Across the bay from Paihia is the town of Russell. It was originally called Kororareka and was the first Europesan settlement in the area. The local Mâori people very soon realised that there was valuable trade to be had with the European and American ships and the town flourished but, as a place without laws, soon earned teh nickname 'Hellhole of the North'.
After the formation of the colony of New Zealand in 1840 it was decided that Kororareka was unsuitable for a capital and land was purchased 5 kilometres away at Okaito. The capital was soon moved to Auckland, the two towns were combined and renamed Russell after the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord, John Russell.
Modern day Russell is a town for tourism with many cafes and boutiques and toruist accommodation. It is popular destination from Paihia and is best approached by the ferry although there is a road around Waikare Inlet.
The Pahia - Russell Ferry
One of the activities you can indulge in (recommended) is to walk up to Flagstaff Hill. This has the combined benefits of (a) giving you some exercise (b) giving you panoramic views and (c) giving you a history lesson. All that and it's free.
There's a couple of routes, the one we took up takes you past some of the real estate of those-who-can-afford and there's certainly some beautiful homes amongst them.
When you arrive at the top it's a great orientation point, both in terms of how the Bay of Islands is situated and how it stands in history.
The first flagstaff was erected in 1840 after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The chequered history of the pole(s) after that is almost a goon style comedy if it weren't so serious.
Eventually, in 1857, the flagstaff issue was resolved and the final one was erected, part of which is still there today, and it was given the title Whakakotahitanga, which means "being at one with the queen".
A little further up the hill is a sundial which represents the apex as well as the time.
On the way back we took the slightly longer route through the bush. Though it was supposed to be closed we took a chance anyway and, as I usually find, there's just a small spot where you encounter a little difficulty and, other than that, there's no problem. This walk brings you out on to the beach and makes for a special entry back to the town. The whole exercise can be completed comfortably within an hour and by then you'll be looking forward to a cuppa at one of the restaurants.
One of the towns you hear about is Russell. Practically everyone who goes to the Bay of Islands has visited Russell. So, what's the attraction?
Well, if you're staying at Paihia there's a ferry ride to look forward to that brings you into the middle of the bay upon which Russell sits. Though you can drive there it's such a long route that the majority of people either take the ferry or the car ferry out of Opua.
Once there you have come into a pretty, sheltered location with some interesting wooden architecture, something you have to get used to in New Zealand.
There's not a lot of the place, roughly three or four blocks on the flat in front of the house-spotted slopes behind but it certainly has that enchanting feel about it.
The policeman's house, still in use today, was first occupied in 1870 and the huge Moreton Bay Fig shown in pic 1 was planted around the same time. It's actually in front of the policeman's house.
ON one of your evenings in Paihia, you should take the ferry to Russell. The last ferry from Russell back to Paihia is at around 10 PM. It is a very small, sleepy and chilled out town with a lot of waterfront cafes. The peace , quiet and tranquility is absolutely wonderful, especially if one goes to Russel in the twilight times.
You can take a stroll around the town or visit the museum, gaze at the well manicured gardens etc. We had recahed Russel at around 8.00 PM and with very few people on the streets, one almost gets the feeling of being the only residents in the town. Must do for people wanting a bit of peace and quiet
There are both foot passenger only ferries (see pic 1) which leave from the jetty opposite the shops, right in Paiha, and then there's the car ferry (works out at the same price really, either method) which is about 3 kms further around the bay. Both take only about 10 minutes to make the crossing, and cost about $9 for a 1 way trip for 1 person.
It's about $20 return for 2 people to cross with a car.