Expedia’s South Pacific expert Jonathan shares his top tips for New Caledonia.
Whether you want to snorkel in turquoise pristine lagoons amongst tropical fish and turtles, horse ride with stockmen in vast cattle stations, meet local tribes who keep their culture alive, or enjoy fine dining before hitting the dance floor on an overwater nightclub, one country has it all, and much more. It’s time to discover New Caledonia!
We forgot to mention hiking in lush rainforests, taking a deep dive into waterfalls and freshwater pools, oh, and kite surfing, reef surfing, and scuba diving in one of the largest lagoons on the planet.
New Caledonia is the perfect mix of Melanesian and French traditions, just 2 hours and 30 minutes from Sydney!
After a short flight, you will land in La Tontouta International Airport, a 45-minute drive from the capital of Noumea through stunning forest-covered mountains.
With its satellite towns, greater Noumea has roughly 160 000 inhabitants; it’s a modern city, with a six-lane highway, bright new hospital, shopping malls and modern infrastructures.
Make a beeline for one of the resort regions like Anse Vata, which has properties for all budgets.
As you wake up the next morning, it’s time to make your way to the city passenger port to board the ferry to Amedee Island. As you’ll hear everywhere, the weather is always better on Amedee, so don’t worry if the sun is shy when leaving the mainland!
From coffee and French pastries on board to a beautiful buffet lunch, dance show and craft workshops on the island, you won’t get bored. Hop on a little glass-bottom boat to discover the rich life of the lagoon, spot a turtle and come back to take a closer look with the snorkeling gear you can borrow from the island’s shop.
A great way to overview the New Caledonian Barrier Reef and Amedee Island is to climb up the 247 steps to the top of Amedee Lighthouse. The 19th century structure was built in France under Napoleon the third – it was dismantled into 3000 pieces and shipped over to New Caledonia!
Chilling on a beach chair will top it up before heading back to Noumea in the late afternoon. Time to relax in one of the gorgeous resorts, or if you miss the big-city nightlife, hit the dance floor on the busy Port Belandre overwater bar and nightclub.
A trip to the outer islands is a must. A short 40-minute (Ouvea) or 30-minute (Isle of Pines) flight from Noumea will blow your mind. You don’t even have to go back to La Tontouta airport, as Air Caledonie operates domestic flights from Magenta Airport, located within the city.
If turquoise was a place, Isle of Pines would be it. With 3000 inhabitants, this quiet little island has just a few very special resorts and hotels, a small township with shops, a church and high school.
Tours usually include the cave where Queen Hortense hid, and according to the story, lived for a whole year. Daughter of Chief Vandegou II, Queen Hortense had to hide during intertribal conflicts in 1855 and took refuge in that cave – at the death of her father, succession conflicts were putting her life at risk. Bring a little offering to leave on the flat that used to be her bed. And if you’re lucky you’ll spot tiny bats nesting in the cave.
Hit the road and visit the ruins of the prison, built by the prisoners themselves in the 1880s. The impressive ruins are still held together by a network of roots and climbing plants.
Head to some of the most gorgeous bays and lagoons and jump onboard an outrigger canoe for a breathtaking sail that will take you to the pristine waters. Rays, turtles and local fauna will swim alongside the canoe.
Add a couple of days on the island to visit the natural pools – surrounded by the endemic pines that gave the island its name, you’ll swim surrounded with beautiful corals and sea life.
Another option is to treat yourself to the only overwater bungalows on the island at L’Escapade Ilot Maitre, an island resort a short 20-minute boat ride from Noumea. L’Escapade offers the perfect escape feeling, with world class snorkeling, literally at your feet!
A 2-hour drive along the west coast will take you to Bourail, where you’ll have the chance to stay in a gorgeous bright new golf resort at Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Spa & Golf Resort. With its impressive Kanak-inspired Grand Lobby and Bungalows, the resort offers a great golf course, and mountain and turquoise lagoon views. Meet the locals or visit a cattle station. The farm in Boghen will treat you with a degustation of local food, including traditional Kanak bougnat and French-inspired cured and dried meats. Learn about Kanak customs and culture or enjoy a 5-star golf course bordering the beach and lagoon.
Making your way further north to Kone, you will board a 2-seater plane to fly over the Pacific Heart, symbol of New Caledonia!
The Top North and East Coast will take you to tribal lands and you will soak into the most authentic and unspoiled parts of the island.
New Caledonia is a gem at the doorstep of Australia and New Zealand, so get back into your French schoolbooks and start planning your trip!