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New Xenaland
 
Bethells Beach
 

It's best to visit the beach while the tide is low, if you want to explore the south end. See the West Coast page for links to tide tables.

Drive to the end of the road and park in the area by the surf club. The Waitakere River flows past just to the north. This stretch of the river was extensively featured in the Hercules episode Three Men and a Baby where Nemesis (in one of her more enterprising incarnations) battled Ares' troops. The first scenes were shot just 20 yards from the surf club, which was barely screened by a convenient sand dune (which may have eroded away by now).

Waitakere River near the parking area
Taumaiti Hill on left, Surf Club just out of shot on right
Nemesis pursued by Ares' army in Two Men and a Baby
Herc and Iolaus further upstream, same episode



Walk along the sandy track by the river to the beach. On hot summer days, wear sandals or some footwear to protect your feet from the hot black sand. Only idiots try walking across it barefoot.

The black sand is very fine and heavy due to its iron ore content. (Pick some up and feel the weight). Its colour causes it to get very hot in the sun, and its conductivity helps it to convey that heat to your feet. The damper areas of sand are a darker colour and burn your feet rather less. If you, too, are an idiot like the author, this information may be useful.


As you approach the beach, with the river on your right, you come on a little surf club lookout hut on stilts which must have absorbed hours of Flat Earth's time CGI'ing it out of shots. About here is where Caesar paid Xena his ransom in Destiny; you can see the distinctive profile of the headland beyond Xena in the picture. (And it caused us to say "Yes! This is it!" on our return to Bethells after 30 years).

Xena heads towards Ihumoana Island with the loot
Ihumoana Island, with the Waitakere River on right

Turning left, you see the sweep of the beach leading to the the classic profile of Pukekowhai Point with its distinctive rock tower - almost an island - at the end. This vista has been seen in almost every episode, from Ten Little Warlords to the final scene in Motherhood.


The second best-known view in the Xenaverse
Pukekowhai Point is the rock tower at the right end

As you walk down the beach, you can see a prominent cave in the cliffs at the south end of the beach - Callisto's cave from Return of Callisto. It also featured in the first few moments of Ulysses (though the rest of that episode was at Whangaparaoa, some miles away and on a different ocean).


'Callisto's cave' is obvious, with Raekiaki Point out to the right
Note the little island just this side of the cave
The peninsula curves away from behind the island to form a low ridge
sweeping across to the left; the dark green bushes mark the far side of the little gully behind the ridge
Towards the south end of the open beach, you come on a curious feature - a little ridge slopes down from the hills behind the beach dunes and across the beach, curving towards you to become a little peninsula enclosing a small bay at high tide, and ending in a little detached island (an island at high tide only). On the beach just seaward of the island was the fight with the gods in Motherhood.
Another view of the low ridge and the little island. Callisto's cave is hidden behind the island in this view
The weird skull-like erosion patterns in the cliff face are natural, and can be seen in a number of episodes, for example Ten Little Warlords. The scripts never made any reference to them or used them in any way, even though they are so prominent in some scenes as to make the viewer wonder what their significance might be.
Looking down the low ridge to the little island at the end.
The flat area in left midground is the scene of
Perdy's pyre and many other fun events
If you make your way around the little island and onto the end of the ridge, you'll find a small flat grass area which is a favourite Xena spot. Perdycorpse's funeral pyre was here, and Little Problems, and Xena practising swordplay in Miss Amphipolis was on the little island, shot from here.
Looking north from here, we see the quintessential Bethells scene, with the tooth of Erangi Point standing out dark against the sky. It almost always looks dark - New Zealand bush is dark coloured, and we're looking north into the sun. Any time you see it light coloured - as behind Eve and the baptist in Motherhood - you know that must have been filmed early in the day.
Looking up the beach at the end of Little Problems
From this ridge, you have almost the same view as in Destiny, when Caesar built his line of crosses on the beach. That was about halfway up the beach, but they used a crane for the camera; this is the nearest you can get to the same perspective.
Caesar indulging his favourite hobby
Looking over Piha from the end of Log Race Road
Don't confuse this view with that of Piha; RenPics often use the view up Piha Beach for a linking shot, however the scenes that follow those shots are invariably filmed at Bethells......
...... as Miss Amphipolis demonstrates for us.
Miss Amphipolis practising on the little island; Erangi Point behind
Ahh, there's nothing like a good old campfire scene....
Another funeral pyre lights up the countryside....
If you stand on the site of Perdy's pyre and look across to the cliffs, an odd thing has taken place - the tall rock tower off the point has become much shorter and triangular. This has caused perplexed scenery-spotters to wonder how Ten Little Warlords and Return of Callisto could have taken place on the same beach. In fact, the tower of Pukekowhai Point is now out of sight and the rocky island you can now see just off Raekiaki Point was previously 'hidden in plain sight' against the cliffs behind it, when viewed from further up the beach. 

Looking across the gully, over Perdy's Peninsula and
Miss Amphipolis' little island. Note the little white dot
of the surf club lookout hut at the far end of the beach.
Beyond the small ridge is a steepsided gully or canyon, with a small stream in it, which runs down to the beach. Renpics don't appear to have used this for anything, which seems curious since it looks like an ideal spot for a ambush-type scene. Maybe the Waiti Stream fulfilled all their requirements for that sort of thing.

The beach at the mouth of the gully was the scene of the last fight in The Apple. Further seaward, at a very low tide, was where the Ten Little Warlords disembarked.
At the end of the beach, a line of cliffs marks the south end of the bay, with a very prominent cave - 'Callisto's cave' - in the angle. It's possible to enter the cave without getting wet at roughly half-tide or lower.
This was, of course, the cave that Callisto and Xena raced out of in chariots in Return of Callisto, though no shooting (so far as we can tell) took place inside the cave. The only scenes that appear to have been shot inside the cave were with Iolaus and his hopeless-romance-of-the-week in The Apple.
Waitakere Bay from above on Te Henga Track
Ihumoana Island on left, Erangi Point in centre
If you retrace your steps all the way back up the beach to cross the shallow Waitakere River and pass Ihumoana Island, you're in a little bay called Waitakere Bay on the map. The puzzling thing is, RenPics seemed never to have used this spot in five years of filming. They finally did, however, in Return of the Valkyries, and a visiting fan was lucky enough to see them (right).
Xena confronts the Valkyries
seen from Te Henga Track
Xena walks out of the waves
Odin and the Valkyries gallop off
However, there appear to be a lot of potential locations and angles in this little bay that they haven't used.

Just over the low ridge beyond this is O'Neill Bay - see North of Bethells


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