Russell is located on the south side of the Bay of Islands. It is a picturesque seaside town which attracts many tourists in the summer.
It is also a gathering spot for visiting cruisers as it offers the most protected anchorages and best onshore amenities.
Russell is not an island but the road in is very long dirt road which is not practical to cross. There is a car ferry from Opua which runs regularly that takes car and passengers for a modest fee. It drops you just across the water from Opua and still several miles from Russell so this only works if you have a car.
It is also possible to catch a passenger ferry from Paihia. It drops you right in Russell so it is preferred for those getting there on foot but it isn't cheaper or faster and they don't run as often so this is only the preferred method if you don't have a car.
Russell is a gathering point for the boats as they arrive from the South Pacific or as they prepare to leave for the return journey to the islands. As boats prepare to return there is a great deal of anticipation for the often difficult passage north from New Zealand.
The Russell Cruising Club is gathering point for sailors from all over the globe. Here in April and May it is easy to find a conversation on weather, storm tactics, route planning and others. The Russell Cruising Club caters to the wandering sailors by organizing talks on key subjects.
We attended the weather talk by Bob McDavitt. Bob filled us in on what to expect with the weather along the way and prepared us for the possible downsides. He also explained what to watch for and offered to provide personal weather routing information for a modest fee. Many boats used this service including us with varying results but we feel he is as accurate as you could expect in a long term forecast.
We had such good luck with his information on the trip down that we will always hold his views in the highest regards.