Why you should move to... Russell

Newshub looks at the realities of upping sticks and leaving Auckland. This week, we check out Russell.

Once known as 'the hellhole of the Pacific', this formerly lawless town - and the first capital of New Zealand - is a rather less rowdy affair these days, a pleasant collection of cafes and tourist shops wrapped around a pretty harbour, and fewer than 1000 residents.

What's going for it?

With such a small population, Russell offers peace for those seeking it. Not during the summer of course, when the town is flooded with visitors.

History seekers are well catered to - Russell was the first European settlement in New Zealand and its original 1843 town plan is still intact.

Stay in New Zealand's first licensed hotel - The Duke - and take communion down at Christ Church, the oldest church in the country, which still bears the scars of the 1845 Battle of Kororareka with musket holes in the weatherboards.

What's not?

It's undeniably quiet in a town of fewer than 1000 - and that isn't for everyone. Once the tourists leave after summer, you could be looking at nine months of social hibernation.

Plus houses are pretty pricey.

What does the Mayor say?

Deputy Mayor and long-time local Tania McInnes says: "Magic resides within Kororareka. It resides in the hearts of its people and in the place. It etches a love mark upon one's heart. It's the integrity of the place - it's uncomplicated realness.

"And it's in the people who contribute to Russell's identity. This is a community with great heart - a community of tolerance, respect, empathy and honesty."

Sunset over Russell
Sunset over Russell Photo credit: Image - Wikipedia

Can you get a decent cup of coffee?

Hell Hole is the town's most popular coffee spot, and also serves up filled bagels for breakfast and lunch.

Anything happening after sunset?

There are a few good pubs in town - try to elegant dining rooms of The Duke, or some cheap pints down the RSA. Hone's Garden is a casual pizza restaurant and bar serving craft beer and boutique wines in a sheltered tropical garden.

Cinema Kororareka offers arthouse films on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, and the Russell and Kerikeri Theatre Company runs two shows a year out of Kerikeri (a 45-minute drive away).

What about culture?

History fans are catered for with a wealth of historically significant buildings still standing in and around the town.

There are plenty of events and activities over the summer, and the Russell Birdman Festival, in which dozens of participants in mad costumes leap off the wharf into the harbour, comes to town in winter.

Can you afford a house?

As a mainly holiday town, much of Russell's housing stock is holiday homes and accommodation. As a result, it ain't cheap. The average house price is currently $718,000 according to QV.

Decent schools?


Russell School is a decile 6 primary school with over 100 students. The school has been open since 1892. Paihia School across the water is decile 4 with closer to 200 students.

How well-connected is it?

Russell is a three and a half hour drive from Auckland. Most drive into Paihia, then take the 10-minute car ferry across to Russell ($12.50). Flights to Auckland are a 10-minute ferry and 45-minute drive away, and leave five times a day from Kerikeri during the week and three times a day on weekends.