Snowcapped mountains reflected on Lake Matheson. © Karl Jancar

The Lake Matheson walk: a photographer's dream


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Just a 5km drive west of Fox Glacier – look, you’re in the neighbourhood, you may as well – is the unbelievably beautiful Lake Matheson.

The reason the buses pile in here every day is that the lake, particularly at sunrise and sunset, gives off such a reflection that you may be struck by Stendhal’s syndrome: palpitations at the sight of such beauty. Truly.

Nature, of course, giveth, and nature taketh away, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll get what’s often referred to as the ‘placemat photograph’. The reflection is augmented, if that’s possible, by the fact that, when the conditions are right, it’s the peak of Aoraki Mt Cook mirroring itself at you. That’s something else, right?

Partly this purity of view comes from the brown colouration of the water, which is caused by the leaching of organic matter into the water from the forest floor.

Not very romantic, but thought you’d like to know.

But even without that, this is a stunning stop on the way. There’s a good walking track that loops the lake, which leads to several lookouts, the ‘View of Views’ one, weirdly enough, giving you that real moment. There are good meanderings to be had through stands of forest – especially the kahikatea and rimu – and across rolling farmland.

But everywhere, that quiet imbues the whole place with a peace that will surprise and delight. The stillness also reflects the natural sounds around, so bird calls seem particularly resonant, especially if you’re there once the buses have up and left.

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