woodhill v3  
New Xenaland
Woodhill Forest

It has long been fairly obvious that a likely candidate for many of the pine forest scenes in Xena was Woodhill Forest. However, the size of the forest (and the number of other possible forest locations in the Auckland area) made attempts to track down locations in Woodhill appear uninviting.

The forest just south of the dunes at Bethells appears to be the most likely location for many of the scenes such as, for example, the ambush at the end of Helicon. However, this little forest never seemed likely to provide locations such as the Amazon camp in Sin Trade and Them Bones.

Then Renee, in the Season 4 DVD commentaries, mentioned understudying T J Scott in Sin Trade 'at Muriwai Beach'. The only major scenes in Sin Trade unaccounted for were the Amazon camp and the 'flying fight' with Alti. And, the search area in Woodhill is not as forbidding as first appears: though the coastal forest is 20 miles long and three miles wide, it only has three public access points, of which just one is located at Muriwai. A gravel road runs north from the main Muriwai road for a mile to a car park at the forest entrance at the Okiritoto Stream crossing.

Woodhill (a little bit of it) from above Maori Bay.
The mouth of Okiritoto Stream can be seen on the shoreline.
The dust cloud in the right centre of the photo (click for enlargement!)
is just by the parking area at the forest entrance.
Believe it or not, the light patch of silver poplars to the
right of it is where Gabs encountered Alti in Them Bones.
I have to say that walking through parts of Woodhill is very pleasant; much of it is an area of ancient sandhills, so there are small gullies and ridges, maybe 50 or 100 feet high, which make the terrain interesting. From the top of a ridge you can look out past the tree trunks over a few hundred yards of forest below, which gives a nice 'open' feeling to the forest, and the ridges are not so high as to make climbing them hard work.

The ground between the trees is mostly free of undergrowth and there are little trails all over the forest, and the carpet of pine needles is very pleasant underfoot, even barefoot, and the sand underneath keeps the ground dry and non-swampy. The few trails used by trailbikes and horses have been churned up into fine soft West Coast black sand which makes the going much harder, but of course one can always walk alongside them on the pine needles.

Cleared forest, on the other hand, where the loggers have been, is not so pleasant; bare bleak hillsides, covered with sharp splintered bits of branches and with all sorts of weeds and scrub growing where the tree cover has been removed. I can understand why the Amazons were so upset when Ares started wrecking their forest in Coming Home.

The forest is Crown (government) land, though leased to a forestry company. Entry for a number of recreational uses (horse-riding, trail bike riding etc) is by permit only, but, so far as I can tell, it appears that pedestrian access is 'free' and doesn't require a permit.

The scene I was primarily looking for was almost the last I located - both because I unwittingly approached the area 'backwards', exploring the east first, and because - sadly - the Amazon camp really has been destroyed. The scenes in Coming Home were genuine.

Sadly, ten years after Coming Home, the Cable Road area (described below) is also scheduled to be logged. The area to the east, between the Okiritoto Stream and Lake Okaihau, has already been logged, in early 2009. The area between Cable Road and the stream was scheduled to be logged at the same time, but due to 'filming activities in the area' (probably Legend of the Seeker) it has been reprieved until March 2010. This is very sad, not just for its associations with Xena and Hercules episodes, but simply because it is a magic place, sheltered by the tall pines but open between the trunks, floored by a carpet of pine needles, with the sandy stream bordering it.

When we hear that the logging has taken place, this page will stay up (with an appropriate note) as a sort of memorial to how it was.

[Early 2011]: I'm told the logging has now taken place. I'm not going back to look, I'd rather remember it as the magic place it was, than have the memory overlaid. In 30 years time it may once again be an open space under the trees, in 60 years they will be as high and airy as they are now. If anyone has seen it currently, drop me a note and let me know for sure, would you?

Cable Road

A is the 4-wheel-drive access to the beach
B is the main forest gate
P are parking areas
C is the corner of Cable Road

1 is the cemetery in Be Deviled
2 is the Amazon camp in Sin Trade / Them Bones
   Just to its right is the little hillock from Coming Home
   The thin line around 1 - 2 shows the edge of the logged area
3 is the Amazon ambush in Coming Home
4 is the very first ambush scene in Endgame
5 is Gabby's deer hunt in Them Bones
6 is the ambush of Pompey's troops in Endgame
7 - 7 is Gabs' encounter with Alti in Them Bones
8 is the fishing scene in Endgame
9 is Swan Lake from Crusader

Cable Road could be called the centre of everything, so far as Pacific Renaissance's activities in Woodhill are concerned. It's also one of those locations that, like Bethells and Mt Mangere, could be truly called 'magic' for the wealth of scenery within a very small area.

The 'road' (actually a forest track, and not to be confused with the signposted Cable Road a few miles east of Muriwai) runs from just inside the forest entrance, almost due east to cross the Okiritoto Stream by a wooden bridge. This track, and the areas on each side of it, have been extensively used in XWP.

