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Have you ever visited a place that unexpectedly captured a part of your soul? A place that spoke to you on a deeper level and you hated the fact you had to share it with others? 

This is what happened to me when I visited Lake Matheson. Do you want to know that the weird thing is? We hadn’t even planned to go there. We stumbled across it while travelling the West Coast and made the last-minute decision to go there for sunrise.

It was a decision I didn’t regret. Despite the 4 am start.

A row of trees at the edge of a lake with perfect reflections in Lake Matheson

When the alarm sounded hours before the crack of dawn, the first thing we noticed was our creaky bones. It wasn’t our first night of sleeping in the back of the Subaru, but it was by far the most uncomfortable. 

Maybe it was that classic ‘fear of the alarm’ that gets drilled into you when you work long hours. You know, the one that makes it impossible to sleep well. Or maybe it was the other nearby campers who stayed up until the early hours chasing the possum with a flashlight.

Either way, it didn’t take much persuading to drag us off the half-deflated air mattress and get ready for the morning ahead. 

We had no idea what to expect. We knew we were going to a lake, and that it sometimes had reflections of the snowy mountains – something Dec lived for – but that was it.

Driving up the bumpy road towards where we thought we’d seen the turn-off, I found myself worrying about the weather. The West Coast was famous for its stormy, unpredictable nature and if it rained now, we could kiss goodbye to any mirror-like reflections today.

It was still too dark to see how cloudy it was so all I could do was wait, and hope.

Head torches on, we navigated our way around the lakeside track. It was a foreign terrain in a place we had never been to before but somehow, the dark didn’t bother me that much and I plodded along as though something was pulling me forward. 

Although the car was the only one in the car park as we made our way to ‘Reflection Lookout’, I wasn’t about to let myself believe it would stay this way for long. We might not have heard about this place before but I could almost guarantee others had.

After about 30 minutes of navigating our way in the dark, we reached our sunrise destination. A small man-made platform that stuck out into the lake past the shrubs and lake grass. It gave an unobstructed view across to Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, with the lake lying motionless below them.

Clouds loomed in the dar sky and while Dec got set up with the camera, I got comfy with a ‘front-row seat’, praying for these clouds to lift. I knew this place was special, I just needed it to show me.

Have you ever sat at a lake so still, you doubt its existence? A lake whose water doesn’t even pulse with the movement of the grass below the surface? I wanted to reach out and touch it, just to make sure it was real but the fear of ruining its perfect reflection held me back.

At the water’s edge, we sit. Watching the motionless water hovering at our feet. We wonder if the ripples will ever appear, but they don’t.

There’s life under the surface, a whole other world filled with fish, eels and alien plants. From above, we would never have known without the tell-tale signs of movement.

The Bell Birds bring in the morning with their majestic song alerting us to the fiery sky as the sun begins to rise over snow-capped mountains. Even they cannot tear us away from the beauty that lies in front of us. The glass-like reflection, so perfect it could be mistaken for being man-made.

The break of dawn is the perfect time for personal reflection and at this moment, it seems nature agrees”

Then, just like that, the sun slowly started to rise and the whole scene came alive.

Stars were dimming as the sky slowly changed from a deep blue to magenta and pink. At the same time, a low fog rolled in across the water and the clouds around the mountain started to clear.

It was like something from a fairytale. If little people with wings sprung out from the long grass and danced on the water… I wouldn’t have questioned it.

As I sat on the wooden floor and listened to the world around me, I felt at peace. Everything just felt right. I couldn’t tell you when the 15+ other people had turned up, they didn’t matter to me then. 

All I could hear was the sound of the birds singing in the trees. All I could feel was my energy tuning into the nature that surrounded me, grounding me with new roots that made me grateful to be here, witnessing such a beautiful sunrise.

Lake Matheson at sunrise is one of our favourite Secret West Coast locations

‘It was only a sunrise’ to some. To me, it was a reminder to stay humble, stay true.

The fog continued to roll in and eventually covered the lake and mountains completely, hiding it from those who arrived a little too late. It was our secret moment. One that will never be replicated. 

I had arrived at Lake Matheson with no expectations but I came away with a new sense of gratitude for the world that we live in. It serves as a reminder for me to never take the small things for granted. Each moment is special. Cherish it for what it is and always be grateful for the nature around you

A long tree in a field surrounded by fog
Home>Travel Diaries, West Coast>I Left My Heart at Lake Matheson – Finding Unexpected Peace
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