The Fairytale World of Lake Matheson.
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Schedule of the Visit.
- 1A Day at Lake Matheson
- 2A Window Open to Heaven.
- 3Magic Blue Mushroom!
- 4Creatures of the Lake Matheson.
- 5A Breathtaking Landscape...
A Day at Lake Matheson
Long remained unexplored, the lake has become an iconic landscape of New Zealand.
It is a story that begun fourteen thousand years ago. In those early times, the legendary Fox Glacier reached the sea.
Lake Matheson was formed when global warming led to snowmelt.
Victim of its success, it is found represented everywhere. Surely on stamps, but also excessively on boxes of chocolates or beer bottles. Why such enthusiasm for this small lake lost between the mountains?
Easy to access, but not always willing to reveal its secret, the Lake Matheson offers a breathtaking panorama. Other wonders are hidden in the woods that surround it. The dark waters of the lake house strange creatures ...
I often travel to the region to explore the glaciers for Kiwipal. I always return to the lake, probably because it transports me to another world, far from my daily concerns. I'm always leaving fit and more motivated than ever.
A Window Open to Heaven.
It was during an autumn, when almost by chance, I found it. It had rained the day before, and it was still raining on the road leading to the lake...
Fortunately, the fog dissipated and the clouds have passed up the sun. The lake appeared in all its glory.
The mountains are reflected on the surface. Mounts Cook and Tasman stand out perfectly.
A pine forest completes the picture. It was given the nickname of Mirror Lake and it is well deserved.
Such a phenomenon requires several factors difficult to meet. Water should be dark and perfectly still. When it happens, you sometimes get the feeling of seeing double while contemplating the lake’s surface. I guess some pictures are probably upside down in souvenir albums.
The arranged circuit around the lake offers several view points. A suspension bridge spanning Clear Water reach the point of view of the pier.
The second view, called “View of the Views”, offers en even better perspective. But “Reflection Island” has the most incomparable view.
If there were only the reflection of the lake to admire, that would already be an amazing trip. But keep your eyes open when you're in the forest. Other surprises await you everywhere on the trail.
Magic Blue Mushroom!
The ancient and lush forest surrounding the lake is populated by beautiful white pines (Kahikatea) or red pines (Rimu). The foam covers the dead wood and tree trunks.
A small wonder awaits, hidden between the leaves and ferns.
At first, I thought I was dreaming and I bet it will be the same for you. It is a mushroom that comes out directly from the book of Alice in Wonderland.
What an incredible color! Remember to take a picture or your friends wont believe you.
The Maori call it “Werewere-Kōkako”, referring to the Kokako bird, whose throat is the same color. Growing in New Zealand, it is completely ignored by the rest of the world. A curiosity known by the nickname “sky blue mushroom”.
The blue color is due to a pigment rare in nature.
Its blades are slightly reddish and we discover a few green highlights. Azulene is the pigment responsible for its amazing blue color. What is surprising, since this pigment is usually found only in fishes.
It does not look edible ... Does this mean it is poisoned? The mystery remains and this should be enough to prevent you from tasting it. If nobody knows the answer, it is because no one ever survived to talk about it.
It would be tempting to bring it as a souvenir ... But who knows if it will not transform you into a frog if you put a finger on it? When going back, you may have the feeling of being observed.
Creatures of the Lake Matheson.
Carefully, move slowly to the shores of the lake. Under the strangely calm waters, black eyes stare at you intensely. Do not be hypnotized!
New Zealand eels are giant ones. These snakelike fishes can measure up to two meters and weigh approximately twenty kilos. This is a world record even if the species is threatened by extinction. They inhabit the lake and are often visible near the edge.
Some of these creatures were born before you. Older ones are one century old and reproduce themselves only once in their lives.
After traveling thousands of kilometers in the river, they end their journey (and their life) in the ocean.
When you‘ll be able to look away again, you’ll return on the path and walk to “Reflection Island”, where the reflection on the lake is even more striking.
But it is not enough to be well placed, you must also arrive in time to enjoy the show...
A Breathtaking Landscape...
Organize your hike at dawn to watch the sunrise. It is at this point that the lake offers its most beautiful iridescence.
Sunset is also a special moment, but it requires a bit of organization. Night falls quickly in the mountains, don’t be surprised by the darkness.
I always recommend planning this visit as a priority. Unless they announce good weather throughout your stay, go to the lake first.
The excursion (including driving time) will take you an hour or two. Don’t miss your chance to see the magical reflection.
And I have not yet spoken of the Fox Glacier’s ice caves.
There are even glowworms like those of Waitomo that illuminate the forests of the region!
You really need to come here to try all these adventures ... So much to discover in a few hours! And it is even completely free!
After discovering the blue mushroom, giant eels and the reflection of the mountain, you will understand why the lake Matheson is a true symbol of New Zealand.
Ben the Kiwi has arrived and he will replace me to answer all your questions. After your visit of the Lake Matheson, please remember us! We expect your journey photos with impatience to publish them on Kiwipal.
Questions & Answers.
What can I do for you? If you do not see blue mushrooms, it is often because previous visitors have snatched them. If you have some free time, get out of the trail to find others.