From the forest entrance gate at the Okiritoto Stream, the main forest road runs north-west. After 300 yards, Cable Road branches off to the right at an acute angle. For half a mile, Cable Road is bordered on the northern side by a long narrow flat area - like a valley but with only one side - edged by a steep ridge, which eventually moves closer to border the road as it approaches the stream bridge to the east. On the south side, pine woods fill the area between the road and the meandering stream. At one point, the stream approaches close enough that a camera crane on the road can look over the low intervening ridge through the pines to the stream a few yards away.

Right from the road junction, the 'locations' start. [Numbers] refer to the map.

Adjoining the junction on its north side is the lower end of the flat area - this was the 'graveyard' in Be Deviled [1]. Hercules and Iolaus walked from there up Cable Road in the last scene of that episode.

This is how it used to be....

... and this is how it is now.
At least Cable Road survives

The first quarter mile of Cable Road was used in Key to The Kingdom, for the scenes with the runaway chariot.
Shooting Key to the Kingdom, Renpics
had cloudy skies...
... which are much better than bright sunlight
for forest scenes!

Sad to say, the long flat area immediately north of the road has been recently logged, but for most of the time when Hercules and Xena were in production, it was mostly covered in mature pines. This was the site of many of the skirmishes in Be Deviled, and also of the Northern Amazons' camp in Sin Trade and Them Bones, Them Bones [2]. It must have been an ideal location, with a steep ridge on the northern side to form a backdrop, tall open pines on the flat forest floor, and Cable Road running right along the southern edge for easy access. Towards the upper (eastern) end, just above the Amazon camp, an isolated hummock separated the top end of the valley from Cable Road.

Working the way up the 'valley' ...

From Be Deviled

Looking 'down' the valley (westwards) through the open pines
'Sin' looking quite attractive at the Amazon camp site
(no apparent connection to the Sin of Sin Trade)
Looking east up the valley

From Sin Trade

Just before Xena crashes to earth in the
'flying fight' - looking westwards, there
must have been some large
clearings in the valley
Looking across the Amazon campsite
Looking east - note the little sloping ridge
and track behind Xena

And from Them Bones - this was shot from near the top of the hummock, east of the Amazon camp, and the images are shown in reverse order from right to left

The Amazon camp in the distance
Note the track branches left across a little ridge just before it -
yes, same ridge, but seen from the top.
Note the multi-trunked tree at right....
Same tree, or what's left of it
The camera crane sat by Cable Road
(foreground) and looked right over
the top of the hummock

And an unexpected one - from Endgame

Xena rides in to drag Brutus away
and yes, same ridge
Hard to tell from the photo, but
this is the same spot now.
(Ground contours don't show up well at mid-day).

At least RenPics gave its passing an honourable mention in Coming Home, with the reference to Ares 'destroying the Amazon forest' and a shot of the devastation - and, with an impressive respect for continuity in a situation where nobody was likely to notice and nobody even knew, until now - they chose exactly the correct position to shoot the scene from.
They even got the same tree in the foreground - though that may have been habit.

Xena and companions climb the
little hillock in Coming Home

... and the view that met them
Note how the young trees have grown since!

Happily, all the forest south of Cable Road, between the road and the stream, is still intact. Due south of the Amazon camp site, just across Cable Road, is the spot where Marga's Amazons ambushed Ares' men [3]. (And Xena heard it from the top of the hillock - what authenticity!)

Amazons in ambush
Note the slanting poplar trunks behind -
only found along the stream
Cameras-eye-view from Cable Road
thirty yards away
Notice the distinctive pattern of
tree branches behind...
... though the left-hand tree has lost
a few branches over the years

This is actually quite a good place to enter the area - just follow the foot track from the car park to cross the stream a few yards up and cut north at the end of the poplars to cross the little ridge and reach Cable Road.

Just to complete the episode, back at the road, near the base of the little hillock, where the camera crane was parked earlier, is the spot where Marga's Amazons confronted Ares' troops and Xena beat up the God of War at the end of the episode.

Xena rides up the devastated valley
Ares with the hillock behind, to left
Queen Marga's Amazons are unimpressed

200 yards further up Cable Road, fifty yards after the trees commence again, is a spray-painted sign on a tree trunk pointing to the right into the forest that says 'WP HP' (could 'WP' mean 'Warrior Princess'?). Thirty yards down the path is the scene of the very first shot in Endgame [4]. (I found the tree before I noticed the sign, though).

Why the fake 'moonlight', I don't know
Compare that tree, centre right....
(note: 2005: it's lost those two long
raking branches to its left now)
Just follow the sign for 30 yards...

This area is also the site of Gabrielle's deer hunt in Them Bones [5].

I think the stream is probably behind Gabrielle.
I can't 'fix' this shot (yet) but....
.. this shot from the sequence gives a clue.
Note the two trees with long untrimmed branches -
- quite distinctive and visible for some distance
through the forest

Just east of here, Cable Road passes through a narrow gap between the long ridge to the north and an isolated ridge on its southern side. Just beyond this gap, and immediately before the bridge over the Okiritoto Stream, is where Xena ambushed Pompey's troops and rescued their Amazon captives in Endgame [6].
Looking east to the stream bridge....
... and west back down the 'road'

This little clearing looked 'right' the first time I walked across the bridge and saw it. Compare the photos with scans from the episode:

The scraggly slanting poplars behind Xena
show the stream is there

The Roman makes his escape
The sign says 'Weight Limit 1500 kg'
in case you wanted to know

Notice that the small tree ahead of the fleeing Roman has turned into a couple of poles in the lower photo. The poles are actually cable markers, but, very interestingly, one of them has the dried remains of a tree branch taped to it - confirmation (if any were needed) that this is the right place. Why else would anyone climb twelve feet up a pole to decorate it?

