Walking and hiking around Russell

Best times for walking around Russell

Planning your stay in Russell? There are plenty of walking tracks right on your doorstep. 

Picking any of these amazing tracks, you’ll enjoy stunning views and an opportunity to see some of our native wildlife.

None of these tracks are particularly strenuous and they are open all year round, so you can go walking whenever you’re in Russell. Before you start though, keep these tips in mind.

Walking in winter

Before starting the walk, ask yourself how long it will take you and make sure you are dressed appropriately. Always check the weather forecast, and make sure you have the necessary gear packed.

In Autumn and Winter, the sun sets just after 5pm in the Bay of Islands, and there are no lights or illumination along any of these tracks. We do not recommend going walking after dark. 

Some of these tracks can get slippery when wet. Bear in mind you’ll need wet weather gear, a waterproof jacket and sturdy walking shoes to keep you from slipping.

Walking in summer

Walking in the sun will build a powerful thirst. Always make sure you have a couple of water bottles with you so you stay hydrated. 

Keep your energy levels up with some snacks. You can even plan ahead, think about where you’re going and plan a picnic. Either way, these walks may take you away from the main areas with plenty of shops and cafe, so it pays to think ahead.

Sunblock and sun hats are also a must. Even though rain may be unlikely, wear sturdy walking shoes. You don’t want to tackle grass paths or steep tracks in jandals,

Flagstaff Hill Loop

30 minute loop (2.5km total)
Starting point: The Strand, Russell
Key features: History, bush, birdlife and incredible views!

Getting to the Flagstaff Hill track

All visitors to Russell should make their way up Flagstaff Hill. It’s the highest point in Russell and offers amazing 360 views over the whole Bay of Islands.

You have a few options for reaching the top of Flagstaff Hill from The Strand, depending on what the tide is doing.

What are the tracks to Flagstaff Hill like?

Flagstaff Hill Track at low tide

From the main Russell Pier, walk north past the Duke of Marlborough Hotel towards the end of The Strand and continue along the beach to Watering Bay.  

After about 200 metres, you’ll see signs for the entrance to the Flagstaff Hill Loop Track. Take the left-hand fork in the track and hike through beautiful coastal forest to reach Titore Way.

Keep walking 300 metres up Titore Way until you see a sign marking the final leg of the Flagstaff Hill Loop Track. This leg takes you up through more coastal scrub right up to the famous Flagstaff Hill summit.

When you’re ready to come down, take the path to the carpark. Here you have two options depending on how energetic you’re feeling: You can cross the carpark and take the short track up to the sundial for more stunning views of the Bay of Islands and Russell township, or turn right to continue the Flagstaff Hill Loop Track down to the top of Wellington Street and from there to Russell township.

Flagstaff Hill Track at high tide

If the tide is too high for walking along the beach, turn right at the end of The Strand onto Kent Street, then left onto Wellington Street.  Once you’ve rounded the big curve about 300 metres up Wellington Street, look out for the sign marking the entrance to The Flagstaff Hill Loop Track on your left.

Please be careful when walking up Wellington Street as it’s very narrow and there are no wide footpaths. Watch out for vehicles and keep as far to the left as you can while walking.

What can you see on the Flagstaff Hill track?

The Flagstaff Hill track will take you through some beautiful New Zealand flora like kanuka and manuka scrub. These are the incredible plants responsible for our world famous manuka honey.

If you’re quiet, you may also see an endangered North Island weka. The weka is a small, flightless bird with a grey face and mottled black and brown plumage. It’s taken a lot of work by the Russell Landcare Trust to get these endangered little guys reintroduced to the Russell Peninsular.

Because this area is a conservation site, dogs are not allowed on this track.

Of course, at the top of Flagstaff Hill you can see the iconic flagpole for which the hill was named. Flagpoles on top of this hill were successfully cut down four times by local Māori, including the legendary chief Hone Heke in protest of ongoing colonisation.

Finally, the big reason the Flagstaff Hill Track is so popular are the views. A 360 degree panorama across Russell and the Bay of Islands. You’ll want to test the panorama setting on your camera or phone for this one.

What else is near the Flagstaff Hill track?

Titore Lodge

Nestled where the Flagstaff Hill Track meets Titore Way is an architecturally designed haven with views over Russell Harbour.

Perched on the edge of the Kororareka Reserve, surrounded by native bush means you can hear the call of the kiwi and weka. 

