|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. 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).|
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).
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.|
||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.|
little island at the end.
The flat area in foreground 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.
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.|
||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.|
||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, 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.|
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.
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 - you can read her account at
However, there appear to be a lot of potential locations and angles in this bay that they haven't used.
Beyond this is O'Neill Bay - see North of Bethells
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