Learn about Russell’s Māori heritage and the history of European settlers through this vast collection of photographs, documents and other objects.
Inspect fascinating items, including traditional Māori weapons, whaling artefacts and large detailed models at Russell Museum. The small historical museum features an archive of more than 2,000 photographs as well as many captivating displays. See military artefacts from the Battle of Kororareka and other items from Russell’s early history.
The museum was established in the mid-20th century to preserve the history of Russell, one of New Zealand’s first Māori and European seaports. Browse a range of displays focusing on the town’s Māori heritage, whaling history and European settlement.
Exhibits at the museum trace the region’s Māori history and include such items as weapons, stone adzes, fishing lures and cloaks. Discover how Māori first arrived in the Bay of Islands by voyaging canoes. Examine the museum’s collection of Māori artefacts, including precious “hei tiki” (neck ornaments) and “mere” (clubs).
The museum also covers Russell’s history as a prominent whaling port, with displays devoted to Russell’s 19th-century whaling history. Among the many remarkable objects presented are harpoons, whalebones, flensing spades and oars.
Study a large model of Captain James Cook’s British Navy research ship, HMS Endeavour. Cook visited the Bay of Islands in the late 18th century, anchoring next to Motuarohia Island. Another interesting exhibit covers the events of the Battle of Kororareka in 1845, and includes portraits of Māori chiefs, as well as cannonballs and military artefacts.
From the museum, walk to many other nearby attractions, including a landmark 19th-century church and the town’s pretty main beach. Christ Church, which is less than 5 minutes’ away on foot, is one of the oldest standing churches in New Zealand, while the waterfront features restaurants and alfresco cafés.
Russell Museum is located in the centre of Russell in the Bay of Islands. The museum is open daily and admission charges apply. Drivers can park in the adjacent lot. Visit the on-site gift store at Russell Museum to purchase history books, bone carvings, paua shell jewellery and paintings.