Is New Caledonia worth visiting? Short answer: Yes! Sure, this French-Melanesian hybrid might not be as popular as some of its South Pacific counterparts, but that’s all a part of its understated charm. It’s the perfect place to visit for those who want tropical island getaway with a little Parisian panache.
New Caledonia, or ‘the Pebble’ as it’s known in French, is one of our closest South Pacific neighbours. It’s a short and happy 3-hour haul from Sydney which means you can forget about boredom, complicated transfers and the dreaded jetlag.
But accessibility is only one of its many drawcards. New Caledonia has established itself as the haute cuisine hub of the South Pacific. French-Melanesian fusion food can be tasted across the island and caters to all kinds of crowds from the cheap and cheerful to those living a champagne lifestyle.
New Caledonia also boasts unprecedented natural beauty, with immaculate beaches, rugged volcanic cliffs, thick tropical rainforests and stunning untouched wilderness. It is home to the world’s largest lagoon and the second largest barrier reef. It’s a haven where you can escape from the hustle and bustle and reconnect with nature.
With a buzzing social scene, you’re never short on things to do New Caledonia. The events calendar is continuously chock-a-block with activities to keep you entertained.
Really, there’s no ‘bad time’ to visit New Caledonia, its semi-tropical climate ensures sunshine and warm weather is felt all year round. In saying that, there are two distinct ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ seasons which have slight nuances.
The hot season runs from December through to March. It’s warm, sticky and during this time you can expect temperatures to hover around 32 – 35°C. It’s also tropical cyclone season, rain showers and thunderstorms are frequent. But even between that thick humidity and rampant rain, the sun continues to shine and you can be assured of have a good time.
The cool season runs from June to late August or September. Minimal rainfall is experienced and the temperatures are pleasant, usually around a balmy 24°C. If you’re planning an active holiday, these cooler months are ideal as you can explore the island without worrying about rain, heat or humidity.
There are two intermediate seasons, April – May and October – November. These periods are popular as they have mild temperatures, low rainfall and reduced humidity.
September to mid-November is arguably the best time to travel to New Caledonia, you’re guaranteed good weather and crowds are also smaller at this time of year. Also, keep in mind that everything will be a little bit more expensive – because everyone wants to have a good time in paradise!
When working out where to go in New Caledonia, it’s all about your personal taste. There’s something for everyone, and then a little bit more.
The best fresh produce from the South Pacific mixed with decadent French cuisine, you really do get the best of both worlds in New Caledonia. Whether it’s heading to a local boulangerie (bakery) and indulging in a freshly baked chocolate croissant or dropping some coin on luxury haute cuisine, you won’t be disappointed.
We recommend heading to Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, to kick-off your culinary journey. Here, you can take a tour with local guide Harold Mary, and sample the finest French treats. You’ll stop at Noumea’s largest French wine shop, Le Pavilion des Vins, as well as a specialty cheese (fromage) and chocolate stores.
For a more authentic experience, head to the lively Port Moselle Markets. Grab a delectable French-style pastry, peruse the fresh flowers and produce, and taste all that New Caledonia has to offer.
If you’re after something simple, head to the biggest supermarket Geant in Noumea. It has an amazing deli section with gooey French cheese, cured meats and pates – perfect for stoking up for a picnic at one of New Caledonia’s ‘grammable beaches.
Head to Noumea’s T’jiabou Cultural Centre to learn about New Caledonia’s indigenous population: the Kanak people. This architectural masterpiece was designed by renowned Italian architect Renxo Piano. The centre is comprised of 10 wooden structures which soar above the treetops. Here, you can view traditional Kanak works of art and tribal relics.
Pro Traveller Tip: It’s worth trying the traditional Kanak-style lunch, Bougna, available at many restaurants across Noumea.
But to get a true insight into Melanesian culture, try a Kanak homestay. These warm people will embrace you as one of their own and share their ancient traditions. You’ll partake in fishing, bird watching and traditional storytelling, it’s a magical experience you won’t forget.
There’s plenty of opportunity to burn off all that calorie-heavy French food. New Caledonia has an array of outdoor activities which capitalise on its diverse landscape and showcase its natural beauty.
The Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail or ‘the Natural Park of the Coral Sea’ is a must-see. It covers more than 1.3 million square kilometres, making it twice the size of Texas and three times the size of Germany. Thankfully, the territory is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site which means its underwater life is protected, incredibly diverse and truly a wonder to see. It has crystal-clear waters where you can snorkel, dive, windsurf, kayak, stand-up paddleboard or jet ski – basically whatever takes your fancy!
If you’re a hiker, head south into nickel territory where Francois, the Bear Grylls of New Caledonia, will guide you across the red soil, rugged peaks and shimmering waters. It’s a great way to get outside and see the real and unrefined New Caledonia.
Or, for something a little different, take a horseback ride through the unscathed rolling hills and valleys of the beautiful Deva Domain with the Courie Ranch.
New Caledonia has a multitude of luxurious resorts, each with their own unique features. We’ve listed a few of our favourites below, to help you with your planning.
Le Meridien, Noumea: A little further out, a lot more luxury. Le Meridien Noumea Resort & Spa is located 10 minutes from the city centre, amid lush tropical gardens, it overlooks Anse Vata bay. It seamlessly combines French sophistication with Pacific Island charm. Head to the Deep Nature Spa to enjoy a unique day spa experience, it’s a little like heaven on earth.
Le Lagon Hotel, Noumea: It’s been voted Noumea’s #1 Hotel on Trip Advisor and it’s easy to see why. It offers guests panoramic views of the breathtaking lagoon and it’s only a 100-metre walk to the beach, restaurants and shops. It’s located in the beating heart of Noumea, which makes it dead simple to get around. And once you’re tired of exploring, kick back and relax with a cocktail by the pool or treat yourself to some complimentary yoga.
Hilton Noumea La Promenade: The French Riviera of the South Pacific, this resort is idyllic to say the least. Steps away from Anse Vata beach, it boasts a fantastic range of leisure amenities, so fun and relaxation is covered. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the watersports on the beach, otherwise pull up a seat at the bayfront restaurant and enjoy the very best of local cuisine.
Well, did we pique your interest in New Caledonia and its many, many merits? Talk to our South Pacific Specialists for more ideas – they’re just a phone call away at 1300 991 751. Or, browse through some more regions in this pretty country. Did you know that our New Caledonia holiday deals are bundled with discounted airfares, transfers and seasonal bonuses such as 3+1 nights, free WiFi, massages, snorkelling trips, happy hours… and a lot more, but you’ve got to check them out for yourself!
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