Guide to getting those beautiful reflections on the Lake Matheson Walk, West Coast, New Zealand

Lake Matheson Walk

Lake Matheson is probably the West Coast’s most famous lake as it’s an incredible reflection lake, often reflecting Mt Cook and the Southern Alps in its tranquil waters.  It is only a 5 minute drive from Fox Glacier to Lake Matheson, in the beautiful West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand. If you are staying near Franz Josef Glacier, it is only a 30 minute drive.  It is the prettiest of New Zealand lakes, so grab your camera and lets go!

The Lake Matheson walk is the best Fox Glacier walk, besides viewing the glacier itself.  We were there on a cloudy day, so unfortunately no mountain reflections. However it was still, so the mist and trees created a beautiful eeriness that felt magical and calming.  So even if there is going to be no mountain reflection, I do highly recommend this West Coast walk.

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What is the Lake Matheson walk like?

I was totally surprised by the Lake Matheson walk.  I really thought, since it was a lake, and all the land around is quite flat, that this walk would be flat too.  But it wasn’t. It wasn’t difficult by any means, but it was undulating. Lots of ups and downs, no longer than a few minutes each really, so they weren’t hills or anything, but I got quite a sweat up and a wee puff going on.

So the track is full of boardwalks, and bush track.  You don’t need hiking boots or anything like this. I always recommend sports shoes at least, but you could do it in casual shoes no problem.

There are a few main sections to the Lake Matheson Track

  • Walk in, the first 10 minutes over the swing bridge and flat track
  • Turn right to head to Reflection Island (30-35 mins)
  • Go straight ahead to the Jetty Viewpoint (wheelchair and stroller accessible to this point)
  • At the halfway mark (ish) there is the View of Views (up the top of the stairs)

We chose to head to Reflection Island first.  If you want a beautiful landscape photo, then this is where you want to head as there is a boardwalk out to “Reflection Island” in the lake and you have unobstructed views of the lake.

As you can see from our photos, you can’t see any of the mountains, but I did borrow an image from Tourism New Zealand where you could see what it’s like if you strike it on the right day.

(Lake Matheson below, with the mountains clear: Photo credit: Miles Holden)

4 adults enjoying the beautiful views on the Lake Matheson walk, West Coast, NZ. Photo by Miles Holden

How long does it take to hike the Lake Matheson walk?

The Lake Matheson walk took us the full 90 minutes allocated including a few photo stops, and my 4 and 6 year old who were walking.  

How to get to Lake Matheson, New Zealand

Lake Matheson is located just out of the Fox Glacier township.  From the township head down Cook Flat Road (towards the sea) and drive straight for about 5km.  Lake Matheson will be signposted and you turn right onto Lake Matheson Road.

There is free carparking available here.

When to visit Lake Matheson

The absolute ideal time to visit Lake Matheson is at sunrise or sunset when the weather is often calmer and of course you can view it at golden hour. (that beautiful hour after sunrise or before sunset)  The lake has to be perfectly still for it to reflect, so no wind or rain at all. Just after we arrived at Reflection Island, just after I took a dozen photos, the rain came in and the views just fizzled away.

It is one of the best things to do in Fox Glacier, even without the reflections, although they do make it extra special.  We arrived at this viewpoint around 8.30am and it was still very calm, but every day is different and wild on the West Coast so you just have to take your chances.

Facilities at Lake Matheson

The Lake Matheson Cafe is located at the start of the Lake Matheson mirror lake walk.  In the summer months it is open from 8am until late, meaning you can get a cooked breakfast or dinner if you are walking at sunrise or sunset.  I’m looking at you avid photographers. In winter the Lake Matheson Cafe closes around 3pm. It’s a lovely outlook from here and the bakery items are particularly tasty.

ReflectioNZ Art Gallery and Gift store is also onsite if you wish to pick up any souvenirs.

There are public toilets just around the side of the art gallery.  

Lake Matheson Weather

If you are trying to work out the weather at Lake Matheson, there are no webcams here, but you could get a general idea, from the Fox Glacier webcam. The weather is often changeable in the West Coast region, so do keep checking and don’t be put off by some evening cloud.  It may completely clear in the morning. 

Lake Matheson Accommodation

There is no Lake Matheson camping ground or any accommodation right at Lake Matheson.  But Fox Glacier township is only a few minutes down the road. Have a look below for some family accommodation near Lake Matheson

Click here for more Fox Glacier Accommodation deals

If you are wondering what to do in Fox Glacier and other things to do on the West Coast, see below

Jennifer

Jennifer

Founder of Backyard Travel Family

Jen is a super organiser when it comes to travel. Having travelled extensively in Europe and Africa, has lived in London and the USA and holidayed in many parts of Asia, she is not a newbie to the travel space

Jen has three young children, 6 and under and travels around New Zealand with them.

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what you need to know

Travel

Located at the end of Lake Matheson Road, 5 minutes drive for Fox Glacier township

lake matheson walk

- 90 mins loop track walk
- boardwalks and bush track
- mix of flat track and small undulation. No hills but some up and down.
- one of the best walks around Fox Glacier

Suitable for kids?

Babies and toddlers will need a backpack/front pack to be carried as its a little far for them but preschoolers with some walking experience should be ok (perhaps a shoulder carry on the way) and primary school aged and above should have no problems. My 4 and 6 year old walked this without issue

Facilities

- Free Parking
- Toilets
- Gafe
- Majority of the track is shaded

What to bring

- Jackets as its often rainy
- camera
- money for a coffee

Food options

Lake Matheson Cafe onsite
Cafes in Fox Glacier township as well as Fox Glacier general store. Closest supermarket is 4 Square Franz Josef

What the critics thought

We got up early this morning and had breakfast in the car before this walk. I wished we could have seen the mountains. Mummy liked to take photos. The lake is pretty but I liked the glacier walk yesterday better. (Franz Josef Glacier)
Backyard Travel Family / Your go to for practical advice for active families travelling around New Zealand
Nathan
6 year old Leader
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