This is one of the easiest and most popular walks on the West Coast and is suitable for people of all abilities and fitness.
The 2.6 kilometre circuit around the Lake takes about 1 ½ hours return. The track to the Jetty Viewpoint is a wheelchair access track and takes 40 minutes return. Tucked between two moraine terraces on the northern side of the Cook River Flats, Lake Matheson is one of the most well-known ‘postcard’ scenes in New Zealand.
Once in Fox Glacier Village, turn off the Main Road State Highway 6 and drive down Cook Flat Road. The junction is next to the old Fox Glacier Hotel. There are signposts for both Lake Matheson and Gillespie’s Beach. Please adhere to the speed limit and remember that you will pass the local school. Five kilometres from the main road you will see the signpost for the turn off to Lake Matheson. The car park is about one kilometre from the Cook Flat Road.
From the car park walk past the Lake Matheson Gift Shop and Cafe to the Clearwater River suspension bridge, this is the river that goes on to feed the Gillespie’s Beach Lagoon. Wander through ancient podocarp hardwood forests past tall kahikatea (white pine) and rimu (red pine) to the Jetty Viewpoint. If you are lucky you may see a long finned eel at one of the viewpoints. The lake was an important food-gathering site for Moari travelling along the coast hunting for pounamu or greenstone.
The lake was formed when Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe retreated some 14 000 years ago. The glacier ground a slump in the moraine debris which then filled with water, forming the lake. The long-finned eel found in the lake made this an important food-gathering site (mahinga kai) for M?ori travelling along the coast searching for pounamu (jade or greenstone).