By Shaun Busuttil @shaunbusuttil17 Mar 2017New Caledonia isn’t like other Pacific island nations. Sure, like them, it has some of the freshest fruit, veggies and seafood in the world. But it also has something special that makes it truly unique. That something special is the fusion of sophisticated French cuisine with traditional Kanak food culture – a combination that’s literally mouth-watering. And then there’s the fact that you’ll be able to enjoy all this amazing food in an island paradise that’s as close to heaven as you’ll find on earth. Here are five foodie experiences waiting for you in New Caledonia, Australia’s closest Pacific nation. 1. Have coffee and croissants in Noumea If it weren’t for the sparkling blue ocean on the horizon and the fresh sea air, you’d think you were in Paris: such is the quality of the coffee and pastries (such as macarons, éclairs, and of course, croissants) in New Caledonia’s capital, Noumea. But no, you’re definitely in New Caledonia, and you’ll thank the French for their enduring influence on the cafe culture in this Pacific island nation that’s only three hours from Australia – a slice of France on our doorstep! 2. Dine on delectable snails on the Isle of Pines Beyond being the spitting image of paradise, the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia’s south is also the home of the ‘Escargots de l’Ile des Pins,’ which are (delicious) endemic snails that live in its forests. This is the only place you’ll be able to try this delicacy that are basically little morsels of heaven you can eat! 3. Feast on a bush BBQ with French cowboys Being a cowboy in New Caledonia is hard work, and locals love to get stuck into their protein at any chance they get. Joining the locals for a bush BBQ in the country’s wild west is definitely one of the most unique experiences you’ll have on the island. And also one of the tastiest! New Caledonia is renowned for its top-quality beef and venison. In the bush, one of the best restaurants to try the venison is Le Refuge du Cerf: a lovely guesthouse with an amazing view on the lagoon and a beautiful menu! 4. Share a traditional ‘bougna’ with local tribes Kanak culture emphasises sharing and community, and these qualities are deliciously represented in the traditional Melanesian feast dish ‘bougna,’ more commonly found up in the north and in the Loyalty Islands. Containing taro, yam, sweet potato and banana, plus bits of either chicken, fish, crab, prawns or lobster, bougna can take up to two hours to cook but boy is it worth the wait! 5. Tuck into grilled fresh fish on the Loyalty Islands It’s no surprise that New Caledonia has some of the best seafood in the world. As an island nation, the locals have been living off the sea for eons, and they’ve perfected the art of grilling fish. If grilled fish is a little too boring for you, you can feast yourself silly on crayfish and coconut crab. Yum! Are your taste buds watering yet? Check out the range of gourmet travel packages from New Caledonia Travel Connection and click over to newcaledonia.travel/taste where you can find out how you can WIN a gourmet trip to New Caledonia for two including two return airfares courtesy of Aircalin, three nights accommodation at Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Spa and Golf Resort, two nights at Le Meridien Noumea, return transfers to and from the airport and a diner in Noumea, courtesy of New Caledonia Tourism. Have you tasted your way through New Caledonia yet? This article was brought to you by: Other stories you may like THIS COULD BE YOU IN NEW CALEDONIA THANKS TO $292 ONE-WAY FARES BONJOUR, FLY TO NEW CALEDONIA FROM $298 DINING OUT IN MACAO: A FOOD LOVER’S PARADISE!