Expedia Expert: New Caledonia
Expedia’s South Pacific Market Manager Charlotte Le Den knows New Caledonia like the back of her hand. Here’s her guide on how to spend a few days in paradise.
People often ask what to do in New Caledonia so I’ve set up a standard 5 days trip to the islands that gives you a taste of everything this beautiful spot has to offer.
Day One: Noumea
Most of Expedia’s Aussie travellers fly into Noumea for a few days before heading out to the islands, or they drop in for the day on a cruise ship. Whether you’ve got a few hours or a few days, make time to explore this vibrant city.
Go for a walk in New Caledonia’s main city, soak up the atmosphere and dust off your French skills. Drop by the fish and vegetable market, have a poke around the cathedral, do a spot of shopping in the city centre and have lunch in town.
In the afternoon, stop by the Aquarium des Lagons for a sneak peak at a few of the fish you’ll see when you head out for a snorkel. Once you’re ready for a dip, just walk across the road. Pop on your togs, and go for a snorkel along the beach in Anse Vata. You’ll see most of the sea life you were just looking at in the aquarium!
For dinner, try the 1881. It’s a little outside the city but the setting and tapas are very good! For a family friendly spot to stay, check into the Nouvata Hotel.
Day Two: Further afield
Hire a car and drive to the Fort Teremba, about two hours north along the eastern coast of the island. Stop by the road side “shops” locals have set up along the way – you’ll get some of the best fruit and vegetables in the island and at a better price than in the supermarkets!
The road to Fort Teremba will take you through some of New Caledonia’s smaller cities such as Paita, Bouloupari, Moindou and La Foa.
The Fort itself was once a prison and has been restored into a museum explaining the history of the island. Open every day, the fort is an interesting piece of New Caledonia’s penal colony history. English guided tours available, just ask reception.
Once you’re back in Noumea, go for a dip at Kuendu Bay, which is quieter than the other beaches but still has stunning corals and fish.
After a day of adventuring, treat yourself to crepes at Le Rocher. Splurge for the night on an over water bungalow at L’Escapade îlot Maître.
Day Three: Island paradise
Fly to the Isle of Pines for a taste of New Caledonia’s untouched natural beauty. Or if you’re on a cruise, make sure you hop off as soon as the tenders are running. Check the cruise calendars before you go – the ships ferry their guests onto the island and it gets very busy, but every other day it will be just you and the fish! Grab your snorkelling gear and check out the beautiful natural swimming pool. It’s like swimming in an aquarium.
Drive around the island, past the Araucaria pines after which the island is name, and stop off at Queen Hortence’s beautiful cave. Known as the Oumagne Cave, it was used by the Queen during her visits to the island’s tribes. The Memorial des Deportes, a cemetery for the convicts sent to the island during the Commune of Paris, is also worth a visit.
In the evening, try the local speciality of snail. A little different to traditional French escargot, they are cooked in garlic but are as big as sausages! You can also try the Bougna, a traditional Melanesian dish, but it might have to be ordered 24h in advance.
Stay right next to the best snorkeling spots at Le Méridien Ile des Pins.
Day Four: Out on the water
Take an outrigger around the Isle of Pines and stop off at the beautiful beaches to snorkel in peace. If you’re lucky, you might see turtles along the way and a crab coco. They look like something out of Star Wars, but taste amazing!
Fly back to Noumea and book into the Ramada Plaza – it has a revolving restaurant called Le 360 degree which is worth a visit.
Day Five: History awaits
Check out the Tjibaou Culture Centre, New Caledonia’s iconic tribute to Kanak culture. The architecture of the centre is worth a visit, rising high into the trees, but the collection of photographs, sculptures and drawings provide insight into an important aspect of the country’s history.
Take a picnic and go to l’Ilot Canard. This small island is home to just one restaurant and some deckchairs, but the underwater snorkelling path is a big draw card. Along the way you’ll learn plenty about the underwater flora and fauna. If you are lucky, you might see a turtle or a shark.
Check into the Chateau Royal Beach Resort and Spa with enough time to check out their amazing spa.
In the evening, splash out and go to Le Roof. This overwater restaurant has lights under the water so you can check out the fish as they swim around – don’t worry, they won’t be served for your supper.
If you have time:
– Check out the north of the island, it’s beautiful and less populated than the south.
– Go for a drive around Blue River National Park and the Reserve Naturelle des Chutes de la Madeleine. There are plenty of hiking trails and camping grounds so you can explore this beautiful place.
– Try to go to the other islands, they all have something different to offer. For example, Ouvea has a huge very beautiful beach and very good diving.