Lake Matheson

Hike around this picturesque lake in the forest to see the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps reflected in its dark waters on a clear day.

Find the mirroring beauty of Lake Matheson on the remote west coast of the South Island. Peer into the dark waters of the lake, which are a rich brown color due to organic matter leached from the sediments of the forest floor. It is this dark color that gives the lake its famous reflective qualities and on a clear day, you can see snow-capped Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman reflected in the lake.

See all Lake Matheson has to offer by walking around it, through the emerald green forest. The Lake Circuit walk is about 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) and takes about 1.5 hours if you are generally fit. A shorter and wheelchair-friendly option is the Jetty Viewpoint walk, covering just over half a mile (1 kilometer).

Arrive here at dawn or dusk to see the changing moods of the lake. Mornings and evenings are generally also the least windy, to get that polished mirror shine to the lake. Pause at each of the three viewing platforms to see different perspectives of the lake, with the best views from its westernmost point, where you can gaze up at the Southern Alps to the east.

After your walk, treat yourself to a coffee and a snack at the Matheson Café. Situated at the start of the walks, the café offers great lake views as well. As you eat, let your mind wander to imagine the first Māori of the area, who used this as an important food gathering site on their travels south. They especially enjoyed the long-finned eels that can be found in the lake. Have a look in the adjoining gallery for some ornate Māori artworks or other beautiful souvenirs.

Lake Matheson is just a short drive to the west of Fox Glacier, which is not only a glacier but also a small town. Get here by car and park for free by the lake. The larger towns of Greymouth to the north and Wanaka to the south are each about 3 hours away, so consider staying the night in the local area and also take in the Franz Josef Glacier to the east, half an hour away by car.