Lake Matheson is nestled in ancient forest and is famous for mirror views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. It's excellent mirror-like 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.
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.
Time: 1 hr 30 min return lake circuit
Distance: 2.6 km return lake circuit
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.
Dawn and dusk are generally the best viewing times as the lake is generally calm.
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.
If you're lucky you may see an eel break the surface of the lake. The species most likely to be seen here is the long-finned eel, which made this an important foodgathering site (mahinga kai) for Māori travelling along the coast.
Know before you go
- Check the current track conditions and weather forecasts at the local DOC office (Fox Glacier Weheka township) or the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre before starting your trip.
- Always take warm and waterproof clothing as the weather can change rapidly.
- Carry drinking water, insect repellent and sun protection at all times.
- Overnight camping is not permitted in or near the car park.