New Caledonia is the ideal Pacific island getaway for Australians who want to experience a taste of France.
The unique melting pot of chic French culture combined with laid back island life and breathtaking scenery make it the perfect escape for a long weekend or family holiday.
Where is it
Nouvelle Caledonie (as the French call it) is made up of a group of islands off the North East coast of Australia which includes the main island La Grand Terre, the Loyalty Islands – Lifou, Maré, Tiga and Ouvéa and the Isles of Pines. Noumea, the capital city is located near the southern tip of Grand Terre.
What to do
If you love an active holiday, New Caledonia will be your adventure playground. Head to the North of the main island for mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing, fishing, hiking, horse trekking, quad bike tours, and even hunting for trophy Rusa deer.
Kite surfing enthusiasts can get some serious speed riding along the biggest lagoon in the world with adventure companies like Zephyr Kite offering beginner lessons and advanced packages with their pro surfing instructors.
For windsurfers, Noumea is known as the windsurfing capital of the world thanks to it’s ideal climate and Anse Vata Bay is popular for other water sport fans – here you can hire stand up paddle-boards, kayaks, water-skis, wakeboards and jet skis. If you are a keen surfer, head to Roche Percée (near Bourail) or Ouano, a one hour drive north of Noumea to catch some waves.
If you’re more of a culture vulture head to the Tjibaou Cultural Centre and explore the exhibits to learn about the local Melanesian people, the Kanaks, who have been inhabitants for over 3,000 years before the French settled in the 1840s.
With shows, concerts and performances throughout the year all the family will be entertained and intrigued by this cultural melting point. For a memorable experience visits a local village outside Noumea and truly immerse yourself in ancient culture by seeing how the Kanak community live or take a guided tour through the southern province of Sarraméa where you can visit local Kanak tribes and learn about their culture.
Where to shop
From the bustling atmosphere of the Port Moselle markets (open Tuesday to Sunday from 5 – 11 30am) to sophisticated French boutiques, Noumea offers something for all ages and all tastes.
Wander around the markets which sells a wide range of arts and crafts, as well as seasonal produce including flowers, fruit, freshly baked bread, cakes, olives, meat and fish as local musicians create a vibrant atmosphere. Experience the unique mix of European and Melanesian culture as you shop alfresco style and chat to the friendly locals then head to the Parisian style chic boutiques including Hermes, Chanel and L’Occitane on Rue de Sébastopol.
Where to eat
New Caledonia serves up delicious culinary offering that combine traditional French cuisine with freshly caught seafood and local produce. All around Noumea you will find classic French fare, from local crêperies serving sweet and savoury pancakes using age-old recipes from the Brittany region, to heavenly patisseries selling handmade chocolates such as those made by expert chocolatier Patrick Morand.
Gourmet stores such as Vinothèque, Sodival, La Cave, La Boutique Le Vin Passion and Pavillon des Vins, stock a range of pâtés, terrines, fois gras, duck cassoulets and soft and blue cheeses. Of course there is also the chance to indulge in a wide selection of French wines – many of which you won’t find in Australia.
For a truly unique food experience head to the village of Mu and watch the local Tanukul Tribe elders prepare Bougna; a generation-old Kanak casserole recipe made with sliced root vegetables, yams and coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaf and cooked over hot stone.
Where to stay
From 5-star luxury resorts to backpacker hostels, New Caledonia offers a range of accommodation options for luxe to budget travellers alike. With direct access to white, sandy beaches The Sheraton Deva Resort and Spa is the ultimate place to relax and unwind.
To really get away from it all stay at Le Meridien, Isle of Pines where you can lounge on a day bed under the pines, book a spa treatment or simply soak up the view across the spectacular Oro Bay.
For a less luxe option, Grands Hotels has six affordable and popular accommodation options across the islands. Budget travellers should book a stay at Chez Ihage which have basic huts which face out over the beautiful lagoon.
When to go
New Caledonia enjoys a sub-tropical climate year-round, with maximum temperatures averaging between 25°C and 30°C in the warm season from September to March, and between 20°C and 23°C in the cooler months from April to August.
How to get there
Do you think New Caledonia ‘has it all’? What are your island highlights?
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