'I have conclusive proof...' - Brutus, Ides

Just beyond this is the bridge over the Okiritoto Stream.

Okiritoto Stream

The Okiritoto Stream, a pleasant stream with a sandy bottom, running along the edge of the trees, looks ideal for a 'stream' location; however, the only locations I've identified so far are well downstream.

Just upstream of the forest entrance gate, is where Gabrielle encountered Alti in the 'dreamscape' in Them Bones, Them Bones [7]. This scene was shot as a number of separate shots then cut together, so the antagonists were not necessarily facing each other in reality. In the four years since the scene was shot, trees have changed slightly, and the southern edge of the stream has (probably) been logged, incidentally damaging the ti-tree scrub behind Alti in the left-hand scan, so I can't get an exact match; but this site matches more closely than anywhere else on the stream.

Looking east (the stream is behind Alti)...
and now west (the stream is still behind her,
she's now on the opposite bank)
The stream is hidden in its channel...
... running across the middle of the picture

"Is this a dagger that I see before me?"
Well, it sure isn't Alti, because the stream
(where Alti was) is directly behind Gabs
in this shot.
Scraggly ti-tree in front, stream and
pine forest behind
And this is just a few yards from the car park.

Below the road crossing at the forest entrance, the stream widens into a swamp, and just where this swamp reaches the back of the beach dunes, there's a small pool where, I think, the 'fishing' scene from Endgame was filmed [8].

Gabby goes fishing
and Xena is unimpressed

To find this spot, take the road towards the beach, as far as the small parking area just where the surface turns to sand. Walk through the gap in the fence and follow the small foot track north for 50 yards until it meets a wider track running at right angles; head left on this track (towards the sea) for 50 yards or so, until it comes on the stream at the base of a small sand dune. That's it.

Lake Okaihau ("Swan Lake")

Seen from the forest boundary

'Swan Lake' from Crusader is Lake Okaihau, just east of the forest boundary [9]. It's in private land, and the direct track leading to it from Grass Track Road is signposted "No Entry"; however, a good view of it can be obtained by following the parallel track just to the north, as far as the forest boundary which is just a few yards from the lake.

Okiritoto Falls

The Okiritoto Stream cuts across the forest, past the forest entrance gate to the coast. Upstream of the forest, and well into private farmland, the map shows two waterfalls on it. Very unexpectedly, from the eastern boundary of the forest, Toroanui Falls is clearly visible at the head of its valley half a mile away. Okiritoto Falls, three hundred yards further upstream, is hidden by the curving valley sides, in the usual way of waterfalls.

Toroanui Falls
I had thought that Toroanui Falls could, just possibly, be the waterfall in Many Happy Returns. But Toroanui appears to be much higher and narrower than the MHR falls. Which left their identity unconfirmed until Matt, from Auckland, sent me the excellent picture below. A quick glance at it confirmed the identity of another falls I've been hunting for a long time, as well - the waterfall where the Amazons were bathing in Kindred Spirits.

Okiritoto Falls in summer, at low flow
(thanks, Matt)
The waterfall in Many Happy Returns
... and in Kindred Spirits...
... with Amazons swimming

The MHR and Kindred Spirits waterfalls are Okiritoto Falls.

Hercules had used the falls a year earlier in Resurrection, where a stuntie jumped off the falls.

It looked as if Morrigan was about to fly...
... but she jumped instead.
The pool must be surprisingly deep for such a small stream

This has also, I think, answered another question that's been bothering me for years - the green valley where Xena, Joxer, Gabs and Argo are walking beside the stream near the start and end of Punch Lines. If you look closely at the very first view of it, the stream behind disappears over what looks like a waterfall. This looks entirely consistent with what you can see from the reverse direction in the views looking up the fall, above.
First sight of the stream in Punch Lines
Aerial view of the two falls
Toroanui at lower left, Okiritoto upper centre
The Punch Lines scenes are, I think, on the south bank,
just to the right of the group of trees above the fall

Maori Bay

Not part of Woodhill Forest but, while you're at Muriwai, if you're an obsessive scene-collecting freak like some on this site, you might also like to check out Maori Bay, the crash-landing site from Looking Death in the Eye - see the North of Bethells page for details.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Exceptions are:
The 'New Xenaland' name and logos
Screengrabs and 'stills' from 'Hercules' and 'Xena' which are (C) Renaissance Pictures
Large-scale topographic maps which are (C) Land Information NZ

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional

Made with Bluefish HTML editor.

Locations Index


NewXenaland Main Page


Any comments or questions, email: cr at orcon dot net dot nz