Category Archives: About the Bay of Islands

Walk This Way - 4 Favourite Walks in Russell

Posted by Jayne Shirley on March 16, 2016

When someone mentions the Bay of Islands you might of think of beautiful sandy beaches or landing the perfect catch while cruising one of the 140 or so islands in the region. What might not spring to mind is walking – yes, that simple pleasure that requires not much more than a pair of good shoes and a drink bottle. From short to long in distance, the Bay of Islands has many walks and Russell is the jump off point for some goodies. We have chosen 4 of our favorites, all of which start in Russell.

Flagstaff Hill Loop & Tapeka Point

We like this walk because it combines a bit of beach, a bit of forest and a bit of history. At low tide, start by walking around the rocks from the northern end of Kororareka Bay to Watering Bay, where a marked track leads through bush to Titore Way. 300 meters along on the right another track leads to the top of Flagstaff Hill (Te Maiki). At high tide just head up Wellington Street and you will come to a marked track about halfway up on your left.

If you want to explore the wider Russell area a bit further – when you get to Titore Way don’t take the flagstaff hill track – continue to the end of the road and head down the hill (and yes you will need to walk back up this) to discover Tapeka and its two beaches – stop a while and go for a swim. Sandy Beach is best for this.

While in Tapeka check out the Tapeka point track - a narrow grassy track, steep in places.  The track starts from Du Fresne Place and leads you across a number of what were once defensive ditches to the end of Tapeka Peninsula and the top-most part of Tapeka Pa itself. You can get 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.

Its hard to say how long this walk takes as is quite step in parts so it’s one to be done at a leisurely pace. The first part to get to the top of Titore Way I would give yourself about 40 – 50 mins. Down to Tapeka about 20 minutes. The track up to lovers leap is the really steep bit and the Doc sign recommends it takes about 15 minutes each way. On your return trip a good 20 minutes back up to Flagstaff (this is all uphill) and then returning to Russell straight down Wellington St is 15 minutes.

Urupukapuka Island

As you can imagine being an island walk this walk starts out on a boat – we organised a water taxi to take us to the island disembarking at Urupukapuka’s Otehei Bay.  

We will leave you to discover the walks on Urupukapuka Island for yourself but suffice to say it is a place of native wildlife, beaches and fragments of the Bay’s past — an unspoiled paradise. The entire walking track network on Urupukapuka Island takes about six hours; though, of course, you can walk as much or as little of it as you like. The tracks are extremely well maintained and manageable for just about anyone. There are some steep parts, but the extra effort is richly rewarded with magnificent birds-eye views of the island and its stunning surroundings.

Where you disembark there is a restaurant run by Explore group so you can buy your lunch supplies but just check opening hours before you leave… and make sure you have organised a return ride back to Russell!

Russell to Long Beach

Fancy something a bit easier – a nice stroll after lunch at The Duke. We suggest packing your swim suit and heading over to long beach via a nice and short scenic track. Ask any local or consult a map it’s easy to find. It’s about a 20 minute leisurely stroll. Long Beach is a popular destination and some of the holiday homes there date back to the 1930s so worth a nosey down to the end of the beach.

Full Circle - Bay of Islands Walkway

This walk takes you as the name would suggest in a full circle. We started this walk in Russell and caught a ferry over to Paihia then follows the Paihia to Opua walkway on a well-established track, following the beach before entering a bush covered costal walk. From here we caught the car ferry to Okiato and started on the Okiato to Russell walkway which follows the coastline into Russell.

A great walk which has views of the water and also some nice bush cover - not to mention two ferry rides! It’s about a 4.5 hour walk and requires a reasonable level of fitness as there are some reasonable steep bits on the Russell coastline.

So that’s our Top four  - come and try them out for yourself. By the way they think walking is so good in the Bay of Islands some good people in Russell started up a Bay of Islands Walking Weekend so if you fancy a bit of organised walking then check out the Bay of Islands Walking Weekend website. This year (2016) walking happens on the 7th-9th October.

If you want to know more about walking in the Bay of Islands and Russell talk to your accommodation provider or the Information Centre down at the end of the wharf who will be able to help. Don't forget at the end of your walk to come and have a nice cold beer at The Duke and watch the sun go down!

PS - Thanks to the DOC website and the Bay of Islands Walkway Trust website in helping us out with a few of our facts post walk and we can't take credit for the photos - they are thanks to Northland Inc, Dean Wright and Kristy Gibson! 

What Makes a Russell Wedding So Perfect?

Posted by Website Admin on February 05, 2016

Congratulations – you’re engaged and starting to plan your dream New Zealand wedding. There are so many magical places in the country to choose from, but here’s why we believe a Russell wedding is the most perfect of them all…

The Bay of Islands

Russell and the Bay of Islands is a gorgeous haven of turquoise water dotted with lush green islands. Dolphins, whales, exotic birds and abundant fish species fill the waters with life in this wonderful setting.

