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Guide to the Reflection Lakes at Lake Matheson, New Zealand

Guide to the Reflection Lakes at Lake Matheson, New Zealand

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Made famous for its Reflection Lake, this spot is absolutely incredible for mirror photography.

Lake Matheson / Te Ara Kairaumati is a popular spot to visit near the township of Fox Glacier on the West Coast of the South Island.

After hearing about the incredible photography opportunities from Reflection Island, we knew it was somewhere we had to visit for sunset. The lake offers a rare, west-side view of Mount Cook, unlike the usual perspective from the Hooker Valley Track.

Let’s just say we weren’t disappointed. To date, this is still one of my favourite photography locations in New Zealand.

How to Get to Matheson Lake

Access to the Lake Matheson walking track is via a huge free car park located approximately 5 km from the Fox Glacier Township. I've pinned the exact location on the map below to help you find it.

There is a souvenir shop, cafe and public toilet at the beginning of the walk.

Matheson lake walk map

Matheson Lake Loop Walk

  • Distance: 2.5 km circuit
  • Time: 1 hour (depending on how many times you stop)
  • Difficulty: Easy (flat)
  • Jetty Viewpoint: Wheelchair Track 40 minutes

The Lake Matheson walk is a short 2.5 km lakeside loop through lush native forests. The track is mostly flat and has several spots and wooden viewpoints to stop and take photos of the incredible Mt Cook reflections.

Lake matheson loop circuit map
Source: DOC / Lake Matheson Loop
Trail with views of mount cook at sunset

Reflection Island

By far the best and most popular spot to get Lake Matheson reflections of New Zealand's tallest mountain is a spot known as Reflection Island. This can be found 1.4 km along the track walking in an anti-clockwise direction.

This is a small wooden bridge that leads out to an "island" near the edge of the lake. The great thing about this spot is that it lines up perfectly with the Cook mountain range, offering exceptional mirror reflections in the calm lake waters.

After you've snapped some shots, continue around the lake to find the Jetty Viewpoint, which also offers epic views!

Location: Island Viewpoint

Directions to reflection island for viewing area, lake matheson
Matheson lake new zealand, reflection island sunset
Sunset at Lake Matheson without cloud cover

Should I Visit the Lake at Sunrise or Sunset?

After doing a little bit of research, it seems that the consensus is that sunrise at the lake provides the best lighting conditions for reflections. However, I'm going to have to disagree.

Since Lake Matheson is on New Zealand's West Coast, the sun sets behind the lake, avoiding harsh light in your photos and lighting up Mt Cook beautifully.

However, in saying this Mount Cook is often behind a thick blanket of clouds at sunset unless the skies are clear.

Views of mount cook from the lake matheson walking trail

More Lake Matheson Photos to Inspire Your Trip

Here are some more photos I captured around Lake Matheson and the incredible Reflection Island at sunset.

I hope they'll inspire you to make the quick detour from Fox Glacier or the West Coast.

Close up shot of mt cook aoraki from lake matheson
Lake matheson new zealand
Lake matheson new zealand, reflection island mt cook view
Cows eating at sunset at lake matheson walk

Where to stay on the West Coast!

Below are my top picks for the best places to stay on the West Coast for your South Island New Zealand adventures!

Rainforest deluxe accommodation outdoor view of rooms, new zealand

1. Rainforest Deluxe Franz Josef

The perfect place to unwind whilst being surrounded by nature after a long full day of exploring.

Fox glacier lodge bedroom with forest views, new zealand

2. Fox Glacier Lodge Fox Glacier

Located close to the center of town and the Glow Worm Trail. Fox Glacier Lodge offers guests a calm and welcoming stay with incredible snow-capped mountain views.

Beachfront hotel in hokitika room layout with ocean views, new zealand

3. Beachfront Hotel Hokitika

Located on the beach front this hotel ticks all the boxes for the ultimate place to stay in Hokitika. It boasts modern rooms and a restaurant with ocean views.

More Things to Do on the West Coast

Looking for more travel guides and articles for things to do on the West Coast? After visiting Lake Matheson, make sure to consider some of the other travel guides and blogs below.

If you're looking for great hikes, make sure to check out this guide to the 31 Best Hikes in the South Island.

Enjoy and stay adventurous!

Guide to the reflection lakes at lake matheson new zealand
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.