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.
Note: As of late 2018, Auckland Council have closed most of the walking tracks in the bush in an attempt to control the spread of kauri dieback disease. This includes the tracks mentioned. Some may reopen at some unspecified date, googling 'Waitakere closed tracks' should give some information and possibly even a map of which tracks are open.
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.|
||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.
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.|
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.
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. (As of late 2018, the track was still open as far as the falls.)
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.
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.
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)
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. (Closed as of late 2018, see notes further up).
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.
See also the 'Hazards' page for more vital
things to take....
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The 'New Xenaland' name and 'Xena' logos
Screengrabs and 'stills' from 'Hercules' and 'Xena' which are (C) Renaissance Pictures
Topographic maps which are (C) Land Information NZ
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