The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is known for two things: rain, and epic coastal views. While rainfall amounts vary in the Westland, some areas receive as much as 18 meters of rain (54 feet!) a year. As a result of this rain, much of this area is heavily forested with swamps in certain areas. In addition to the fantastic forests that cover the West Coast, the views along the coastline never fail to impress, irrespective of whether there is precipitation or not. One of the easiest, and best hikes in the region, the Truman Track, combines much of the best features of the area, along with a stunning beach, and is a must-do hike for visitors to the region.
Directions: The Truman Track is located directly off of Highway 6, and is part of Paparoa National Park. The track is signed on both sides of Highway 6, and is three kilometers to the North of the nearest town, Punakaiki. From the parking area, the trail heads through the edge of the rainforest, before transitioning to taller shrubs, including flax bushes which gradually thin as one approaches the coast. The official track ends some .6 kilometers (.3 miles) at a lookout point above Truman Beach. However, there is a maintained staircase that descends to Truman Beach. Depending on the conditions (season/high or low tide), Truman Beach has a small waterfall, and is perhaps one of the best (and most secluded beaches) along the West Coast. With that in mind, visitors should be aware that the West Coast as a whole has violent tides; and Truman Beach is no exception. Visitors should not descend to the beach unless it is low tide, due to the strong currents and waves present in the ocean; and even at low tide, should keep an eye on the ocean at all times. From the lookout, visitors can return to the parking area via the same trail, for a roundtrip hike of 1.2 kilometers (.6 miles). This hike is accessible to all skill levels, and is relatively level overall, which is another positive.
Tips: Although the West Coast, as I mentioned is stunning as a whole, in my opinion, Truman Beach is perhaps the best beach on the west coast of the island overall. For starters, the scenery at the beach is just stunning, with eroded rock formations, and the aforementioned waterfall. Separately, and equally as important, the beach is fairly, if not completely secluded because of the short hike to get to it. While the West Coast is fairly sparsely populated as a general rule, it is a fairly amazing experience to sit on Truman Beach and feel completely and utterly alone from not only New Zealand, but from the rest of the world. Additionally, the Truman Track is located near two other great West Coast spots, Punakiki Cavern, and the infamous Pancake Rocks. Finally, visitors to this area of the West Coast should be aware that there are few towns in the area, and what towns there are have limited hours for tourist services. Tourists should therefore be prepared in advance with ample supplies and gasoline when traveling the region.