A gentle walk leads to views of the mountains reflected on the still waters of Lake Matheson. It’s one of the most popular short walks in New Zealand. Fitness required: Suitable for all fitnesses
Lake Matheson is nestled in ancient forest and is famous for mirror views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. Its excellent reflecting properties are due to the dark brown colour of the water – the result of organic matter leached from the humus of the forest floor. Dawn and dusk are the best times to enjoy the reflections in the lake.
Shorter option: Car park to Jetty Viewpoint
Time: 40 min return car park to jetty
Distance: 1 km return car park to jetty
The first section of the walk, to the Jetty Viewpoint, is suitable for assisted wheelchairs. After crossing the Clearwater suspension bridge, the walk to the Jetty Viewpoint takes you past tall kahikatea and rimu as well as a rich profusion of smaller plant varieties.
The jetty provides a magnificent mountain view reflected in the dark waters.
Longer option: Lake circuit
Time: 1 hr 30 min return
Distance: 2.6 km return
After walking to the Jetty Viewpoint, continue further around the lake. You will find a similarly magnificent mountain reflection shrouded in native foliage at the View of Views at the top end of the lake, and again at Reflection Island.
Turn onto Cook Flat Road in the middle of Fox Glacier Weheka township. Travel 5 km along this road then turn right onto the side road to Lake Matheson.
Nature and conservation
Lake Matheson was formed when Fox Glacier Te Moeka o Tuawe retreated from its last significant advance about 14,000 years ago. During the last major ice age, the glacier spread across the coastal plains towards the sea, dumping huge piles of rock. The glacier ground a depression which later filled with water, forming the lake.
The species most likely to be seen here is the long-finned eel, which made this an important food gathering site (mahinga kai) for Māori travelling along the coast.
Know before you go
Watercraft are not permitted on Lake Matheson
- No boating.
- No kayaking/canoeing.
What to expect
- Change in elevation: +/- 42 m
- Rapidly changing weather.
- A few resting areas along the track with one picnic table.
- Toilets at the car park.
Ensure you take:
- drinking water
- insect repellant
- sun protection
- warm and waterproof clothing.