The town of Russell is nestled in the Bay of Islands and was the first permanent European settlement and sea port in New Zealand. It is now a popular holiday destination and bastion of cafes, gifts shops and B&B’s.
Catching the ferry from Pahia to Russell is a short 15 minute journey and allows you to take in all the beauty that surrounds the Bay.
As you jump off the ferry and walk down the pier you can see the Duke of Marlborough Hotel just to the left, behind the Pohutukawa trees and you are immediately attracted to the hustle and bustle of the hotel.
It may surprise you, as you walk up to the Duke of Marlborough Hotel that the hotel began its life in 1827 and was then known as “Johnny Johnston’s Grog Shop”. The owner Johnny Johnston – an ex-convict – was well regarded by the local Maori and this enabled him to purchase the freehold site of the Duke, this being one of the first land sales to a European at that time.
Johnny quickly changed the name of his Hotel to the Duke of Marlborough, after the world’s richest man, in the hope of bringing respect, elegance and opulence to the Bay. After the Treaty of Waitangi and New Zealand’s first government forming in 1840, Johnny was the first to receive a licence for his establishment. The licence now hangs proudly in a gold frame in the bar. That’s not the only gold adorning the walls – as a long-time holder of the Beef and Lamb Excellence Award, there are plenty of gold plates to showcase their accolade of having some of the best beef and lamb dishes in the country.
As you walk into the hotel, you get that hit of the “old” with the unique and elegant antique furnishings still in-tact and transporting you back in time.
Lunching on the deck is a real treat with the colonial feel and stunning views of the gorgeous pebbled beach. The menu is full of fresh dishes, with the Pure Angus Beef Burger worthy of a mention and to accompany the food they have a great selection of beers and wines.
This is most definitely one of the top spots to eat and drink in the Bay of Islands.