest to the flagpole and a beautiful view over the bay.


Long Beach for Sunbathing, Walks and Kids

Long Beach at Oneroa Bay is a 5 minute drive or 20 minute walk through native beach, East of the main street Russell. It is a lovely safe swimming beach suitable for families. It takes about 30 minutes to walk from one end of the beach to the other return. There is plenty of parking on the grass verge of the road that follows the length of the beach.


Cool Change Catamaran Sailing

If you wish to enjoy the waters of the Bay of Islands then Cool Change is a spacious 54ft catamaran available for day or overnight private charter. With room to accommodate up to 40 guests on the day sailing there is plenty of room for everyone. The charter includes an experienced skipper and crew so no previous sailing experience is required.


R Tucker Thompson Tall Ship Sailing

The R. Tucker Thompson is a working tall ship giving you the opportunity to help set the sails or take to the helm. There are even harnesses if you wish to take up the challenge of climbing the rigging. Or if this sounds too adventurous you can just sit back and enjoy the ride while others do the work. The R. Tucker Thompson sails from Russell Wharf daily from November to Easter and the trip includes freshly baked scones and cream tea and a BBQ lunch served on board, as well as a lunchtime swim and island stopover.


Kayaking to Roberton Island

Once out in the water from Russell Motuarohia (Roberton) Island is the first island you see to the east once round Tapeka Point. It is distinguished by 2 lagoons. Kayaking there takes approximately 2 hours. Once on the island you may like to take the short (15 mins) well marked track up to the pa where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Bay of Islands. Other options are swimming or exploring the underwater trail for snorkelers.


Circular walk Russell, Pipiroa Bay, Opua, Paihia, Russell

This is a great day walk which includes 2 ferry trips – Opua to Okiato and Russell to Paihia, mangrove board walks, historical points of interest, birdlife, oyster farms and of course plenty of beautiful scenery.


Duke of Marlborough

The Duke holds New Zealand’s first liquor licence (on display) and has been “refreshing rascals and reprobates since 1827”!   It’s located right on the waterfront in historic Russell and is a great place to relax, chat with friends and family and watch the passing parade on the water and the waterfront.  There is a bar, an outside sheltered deck and excellent restaurant to enjoy.  Live music is often played and in winter there is a lovely log fire to enjoy.


Mike and Helga Pratt

Owners of Te Manaaki