History

The Bay of Islands has a rich history and heritage. Renowned explorer Captain James Cook gave the Bay its modern name when he stopped here in 1769 during his epic round the world voyage. Whilst anchored at Motuarohia (Roberton) Island he met some of the local Maori tribes and was soon trading on friendly terms. Those same tribes still live in Northland. You can find out more at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, only a half-hour stroll along the beach from Paihia or a short trip by car. Here, on Waitangi Day, you can see some of the largest war canoes in the world in action, a truly impressive sight. The flagstaff high on the hill above Russell is a reminder of the conflict between Maoris and the early British settlers.

Russell (then named Kororareka), in its very early days of sealers and whalers, had an infamous reputation as the “hellhole of the south Pacific”.

Okiato (very near the present car ferry terminal) was the first capital of New Zealand, which was soon shifted to Kororareka. The French had early influence in the Bay and a visit to Russell’s museum and Pompallier House will be enjoyed by those interested in history and historic places.