Lake Matheson Walk - Activities
Lake Matheson is one of New Zealand's most scenic icons. Situated on the West Coast of the South Island, in the heart of Glacier Country and Westland National Park, the Lake Matheson walk is a must do attraction for all visitors to Fox Glacier & Franz Josef Glacier. 'Picture Perfect' reflections of New Zealand's highest peaks Mt Cook & Mt Tasman can be captured in the dark waters of this ancient lake formed by the retreat of the Fox Glacier.
... A photographer's paradise!
The walkway winds through giant rainforest with abundant bird life and endless photo opportunities. Situated 6km west of Fox Glacier township the walking track starts between Matheson Café and ReflectioNZ Gifts & Gallery. There is an introduction / interpretation area at the entrance, which is a great place to familiarise yourself with the walk.
Visits to lake Matheson started in the 1950s. Guests from the Fox Hotel were encouraged to go on this early morning excursion. All would gather for a cup of tea in the hotel kitchen then a short bus trip down to the lake car park (if the bus would start!). The walk would start from the same place as now but with no bridges everyone’s feet were soon wet. A 15-minute walk through the bush track would get them to a small beach where a rowboat was moored. With the guide at the oars guests would soon be at Reflection Island. Low fog would sometimes increase the boat ride, as they would go in circles until the fog cleared. Once on Reflection Island there was an impatient 5 min wait for the ripples from the boat to settle and the perfect reflection of New Zealand’s highest peaks to appear.
Carpark to Jetty viewpoint walk (40 minutes return - short walk / wheel chair)
A well formed track edges around farmland, before winding through mature stands of rimu, totara and kahikatea forest with lush broadleaf shrubs and ferns crowded beneath. If all is in your favour, the jetty viewpoint will provide the first glimpse of the mountains reflecting into the lake’s dark still waters.
Lake Matheson Circuit Walk (1.5 hours)
From the jetty viewpoint, the track meanders above the lake edge up to the Western wetland where flax / harakeke frames the lake. Re-enter the forest before reaching the ‘view of views’ lookout - a favourite place to capture the ‘iconic’ image of Lake Matheson. Another 15 minutes brings you to Reflection Island. The forest grades into wetland again as the track circuits’ the eastern end before linking up with the first part of the track back to the carpark.