With four separate lodges and spacious deck areas, you’ll won’t want to leave Titore Lodge. [Find out more]

Nancy Fladgate Track

30 minutes – 15 minutes each way. (1km)
Starting point: Titore Way, Russell
Key features: Swimming, beautiful beach, native bush.

Getting to the Nancy Fladgate track

Depending on your plans for the day, this is the perfect track to take after you’ve reached the top of Flagstaff Hill but aren’t yet ready to return to Russell.

From the top of Flagstaff Hill, walk down the track away from the car park towards Titore Way. Immediately opposite the road, you’ll see a sign marking the entrance to the Nancy Fladgate track.

What’s the Nancy Fladgate track like?

Think of the Nancy Fladgate track as a shortcut from the top of Flagstaff Hill, down to the picturesque Waihihi Bay, also known as Brick Bay.

Coming down from Flagstaff Hill, the track is steep in places and is a mix of grass path and wooden steps. 

While this track is rated Easy by the Department of Conservation, you will need a moderate level of fitness for navigating the steep terrain. Allow yourself more time to head up the track then you did coming down.

The Nancy Fladgate track is not suitable for mountain biking, and because it goes through a nature reserve please don’t bring your dogs through here.

What can you see on the Nancy Fladgate track?

In patches through the native scrub you’ll enjoy some wonderful views of Russell. Not the same kind of panorama from the top of Flagstaff Hill, but beautiful views all the same.

Being in a nature reserve, you may get to see some of our native wildlife. Fantail or piwakawaka, or perhaps an endangered weka? This track runs through a kiwi area, but as they are nocturnal you’re unlikely to see any during the day.

At the end of the Nancy Fladgate track you can dip your toes in the water or relax on the secluded beach.

Getting to Oneroa or Long Beach

This popular little beach on the opposite side to Russell’s township is known as Oneroa Bay or Long Beach. Whichever name you use, this beach is a wonderful spot to spend a sunny day.

If you’re walking to Oneroa Bay, you have the choice of two different tracks: either via Long Beach Road or Oneroa Road.

What are the tracks to Long Bay Beach like?

Long Beach Road

From The Strand, head north towards Wellington Street. Follow Wellington Street around until it becomes Long Beach Road, and then keep going until you reach Oneroa Beach.

This scenic walk takes you around the base of a hill, which opens up to beautiful views of Oneroa Bay.

While the walk is mainly flat, there is no footpath in places so do your best to stay as far off the road as you can and be on the lookout for cars.

Heading down from Queen’s View Road to the beach is steep in places, and can be a little slippery if it’s been raining, so take care. 

Oneroa Road

This track is a little longer than Long Beach Road and takes you through Russell. Starting from The Strand, head up Chapel Street past the chapel through a small path that takes you through the bush. You’ll come out at the junction of Gould Street and Oneroa Road. Continue following Oneroa Road until you reach the intersection with Queen’s View Road. Now you have two options for reaching the beach. 

One option is to continue along Queen’s View Road and down Long Beach road. While the road is clearly marked, this portion of Long Beach Road does not have a seperate footpath for pedestrians.

Your other option is to head down the steep driveway next to the park bench and follow it all the way down until you arrive at the beach. This path is quite steep and can be slippery in wet conditions, so be careful.

What can you see at Long Bay Beach?

A view of Long Bay Beach

If you fancy a good look at where you are going, take a detour up Queen’s View Road off either Long Beach Road or Oneroa Road. You’ll find a park bench at the spot where Queen Elizabeth II was driven to admire the view of the bay.

Swimming and sunbathing

What else would you do on a kilometre of golden sands and sheltered surf? Oneroa Bay is an amazing place for swimming or spending a day in the sun. While there are public toilets, you won’t find any shops here so make sure you pack plenty of food and water before you set out.

Sea life

Because of the subtropical waters around Northland, the Bay of Islands is home to lots of sea life that you may get a close look at, especially during the warmer months. It’s not uncommon to see dolphins, orca, or stingrays swimming around the bay.

What else is near Long Bay Beach?

Sea Breeze Lodge

As good as staying on the shore of Oneroa Beach, but with all the modern comforts. Every morning you can wake up an amazing view over the beach and out towards Motuarohia Island.

