Bay of Islands activities
The white sandy beaches of Long Beach and Tapeka are both within 2 kilometres of Te Manaaki. The magnificent Cape Brett peninsula, Russell and Opua forests and some 150 islands of the Bay provide a variety of enticing short and longer day walks. All manner of water sports and adventures are available, including surfing, diving, parasailing, fishing, helicopter rides, sailing and golfing. Combined with the historic places of Russell and neighbouring Waitangi and the attractions of the far north, there is indeed something for everyone.
Here are some useful links for information about activities:
All about Russell
Information and bookings
Department of Conservation walks and heritage sites
And here are our top ten personal favourite things to do in and around Russell:
- Take a walk on Long Beach. It’s about a kilometre long of lovely fine flat sand, so two kilometres to the end and back. The views out to the islands are magnificent and the sea state and beach are continuously changing. Great for swimming, and surfing when there is a breeze from the East. You can walk there from Te Manaaki, about 1.2 k – up the hill at Hazard Street, turn left at the top, then right at the end of the road when you get to the cemetery. In summer there’s usually a coffee cart there with a lovely tree to sit under!
- Sailing amongst the islands. There’s lots of trips to choose from. We can recommend the tall ship R Tucker Thompson, Cool Change a large fast and comfortable catamaran, and Phantom an ex racing high performance yacht. They have all sailed from Russell Wharf for many years.
- A visit to the Waitangi Treaty grounds. Drop-offs at Waitangi are available on request on the 10am & 3pm Bay Belle ferry sailings from Russell. Suggest check arrangements beforehand at the Fullers Great Sights cruise office at the entrance to the wharf, or at the Information Centre on the wharf itself.
- Walk South along the waterfront to Pompallier mission. This heritage site was the first French Catholic mission to Aotearoa, run by Bishop Pompallier. It was set up as a printing works where large numbers of copies of the bible were printed in Māori to spread the word. It’s now a museum where the original tannery and printing works can be experienced. The Pompallier French cafe is a delight with of course croissants and great coffee, all in a lovely garden setting. Omata and Sage will collect you from Russell and take you back if you arrange in advance.
- Snorkeling in the Bay of Islands clear waters is great fun. We can recommend Bay of Islands snorkeling (see https://www.boisnorkelling.co.nz), for an exhilarating snorkeling experience in the Marine Reserve off Cape Brett.
- We enjoy good food, and there’s lots of great choices in and around Russell. Our favourites are: scrumptious Pizza and fish/ meat/ cheese platters at Omata Estate set in amongst the vineyard and overlooking Veronica Channel out to sea; Sage Restaurant at Paroa Bay Winery a few kilometres along the Old Russell Road, with glorious views out over the Bay of Islands, and food and wine to match; the historic Gables Restaurant on the waterfront with great food and wine; The Duke of Marlborough, New Zealand’s oldest licensed hotel and an original whaling pub, again on the waterfront with an historic ambience; The quirky Tuk Tuk Thai restaurant on York Street, one street back from the waterfront at the end of the ‘town square’; and Hone’s Garden pizza place in a sheltered tropical garden setting.
- Russell Bay is great for kayaking, and you can rent sea kayaks, canoes as well as sailboats from the waterfront.
- Under the auspices of Project Island Song a concerted long term commitment has been made to restore the native bird populations in the Bay of Islands. A wide variety of native birds can be experienced along the extensive bush walking tracks on Urupukapuka Island, together with multiple Archaeological sights. Fullers Great Sights provides daily fast boat trips to the island and there is a cafe and great beach at the wharf.
- There is a variety of short and longer walks in easy access from Russell. Here’s a few we suggest for starters. 1. Flagstaff Hill. Go North along the Russell waterfront at lowish tide and follow / rock hop the coast around until Watering Bay where you will see a marked track up through the bush leading to Titore Way. Follow this road along until you see a marked bush track up to historic Flagstaff Hill. At the top you will be rewarded with magnificent 360 degree views, and a glimpse of history. Then follow Wellington Street back down to Russell. 2. Round trip to Russell. Starting at Russell Wharf you can take the ferry to Paihia, then go South along the coastal path to Opua. From there you can take the car ferry to Okiato (the first Capitol of New Zealand) and walk up the hill to Pipiroa Lane. Follow that down to the beach and the start of the walking track that will take you back to Russell through forest, coastal tracks and across board walks. You can stop in Paihia or Opua for refreshments and maybe buy some oysters direct from the farm at Kororareka Oysters at the end of the board walk, before the final stretch to Russell. The round trip takes about 3 + 3 hours, but to make shorter you can arrange to be picked up at Okiato, and complete the circuit over two days. 3. Tapeka Point. As well as lovely beaches and rock pools there is a short DOC walkway at Tapeka, with super views and an interesting Archaelogical Pa site and defences. A narrow grassy track, steep in places, starts from Du Fresne Place and leads across a number of old defensive ditches to the end of Tapeka Peninsula and the top-most part of Tapeka Pa itself. There are stunning views all along the track over the whole of the Bay of Islands, from Cape Wiwiki in the north to Rakaumangamanga in the south-east.
- Sitting on the deck with a glass of wine and watching the kaleidoscope of the Bay unfold!