Lake Matheson is one of most photographed lakes in NZ because of its mirror reflection of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman.

The walk is an easy 2.6 km on a very good track, it took us 1.5 hours to go around the whole lake, it’s a great short walk. If you feel this is too long you can take the 20min walk to the first lookout, you’ll still get great photos from there. We came across lots of great viewing platforms along the way. It’s a 5 min, 5k drive from Fox Glacier to Lake Matheson. There is a very good cafe and clean toilets there. It gets busy though with lots of tourists.

After you’ve finished your walk around Lake Matheson, why not relax in the main hot pools at Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools. Or even better, take a soak in the Franz Josef Glacier Private Hot Pools. The hot pools even have a Private Pamper Package!

Quick Facts about this walk

  • Location: Fox Glacier, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
  • Distance: 2.6 km
  • Time needed: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Wheelchair Access: No
  • Route: Round Trip Circuit
  • Elevation: 94m
  • Wet Feet: No
  • Toilets: Yes
  • Dogs: No
  • Mobile Coverage: No
  • Last Updated: March, 2020

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Summary points about this walk

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Points of interest along the walk​

Park in the car park and start walking at the cafe

The track to Lake Matheson starts between the cafe and the souvenir shop. There are no toilets on the walk so use the toilets at the end of the car park or the best option is the toilets in the cafe.

Turn off at the swing bridge

Three minutes into the walk you will cross a swing bridge. We had to wait in a line to get across the swing bridge, there was a bus load of people all trying to take photos of the creek at the same time causing a bottleneck. Five minutes into the walk we arrived at a junction, so we decided to get away from the mob and take the turnoff to the right.

Reflection Island – a great spot for photos

Arriving at Reflection Island and being surprised by the view of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman reflecting off the water made up for the forty minutes of a so so walk around the first half of Lake Matheson. Our last visit to the lake was spoiled by grey skies and a cold wind but today was perfect.

Boardwalk made for very easy walking

The boardwalk section was interesting after walking through the wet and cold green coastal bush, we stopped in the sun to warm up for a few minutes while looking at another mirror view of Lake Matheson.

The Jetty was another great viewing spot

I think the jetty had a different outlook to Reflection Island. Reflection Island is on the Northern side of Lake Matheson, hence you get a better photo of Mt Cook. I also found the jetty very busy because of the number of people who are not up to walking the complete circuit of Lake Matheson, the short twenty-minute walk is enough for them. The walk back was quick, we couldn’t wait to get back into the sun and warm up, so it was time for a flat white and a slice of cake in the Lake Matheson Cafe. The cafe was what we were expecting for a tourist attraction, 5 out of 10. At least the flat white was hot and the extra-long service gave us time to warm up in the morning sun.

Relax in the Glacier Hot Pools after your walk

It can get quite cold in Fox Glacier even in the summer. The new hot pools located in Franz Josef town (only a 25 min drive from Fox Glacier) are an excellent place to relax and warm up after walking around Lake Matheson. Book a single ticket to the main pools or enjoy the luxury of a private pool. Even better is the private pool pamper package where you’ll have extras with a robe and antipasto platter for 2. For more details about the Glacier Hot Pools click here.

More walks close to Fox Glacier

Franz Josef is just down the road from Fox Glacier.

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