Lake Matheson New Zealand

Lake Matheson New Zealand

Lake Matheson is a rather small lake in the West Coast Region, but quite popular among tourists, photographers and even landscape painters. It is so because its orientation and calm water give you a superb reflection of the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, Mt Cook and Mt Tasman.

Lake Matheson New Zealand
Morning sunrays filtering through the mist over Lake Matheson.

Lake Matheson New Zealand – Facts

The long, finger-shaped lake is stretched out exactly in the direction of the high ranges because the Fox Glacier, coming down from below the peaks, originally cut the lake’s bed.

Facts about Lake Matheson New Zealand:

  • Its bed was carved by ice approx. 14,000 years ago, when the Fox Glacier retreated and the depression that was left got filled up by water.
  • The colour of the water is dark brown, as a result of natural leaching, which makes it ideal for reflections to show.
  • Lake Matheson is surrounded by native forest, rimu and white pine (kahikatea) can be found here. The latter is considered the most beautiful tree of swampy lowland territories.
  • New Zealand longfin eels live here, a threatened endemic freshwater eel species. The larger females can reach up to over a 1.5 m (5 ft).
 Lake Matheson New Zealand, reflections
A beautiful sight of the two highest peaks of the Southern Alps: Mt Cook on the right and Mt Tasman on the left.

Lake Matheson New Zealand – Inspiration

If you browse among New Zealand postcards or calendars, you’ll most likely find some photos of Lake Matheson. It is simply a must-see natural wonder if you ever get to the West Coast.

I definitely suggest that you visit the lake either early in the morning just after sunrise or late in the afternoon when the sun is low in the sky. Especially when you are after taking some nice shots of the lake and the mountains.

In the morning it is more likely that the water is calm so that the reflections are nice and crisp. Late afternoon time may be better for brighter, more outlined images since the mountains and the vegetation on the shore get direct sunlight.

On this particular day I woke up early, well before sunrise. It was still dark when I left our room in Fox Glacier village. One of our friends had told me the night before he would want to come along to see the sunrise by the lake.

So early in the morning I tried to wake him up, but the only answer I got was a sleepy “no“.

Well, for me it is a good “motivational factor” if I have the purpose to photograph something beautiful, to create something and later share it with others, this sleepy friend included. He got to see the lake some hours later in less spectacular lighting conditions. But here he can take a look at what he had missed…

New Zealand is a great country to discover because many stunning spots are relatively easy to access.

Lake Matheson is a perfect example of that. It’s just a few minutes walk from the car park to get to the point from where the Southern Alps are shown in their full beauty.

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Text and photographs © Daniel Kerek

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