New Xenaland
 
(Auckland) West Coast
 






RenPics' permanent outdoor 'sets' were originally located off Sturges Road, just west of Henderson in the Waitakere foothills. They later moved to 'Lion Park', a site between Massey and Taupaki. Both these were on private land and there is in any case, very little left to see there. However, most of the 'locations' they used are still there, little changed, and much of it on publicly accessible land.

Most of this 'location' filming in Xena and Hercules has been on the west coast, around the northern end of the Waitakere Ranges and their northern foothills.

(As a digression, Waitakere River, Waitakere village, Waitakere Bay (at Bethells), Waitakere City (centred on Henderson), and the Waitakere Ranges are all in quite different places many miles apart. This can be confusing. 'Waitakere' is pronounced approximately "Why-tack-a-ree")

The Waitakeres are basically a high volcanic plateau, about a thousand feet ASL, much cut up by steep-sided stream valleys and covered in thick native bush.

The 'Scenic Drive' runs from Titirangi in the south to Swanson in the north, along the eastern crest of the ranges. You can usually get some information on the ranges and their native vegetation at 'Arataki', the Auckland Regional Council's park headquarters on the Scenic Drive a few miles from the Titirangi end.

The ranges are criss-crossed by walking tracks which vary from easy to moderately difficult. If you just want an easy stroll through native bush we can recommend the Kitekite Falls track at Piha, or the Auckland City Walk from Falls Road off the Bethells road.

Maps

The best map to get of the Auckland west coast if you're planning on exploring on foot used to be the Lands & Survey (now Land Information N Z) 1:50000 map no. Q11, Waitakere. It covers the ranges; excerpts from it are on other pages on this site. It's been improved to be pretty accurate.

Unfortunately, the 1:50,000 series (now renamed 'Topo50) has had its coverage completely changed and the Waitakeres are now spread over four maps - nice work fellas! The good news is, they're available for free download as TIFF files from http://www.nztopoonline.com/topography/index.aspx which I think is incredibly public-spirited of them. Be warned - they're big, file sizes up to 80MB.

Waitakere map: For my own convenience in printing out the bits I need on one piece of paper, I've digitally hacked together one map from bits of the four. This covers the ranges only. I've saved it as a TIFF or a JPEG:
Waitakeres1-01.tif (33MB)
Waitakeres1-01.jpg (11MB)
(Right-clicking one one of those links should bring up a querybox in most browsers asking you where to put it).
For coverage of other parts of Auckland you're better off downloading the proper maps from the LINZ site.

Tides

If intending to explore the beaches, such as the south or north end of Bethells, it pays to do so on a falling tide. You don't want to get cut off in an isolated bay by a rising tide; in some cases there is a way out up the cliffs, in some cases it's quite 'hairy'. If you should get cut off, you can usually find somewhere safely above high tide mark to sit out the next six hours or so....

Rather better to check the tide tables first. The tides can be found in downloadable PDF or CSV format at Land Information NZ. Choose 'Onehunga' for the West Coast times (this is important - Auckland tides are three hours earlier than Onehunga / West Coast). Note also to add an hour to the published times for Daylight Saving in summer (as noted on the site).

Piha

Piha Beach and Lion Rock
The sun as always is in the wrong place - north
For a quick day trip to the West Coast, probably the best destination is Piha. It's also the nearest beach to the park headquarters at Arataki. The Piha Road runs across the middle of the plateau, through native bush, and offers quite spectacular views across the Piha Beach when descending Piha hill. 
Piha South beach from the top of Lion Rock
There's a track halfway up Lion Rock for the energetic.
It used to go all the way to the top with a notably steep section and rewarding views from the top, but part of it slipped away and the authorities seem to have chickened out of replacing it.
If you want an easier walk, in native bush, drive to the end of Glen Esk Road in the Piha valley and follow the track to Kitekite Falls. The first half mile is an easy walk alongside the stream, and you can return along Byers Loop Track the other side. You may recognise some of the plants - Nikau palms and punga ferns - that you get to see in Xena episodes. RenPics actually filmed their 'bush' scenes at Lion Park, on private land at Bethells, probably at Sturges Road (I can't be sure as I haven't been over that site) and possibly other locations - but these tracks will give you an idea of what the bush is like.
Kitekite stream in the 'bush'
Nikau palms fringing the path on Byers Loop Track
View from end of Log Race Road on a misty day
Main headlands in order are Te Waha Point (north Piha), Puketai Point (Anawhata), and Raetahinga Point (the high cliffs beyond O'Neill Bay), with the tooth of Erangi Point (Bethells north) just below and this side of it.
Oaia Island can just be seen, with Muriwai Beach and Woodhill Forest beyond on the horizon
If you turn off the main Piha Road at the top of the hill, into Te Ahuahu Road, and follow it to the end of Log Race Road, and park on the highest point and stand on your car roof to see over the bushes, you'll see the vista up the coast that RenPics have used as a 'linking' shot in many Xena eps. They have also used the view past Lion Rock from the pull-off area halfway down the hill on the main road. 