- All topics ... 22 answers in total
- Excursion Around the Lake 9 answers
- Planning the Excursion 5 answers
- How to Reach the Lake 3 answers
- Accommodation and Restaurants 3 answers
- Weather 2 answers
Excursion Around the Lake
- Where does the walk start?
In the car park, find the sign post indicating the direction to follow. One can very well make the visit in the opposite direction, but the path is not always very wide and one is more likely to disturb the other visitors.
- How long is the itinerary?
It takes 20 minutes to get to the first point of view from the parking lot. The full lap takes 1h50 (2.6km) or less if you walk fast. Even so, you do not have to walk the full path. You can turn back after the first point of view if you are in a hurry.
- What are the conditions to be observed?
In this part of the national park, camping, such as animals and bicycles are prohibited. There are protected species that should not be disturbed. It is also a traditional Maori place (Mahinga Kai). Be discreet not to disturb animals.
- Is the site accessible to people with disabilities?
The Department of Conservation has arranged the route to be accessible to persons with reduced mobility. But after the jetty, the ride is easy, but not suitable for wheelchair users.
- Where does the name of the lake come from?
Of a livestock breeder, Murdoch Matheson, who lived there in 1870 during the gold rush era.
- Which mountainsare reflected on the lake surface?
The mountain that seems highest is not Mount Aoraki / Cook. With the prospect the Mount Tasman looks higher than it actually is.
- Why is the water in the lake sometimes agitated?
Simply because of the many seabirds that have taken up residence on the shores. Ducks also cross the lake from one side to the other. It often takes 5 to 10 minutes for the waters of the lake to calm down.
- Can you tell me more about the Blue Mushroom?
The Entoloma Hochstetteri known as "Sky-blue mushroom" is about 4 cm in diameter. It is found in the forests of the western regions of the North and South islands. It owes its name to the German naturalist Ferdinand von Hochstetter. It was printed on $50 bills in the 1990s and stamps in 2002.
- Which birds to spot in the forest?
The most notable is the Tui pigeon. An endemic species with dark-blue feathers really beautiful.
Planning the Excursion
- Is it a difficult excursion?
This is more of a short walk than a hike.
- What type of walk should you expect?
It is well known that New Zealand has the best hiking trails in the world. The ground is often covered with gravel or planks. Small bridges allow to cross the streams. At each stage, panels provide information on the fauna and flora.
- How should we equip ourselves?
If it is raining, I recommend putting on good shoes. You will finish the visit by crossing a field. Small canvas shoes would soon be soaked. The undergrowth can be fresh, consider taking a sweater even in summer.
- How to organize a visit to admire the sunrise?
Watch the forecast weather the day before. And most importantly, do not forget that it takes 15 to 20 minutes before reaching the first point of view. Cover well in the morning: it is cool and moist in the woods. Do not catch a cold for the rest of the trip!
- Will there be too many people?
During the low season you will have the place for you all alone. Otherwise, you have to come sooner or later to avoid the tourist's bus ballet.
How to Reach the Lake
- Where is the Lake Matheson?
On the map, it is located at 1 Lake Matheson Rd, Fox Glacier, South Westland, West Coast. More precisely in the national park "Westland Tai Pountini", elected UNESCO World Heritage. Te Wahipounamu is a Maori expression meaning "Land of the Pounamu". The pounamu is a green mineral existing only in New Zealand and Australia.
- How to get there by car?
Take the right exit on the State Highway 6 to Fox Glacier and follow Cook Flat Road for 5 km. And Cooks Flat Road is located in the middle of the village of Fox Glacier Weheka. The itinerary is very well indicated. Be careful in winters, as the road can be frozen and slippery.
- Is there a petrol station on site?
The only services on location are the shop and the restaurant.
Accommodation and Restaurants
- Are there any shops on site?
For a few years, there is a shop (ReflectioNZ Gifts and Gallery) and a coffee shop (Lake Matheson coffee). The shop is modern and sells hiking clothes and kiwiana (a term that designates the emblematic objects of New Zealand). You will also find Maori pounamu jewelry.
- Can we have lunch there?
There is a picnic table in the forest. I recommend the restaurant that serves my favorite cake, the Hummingbird (pineapple taste, passion fruit and banana). For breakfast, I recommend the special "Matheson": Bacon, kransky sausage, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, mashed potatoes, toasted breads with two poached eggs.
- Are there accommodations nearby?
Lake Matheson Motel is comfortable and has a Jacuzzi ($10 extra). Especially recommended because of the glowworms in the nearby forest (ask a torch light at the reception of the hotel). Otherwise you will easily find accommodations at the village of Fox Glacier (12 km only from the lake).
- What are the chances of having good weather?
It is fair to say that it rains every other day in the region. Every year, it falls 5000 millimeters of rain. This is 8 times more than in Paris or in the main European cities. This is the price to pay for having such a green and wild forest.
- Is it necessary to come if the weather is bad?
If it rains and there are no signs of lightning, go your way. It is very rare that I advise against making a visit. Alas! If the weather is bad, you may be disappointed.
On the Country Map
Lake Matheson is located on the West Coast of the South Island, near the glaciers.
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