After the battle, Europeans stayed away, trade died off almost completely and Russell languished. The town was rebuilt however and continued to serve shipping. Manganese was discovered at nearby Tikitikioure (above Orongo Bay) and mining was established. A fish canning factory was built at the northern end of Russell beach. Coal mining up-river at Kawakawa brought steady trade. Europeans began to come back to settle, fish and farm. Slowly prosperity returned.
From the 1920s Russell was discovered as an idyllic unspoilt place for holidays or retirement. The town’s reputation was given a huge boost when American game fisherman and writer Zane Grey visited and praised the Bay’s game fishing. The town developing as a base for deep-sea game fishing and it’s still famous for its fishing today.
But Russell was still off the beaten track, hard to get to as there were no roads, with access only by boat or ferry. But in the 1930’s a road was finally put through: not the nice, easy, sealed main highway from Kawakawa we enjoy today but the coastal route now known as the Old Russell Road. This opened the town and peninsula up to tourism, fishing, oyster farming and the small industries which now provide employment. Visitors discovered the laid-back Russell lifestyle and many came back as residents to enjoy it all year round. Russell is not just a place; it’s a state of mind.