With three luxury suites, Sea Breeze Lodge has everything you need to relax and unwind in the winterless north. Away from the bustle of the main Russell township, but all the restaurants and bars within easy walking distance under the starry sky. [Find out more]

Donkey Bay Inn

For when you really want that amazing Oneroa beach view. Donkey Bay Inn is exclusive luxury Russell accommodation. You only need to walk five minutes down the hill until you are at Waitata Bay, then just around to Oneroa Bay.

Donkey Bay Inn hosts four exotically styled suites and rooms featuring wide views of the bay. Relax in a four-poster bed or unwind and enjoy the stars in one of their two outdoor tubs overlooking the ocean on the edge of the peninsula. [Find out more]

The Bellrock Lodge

At the other end of the Long Bay Beach walk on Chapel Street you’ll find the luxurious Bellrock Lodge.

With a private guests bar and stunning balcony views over Russell, this five star experience is convenient for making the short walk down to Oneroa Bay Beach. [Find out more]

Tapeka Point

30 minutes – 15 minutes each way. (1km)
Starting point: Du Fresne Place, Russell
Key features: Local history, dog friendly and stunning views.

Getting to the Tapeka Point track

Tapeka Point is the most northerly point on Russell, and a view from the top offers spectacular 360 degree panorama right around the Bay of Islands.

From the main Russell township, follow Flagstaff Road all the way up to Tapeka Road. Just before you reach the end of Tapeka Road, take a right onto Du Fresne Place and you’ll see the entrance to the Tapeka Point track on your left.

What’s the Tapeka Point track like?

The Department of Conservation rates the Tapeka Point track as Easy, but there are a few challenges to be mindful of. 

At only 500 metres one way, taking roughly 15 minutes to walk, it’s hardly the longest walking track in Russell. The track is narrow and grassy, plus it is steep in a few places as you climb towards the top.

You’ll need to take extra care on the Tapeka Point track if it’s rained recently, as the track can become muddy and slippery. Make sure you have good walking shoes.

While the short distance makes the Tapeka Point track family friendly, it’s not stroller accessible. Plus you’ll need to keep kids close by and away from the cliffs.

It’s ok to take dogs on the Tapeka Point track, so long as they are kept on a leash at all times.

What can you see on the Tapeka Point track?

Of course you’re going to enjoy unspoiled 360 degree views around the Bay of Islands. On a clear day you’ll be able to see across Moturoa Island to Cape Wiwiki in the North, Paihia and Waitangi to the West, all the way around to Rakaumangamanga in the south-east. For 320 degrees of those 360 you’ll be looking out across the water.

For fans of local history it’s worth noting that the Tapeka Point track will take you over what were once defensive trenches for Tapeka Pā or fort.

Tapeka Pā was well defended by the steep cliffs and surging waters of the surrounding headland. In fact, the name ‘Tapeka” has been translated as “to wrap around” like being wrapped up in a cloak.

Captain Cook stopped at Tapeka in 1769 and visited the Pā, as did Reverend Samuel Marsden in 1814. Records show Tapeka Pā being abandoned after 1830.

Today, the site of Tapeka Pā is covered in kikuyu grass and coastal pohutukawa trees. While the site of the Pā itself may not be visible, some of the defensive features like trenches and steepend banks are.

What else is near the Tapeka Point track?

Tapeka Del Mar

Ok, the Tapeka Point track may not be the most strenuous walk, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to relax afterward? Staying at the Tapeka Del Mark in Russell means you could enjoy the sunrise or views from Tapeka Point every day before coming back for a swim at the private access beach and diving pontoon.

Staying at Tapeka Del Mar is the ultimate kiwi bach experience, with everything you could want and need for a fantastic holiday. [Find out more]

Checklist for walking around Russell

  1. Double check the weather conditions before you set out.
  2. Pack a jacket. Even if it’s sunny, the weather can change fast.
  3. Follow all instructions you see along the tracks.
  4. Bring food and plenty of water. While the Haruru Falls track is a fairly easy one, walking can still be thirsty work.
  5. Charge your mobile phone. All going well, it’s good for photos. If something happens, there is pretty good coverage so you can call for help.
  6. Take your rubbish with you. We want Russell to stay beautiful for everyone.
  7. Enjoy walking and exploring these tracks around Russell.

Are you keen to explore some more walking tracks? Have a look at our guide to walks and hikes around the Bay of Islands.

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