Lake Matheson, South Island, New Zealand

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Matheson — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Lake Matheson cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Lake Matheson

The only way to approach Lake Matheson on the south island of New Zealand is on foot. Visitors to the South Westland lake park their cars, then start down the path that leads to the walking track circling the lake.

First they must cross the suspension bridge over Clearwater River, Lake Matheson’s outflow, and then the lake becomes visible through a break in the trees.

Set against the backdrop Mount Cook (or Aoraki in Maori) and Mount Tasman, Lake Matheson also holds its perfect reflection earning it the nickname “Mirror Lake.”

Visitors have been coming to the lake for centuries to enjoy the reflected view of the mountains, best seen in the morning. It is the color of the water and the stillness of its surface that makes the lake such a good reflecting pool.

Lake Matheson has dark brown water stained the color of rich ale by water leaching through the humus of the forest floor that surrounds the lake. In fact, Clearwater River isn’t clear at all but rather a dark brown where it leaves the lake journeying a bit downstream before clearing up.

The white and red pine forest that surrounds Lake Matheson protects the water from wind, keeping the surface of the lake glassy smooth. The trail that rings the lake leads through the ancient forest while at the same time being easily accessible. Part of it is even wheelchair accessible.

There are two particularly good viewing points around the lake, Jetty View Point and Reflection Island. The land around the lake is managed by the Department of Conservation.

Occasionally the surface of the water may be broken by one of the long-finned eels that live in the lake. The Maori fished for eel and hunted the area’s waterfowl, and Lake Matheson was called a “mahinga kai,” Maori for food gathering place.

Today it is easier to find food at one of the cafes at the entrance to the lake’s walking track. There are no buildings on the lake’s shore and no residential development. Accommodations including motels, lodges and vacation rentals are nearby.

Explore Accommodations
Lake Matheson, New Zealand Lodging

There are a number of choices when it comes to lodging at Lake Matheson. Check out options for hotels and vacation rental properties.

If you purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Lake Matheson was carved by a receding glacier approximately 14,000 years ago. Fox Glacier, the longest of the west coast glaciers, is seven and a half miles from the lake. Visitors can take a glacier walk or scenic flight over the area.

The more adventurous can plan a heli hike, ski tour or mountaineer up one of the snow-capped glacial peaks, some in excess of 10,000 feet. The towns of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef have amenities to outfit adventurers as well as restaurants, shops and galleries to amuse those who stay behind.

The West Coast Tai Poutini National Park surrounds Lake Matheson. Established in 1960, the park encompasses 315,161 acres and includes the Southern Alps (Ka Tiritiri ote Moana) and the beaches of New Zealand’s west coast.

Gillespie’s Beach, a 20-minute drive west of the town of Fox Glacier, is home to a seal colony, and one hour from the town, Monroe Beach is a favorite for the Fiordland Crested Penguins.

With the majestic glaciers and spectacular coast, the West Coast Tai Poutini National Park has abundant recreation opportunities and thousands of acres of wilderness to explore.

The beauty of the glaciers, snow-capped mountains and rich forests is enhanced by the reflection of Lake Matheson, and the calm water of the lake encourages its visitors to the same stillness allowing them to soak in the beauty of New Zealand’s South Westland.

Things to Do at Lake Matheson

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Hiking
  • National Park

Fish Species Found at Lake Matheson

  • Eel

Find Places to Stay at Lake Matheson

If you’re considering a Lake Matheson lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Lake Matheson Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Matheson lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Lake Matheson Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 74 acres

Shoreline Length: 1 miles

Maximum Depth: 39 feet

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

Shop Lake Matheson Gifts

Custom Lake Tumblers

Captain / First Mate Custom 20 oz Tumbler

Custom Lake T Shirt

Personalized My Boat My Rules Unisex T-Shirt

Custom Lake Coffee Mug - On Lake Time

On Lake Time Custom Coffee Mug – 11oz or 15oz


Advertise Your Lake Matheson Business or Vacation Rental

LakeLubbers will soon offer businesses the opportunity to advertise and homeowners and property managers the ability to showcase their vacation rentals to the thousands of lake lovers searching our site daily. If you would like additional details, please contact our advertising team.


Looking for the Lake Matheson Forum?

LakeLubbers previously offered visitors the ability to create accounts and participate in lake forums. When we overhauled the site’s content management system in 2021 we had to disable those features. We’re evaluating options and welcome your comments and feedback here. We also encourage you to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

Lake Matheson Photo Gallery

New photos coming soon!

Spread the word! Share our Lake Matheson article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!