12 May 2012
We leave home just before 9am and get into Russell about 3pm after a half hour stop in Whangarei for a late hamburger lunch. Lilly keeps me alert and amused.
We are glad we stopped and asked directions about the coastal route to Russell, because a pleasant young lady advised against it; “it’s a very long and winding road, best way in, is by ferry”.
So at a place called Opua we line up for a short ferry ride across the bay to Russell.
The first European to visit the area was Captain Cook, who named the region in 1769. The Bay of Islands was the first area in New Zealand to be settled by Europeans. Whalers arrived towards the end of the 18th century, while the first missionaries settled in 1814.
At Russell Cottage we have one of twenty. It’s a beauty. 4 bedrooms, upstairs is locked off. Very spacious and modern, polished wooden floors, one en-suite downstairs bedroom and one large living area, kitchen, dining, lounge combined. Lilly brought everything but the kitchen sink and wants to take this kitchen home when we leave. We are warm and cozy. Thoroughly deserves its 5 star rating.
From hell-hole to paradise
In the whaling and sealing days some 180 years ago, Russell then Koororeka, despite its meaning (“how sweet is the penguin”) was known as the Hell-hole of the Pacific. Whaling and sealing ships attracted the roughest of elements. A combination of Maori and Pakeha, prostitution, taverns and unenforced laws gave the place a bad reputation.
Today it is a sheltered, enchanting spot, easily accessible by the briefest of ferry rides across the bay. Most of the homes overlooking the bay are either old (and renovated) or modern with glass dominating. A glance in the windows of a local real estate agent suggests it is expensive. Only about 1000 people live here. Many of the homes are obviously holiday accommodation but these are not batches. This is an enclave of the monied.
Where’s the rest of it?