Historic Ambiance

Russell isn’t simply a seaside town. This charming place is home to historic buildings nested amid cafes, restaurants and art galleries. Russell holds an important place in New Zealand's history, being the country's first sea port, its first European settlement and New Zealand's first capital in nearby Okiato. The town's streets retain their original layout and names from 1843, and many of its historic buildings can still be visited today.

Exquisite Flavours

With award winning chefs and restaurant managers, the Duke offers exquisite cuisine and exceptional service. We meet with the bride and groom and tailor the menu to ensure a memorable celebration for you and your guests.

Perfect Weather

The Bay of Islands is called “The Winterless North” and is famous for sunshine and balmy weather year-round. Even on the off-chance of showers, the colours of the water and greenery are spectacularly vibrant, and it seems to only enhance the views.

Activities for All

While you’re staying in the Bay of Islands celebrating with friends and families, you will never run out of exciting and relaxing things to do by air, land or sea. Traipse through the conservation areas, sail through the bay with the wind in your hair, get a thrill from adrenalin-worthy adventures, or delve beneath the water for an undersea adventure.

The Duke of Marlborough Hotel

The Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell offers a unique wedding venue where you can experience the historic charm of New Zealand’s first licensed hotel.

We also have an experienced on-site wedding co-ordinator with expertise in planning and delivering tailor made, personalised weddings to guarantee a truly memorable day.

Our Favourite Bay of Islands Beaches

Posted by Website Admin on December 20, 2015

The Bay of Islands is a very popular holiday destination during our summer months, with visitors from both New Zealand and overseas heading north to enjoy the warm weather and beautiful blue waters. There are many great activities and adventures to be experienced, but sometimes all you need is a beach towel, some sunscreen and a good book. Here’s a few of our favourite beaches on both sides of the Bay, all within an hour of The Duke.

On the east: Russell Beaches

Kororareka Bay, Russell

Kororareka Bay

The Duke of Marlborough hotel overlooks Kororareka Bay, a sheltered beach of roughly 750m with easy swimming and close proximity to Russell’s shops and cafes. A grassy strip separates the beach from The Strand and in December you may be lucky enough to see the Pohutakawa trees out in bloom. The sand itself is slightly stony and sloping down to the calm water. A steady stream of boats drift gently in and out of Russell’s wharf, which sits in the middle of the bay.

Long Beach (Oneroa Bay)

Whilst Kororareka is right on our doorstep, we love Long Beach – a 20 minute walk over the hill. A lovely long sandy bay great for families with safe swimming and kayaking. At the north end around the corner there’s also Donkey Bay which is a naturist beach.

Tapeka Point, Russell

Tapeka Beach

A little further away is Tapeka Point – about a half hour walk over Flagstaff Hill from Russell. The tide at Tapeka Beach doesn’t go far and the bay is protected from waves and swell, so there is great swimming at all times.

Elliot Bay

On the east coast and roughly 30 minutes’ drive from Russell, Elliot Bay has a great little surf beach popular with campers and those looking to hide away. It’s a little more rugged than our Russell beaches and has beautiful white sand. There’s not much in the way of local amenities so we’d recommend taking a picnic if you are planning on staying a while.

On the west: Paihia Beaches

We might be biased, but Russell’s beaches are superior in our eyes! Nevertheless, Paihia is worth a visit and only takes a 15 minute passenger ferry ride across the Bay. There are two beaches. Due to its location, the Paihia Town beach (lesser known as Taiputuputu Pahi) is busiest but the sand is not that wide and many people can be found sunbathing on the grass strip. A 15 minute walk north towards Waitangi takes you to the slightly larger Te Tii Bay. In summer there are kayaks and jet skis for hire off the shore.

Out in the Bay: Otehei Bay, Urupukapuka Island

Otehei Bay, Urapukapuka Island

For an alternative beach adventure, we recommend jumping on the Explore Ferry ($25 return) to Urupukapuka, the largest island in the Bay of Islands. Once there you will find several beaches, short walks with beautiful views, and a licenced café serving food and drink. Fullers GreatSights also pay a visit to this bay on their Day Cruises.

Photos courtesy of

What our customers say

We had our wedding at the Duke and found the service was exceptional. Staff were easy to deal with and made every effort to assist us in having the best day possible. The food was great, with guests having a choice of menu options. Our room was lovely with wonderful views of the water. Breakfast on the Sunday morning was great too. We will stay again for sure. Anita & Joshua

- Anita & Joshua, Saturday 27th May 2017

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