Explore Lake Matheson

2.7 miles 98.4 ft gain  - Loop Trail

Added by Connor Bruson

Perfectly capture the epic sights of Mt. Cook, Mt. Tasman, and Fox Glacier in the crisp reflection of Lake Matheson's dark brown waters.

The Basics: Just a few kilometers outside the town of Fox Glacier, Lake Matheson provides stunning vistas in a mere 4.4 km return walk alongside a river, through dense foliage, and by expansive fields. Your adventure begins at a large carpark, complete with restrooms and a full-service cafe. This is a popular tourist destination, and travel bus companies like Stray and Kiwi Experience often stop here in the mid-mornings. 

The Walk: The track to Lake Matheson is well-signed from the carpark and begins with a short suspension bridge over the small river. The path is handicap accessible through this section to the closest edge of the lake. At this point, the Jetty Viewpoint provides a good photo-op across the lake, but you will want to continue around either side of the lake to get to the main photo ops that face the snow-capped mountains. Continuing counter-clockwise around the lake, views expand on your right-hand side across sweeping plains before a backdrop of jagged peaks. The gravel path then begins to climb through thick trees until you reach the Reflection Island Lookout. Just a few hundred meters further is the View of Views Lookout at the far end of the lake. Continue around the lake to complete the loop and grab a coffee at the cafe while you review all of your awesome shots.

Get the Shot: The two main viewpoints for photography are Reflection Island and View of Views. They both offer basically two versions of the same shot across the reflective lake waters. Reflection Island Lookout is built into the lake on a wooden dock, and it gives a straight-on perspective towards the major snowcapped peaks. The shot from Reflection Island is pictured above. View of Views Lookout's perspective contains a broader landscape of mountains with Mt. Tasman and Mt. Cook in the right-hand corner instead of center frame. The best time to snap a picture is in the early morning; the water is undisturbed, the low angle of the sun hits the mountains but doesn't reflect off the water, and the tourist bus crowds haven't arrived yet.

Secondary photographic opportunities are abundant along the walk. As mentioned and pictured above, the open grassland with the mountains in the background makes for a stunning capture. The Jetty Viewpoint focuses on the beauty of the lake itself, reflecting the reeds, trees, and plant life along the lake's borders. If you want to step up your photographic experience, book a flight with Fox Glacier Helicopters to see it all from the air! While you're in the area, you can also Hike to the Fox Glacier or Hike to the Summit of Mt. Fox above Fox Glacier

Read More


Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Handicap Accessible
Picnic Area


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

almost 2 years ago

Amazing at Sunrise

Such an amazing place for sunrise photography, we got up super early to see the sunrise over the mountains and catch the coveted Mt Cook reflection and it was well worth it. The bush and birdlife in the area is also quite amazing and would be worth a look at anytime of day. Definitely a must do when in the area

Lake Matheson Hike Is Great

Went for a walk around the lake about midday with some friends as we are making our rounds on the South Island. Beautiful walk with a lot of neat signs to stop and read detailing about the lake as well as the plant life around it. The view of views is breathtaking. That, and being able to enjoy the light mist that was settling on the lake made the whole experience mystifying.

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike to the Summit of Mount Fox above Fox Glacier

    The trail starts 3 km south of Fox Glacier Township. Take the Haast Highway until Thirsty Culvert, which has a small parking lot on the right side of the road. Start early in the morning to miss the almost daily afternoon fog. The trail climbs rel...

    5 miles 3430 ft gain

  • Heli Ice Climb on Fox Glacier

    Fox Glacier is one of the most remote, yet awesome places to visit on New Zealand's wild west coast of the South Island.  The weather here is extreme; it changes daily and the heavy rainfall paves the way for incredible green landscapes and native...

    2.5 miles 980 ft gain

  • Hike to the Fox Glacier

    From the carpark follow the well marked trail to the toe of the Fox Glacier. Do not stray from the trail as unstable ice and moraine can be very dangerous. Looking for a longer adventure? You can hike to the summit of Mt. Fox above Fox Glacier. 

    1.6 miles 246.1 ft gain

  • Hike to Robert's Point (Franz Josef Glacier)

    This trail is one of my favorite in New Zeanand. It wasn't so much 'built' as it was 'discovered'. The trail follows natural erosion and clean exposed flows of glacier carved granite walkways.You will enjoy thick, green rainforest, the reflective ...

    7.6 miles 1640.4 ft gain