Lake Matheson

Image: Miles Holden | ©


A gentle walk leads to views of the mountains reflected on the still waters of Lake Matheson. It's one of our best short walks.


  • Reflections of New Zealand's tallest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook.



Fitness required: Suitable for all fitnesses
Gradient: Undulating


Track overview

2.6 km loop

Walking and tramping

1 hr 30 min Easiest: Easy access short walk

Dog access

No dogs

About this track


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.

Getting there

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.

Be prepared

Ensure you take:

  • drinking water
  • insect repellant
  • sun protection
  • warm and waterproof clothing.

All drone use must be authorised by DOC

A concession is required to fly a drone on any public conservation land.


Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 752 0360
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   69 Cron Street
Franz Josef Glacier 7856
Postal Address:   PO Box 14
Franz Josef Glacier 7856
Hokitika Office
Phone:   +64 3 756 9100
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   10 Sewell Street
Hokitika 7810
Postal Address:   Private Bag 701
Hokitika 7842
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