The Artist's Guide to the West Coast Trail


If I could say just one thing about the West Coast Trail it would be “Go do it!”. If I could say a hundred things about it, it would not be enough.


It took 2,134 photos and videos over eight days to capture the magnificence that is the west coast. As you go along, the landscape changes from otherworldly beaches with boulders scattered across shallow tidal flats, to white sand, to a tropical rainforest with trees towering overhead. The variety is even more enhanced by the changes in light and the ocean mist that rolled in almost every evening.

west coast trail scenery photography

While the scenery is the major attraction for nature lovers, there has to be something said for the feeling of disconnectedness. The only use for your phone is to take photos. The only objective for the day is to get to the next camp. All the while, the vastness of the ocean to your side reminds you of how insignificant your problems are in the grand scheme. For me, that was the life changing part of the West Coast Trail. And once you come back, you realise that the world got on just fine without you.

Even though we did the hike in peak season, we came across very few people while walking, and it was easy enough to find a secluded spot at most campsites and enjoy the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere.


We did spot plenty of wildlife though - eagles, seals, otters, whales, deer, lots of marine birds, and of course, a couple of bears. I can tell you from experience that the best bear sighting protocol is blaring out the Bohemian Rhapsody in 5 dissonant voices while trying to hike up a steep hill or climb a ladder. Until it turns out that the suspected bear in the bushes is just a couple of hikers walking towards us…

Photo by Kamil Szybalski

Photo by Kamil Szybalski

Since we took it easy and spread out the 75 kilometers over 8 days (most people do the hike in 5 or 6), there was plenty of time at camp to do some sketching. I only brought a small sketchbook and a pencil, which was quite liberating in contrast to a usual plein air set up that would have added too much weight to my pack.

We camped on the beach every night which provided lots of eye candy for my sea seeking eyes. Here are some of the results:

It’s taken a while to go through the 2000+ reference photos I took, but picking out the absolute best shots for painting is totally worth it. I’m so excited to continue the coastal theme in my painting and it will likely be a major part of my next show. Stay tuned for the West Coast Trail painting series.