Karekare

If you prefer to avoid the crowds (not that Piha is ever crowded by overseas standards), you can drive down the very steep, narrow (but tarsealed) road to Karekare instead. However, you'll have a 200-yard walk to the beach.

So far as we can tell, Pacific Renaissance used just three locations at Karekare - and only one of those was ever seen by the principal actors.

Karekare falls in good form after heavy rain

The most distinctive location was Karekare Falls, just a hundred yards from the road along an easy walking track. RenPics have used the view of the falls from the road as a linking shot on occasion (for example, the end of The Furies), but not, so far as we know, the falls themselves.

The other two locations were in Union Bay, just north of Karekare beach itself.

Karekare Beach from the south.
You can see, in the centre of the picture, the narrow knife-edged ridge called 'The Watchman' which separates Karekare Bay from Union Bay just beyond. It's broadside on to us here and hard to distinguish from the hills behind, but a hidden valley runs from the Union Bay beach up the far side of it.
In the middle of Union Bay beach is a distinctive triangular rock.
At the start of The Quest - the castle on
the ridge is where Autolycus stole the Dagger of Helios.
In fact it's 'The Watchman' seen from the north side.
Why Renpics tried to hide the distinctive triangular rock
on the beach behind a couple of extras, we have no idea.
The only time any 'characters' visited Karekare -
at the end of Siege at Naxos, Herc and Iolaus
(plus prisoner) walk down the path from the little col**
at the head of the Union Bay valley to the beach.
The Watchman rises on the left.
That rock can be seen at far right.

(**Well it would be a col if the whole place were
100 times bigger)

Other beaches

You can also drive to Anawhata along a long gravel road, but the road ends several hundred feet above the beach so there's not much point unless you like walking.

Whatipu, if you want to drive all the way out there, is even more deserted and a long way to walk to the water. It's more for lovers of solitude than beachgoers. Last time we went (many years back) the road was single-lane and gravel surface beyond Huia, and may still be.

The beach of most interest to Xenafreaks is naturally Bethells (Te Henga). This has its own pages on this site. If you want to see some native New Zealand bush on the way (Bethells itself has been almost all cleared of bush), or if the day is too wild and windy for the beach, you could turn off the Bethells Road into Falls Road, drive through the golf course to the end of the road, and take the Auckland City Walk loop track.

If Bethells is on the edge of the Waitakeres, Muriwai is on the edge of the northern foothills. North of Muriwai itself is Muriwai Beach, straight, flat and 25 miles long. You can legally drive up the beach. You can actually do it, too, if you know what you're doing, or if you don't you can get your car stuck and turned into a submarine when the tide comes in. Your insurance may not cover this.

Inland from Muriwai beach is Woodhill Forest, one of the radiata pine forests that makes up New Zealand's substantial timber industry. Many of the pine-forest scenes in Xena were filmed in Woodhill Forest, close to the Muriwai forest entrance.
 

Before you set out....

Take your supplies (food, drink, film etc) with you or buy them before you leave the Auckland suburbs. There is a shop at Muriwai, one at Piha, and one in Huia village. There is none at Karekare, or Whatipu. There is a caravan at Bethells that does fast food, currently every summer weekend only. Other than that, the nearest shops - and petrol stations - are at Swanson, Glen Eden and Titirangi - 15 miles from the coast. This sounds incredible but it's true.

See also the 'Hazards' page for more vital things to take....


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