Beaches, lakes & coastline
The unsurpassed views and mountain reflections from the forested shores of Lake Matheson make this easy walk one of the most popular on the West Coast.
Famous for mirror views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, Lake Matheson is nestled in ancient forest just 5 km from Fox Glacier Weheka.
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.
Lake Matheson’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.
If you are 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.
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 (this is well signposted). Travel 5 km along this road then turn right onto the side road to Lake Matheson.