Destination Guide

The Travel Well Guide

Lake Matheson

City: Fox Glacier village       State: N/A       Country: New Zealand
Lake Matheson, near the Fox Glacier in South Westland, New Zealand, is famous for its reflected views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. A traditional mahinga kai (food gathering place) for Maori people, the lake contains long finned eel as well as being home to many water birds. Carved out at the peak of the last ice age some 14,000 years ago by the Fox Glacier, when it was much nearer the Tasman Sea, Lake Matheson provides one of the iconic images of New Zealand, as the peaks of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman are reflected in its still waters, framed by the rainforest that surrounds the lake and protects it from breezes that would disturb its perfect surface. Because the lake bed contains large amounts of dissolved sediment left there by the glacier, its waters are dark, increasing its properties as a mirror. The forty-minute stroll down to the lake from the Fox Glacier village leads through beautiful temperate rainforest to the jetty, positioned to give the best possible views. You also catch glimpses of the reflection from the lake-shore path. If you can, the best times of day to come here are sunrise and sunset. As dawn breaks over the mountains in the east, eerie blue light spills over the snow-covered peaks and down into the valley below, highlighting the mist as the reflection gradually becomes clearer and brighter. At the other end of the day, the mountains take on an orange hue as the sun drops, chased up the mountain sides ever-deepening shades as it finally drops below the horizon.

Climate | When to Visit

Spring to autumn is the best time to go.
Visit during: September to April

Directions | How to Reach

By road, then on foot. The lake is 6 km (4 mi) from Fox Glacier township along Cook Flat Road, and the walk around the lake takes about 70 minutes

miscellaneous | Important Information

Don't miss the sunrise and sunset.

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