New Caledonia is more than your typical beach destination. It offers hiking, camping, snorkeling, diving, amazing french food, mountain chalets and of course paradisiac beaches… In this article we will explore all the best things to do in New Caledonia and why it should be your next travel destination.
New Caledonia is an archipelago located in Melanesia, in the Western Pacific Ocean, about 1200 km East of Australia and 2000 km north of New Zealand. It includes Grande Terre (the main island), the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Chesterfield Islands, the Isle of Pines, and a few remote islets and atolls.
Despite being about 16 000 km from continental France, New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France, speaks French, and has some great French cuisine. Curiously, New Caledonia is the piece of land located furthest from its sovereign country.
Best Things to do in New Caledonia
#1 Explore Noumea
Noumea is the capital city of New Caledonia and a city made to roam and explore. Particularly for those who like to immerse in the local culture and learn about its history and heritage. Besides its own attractiveness, Noumea is the best place to stay if you want to do day trips to the pristine islands, to the trails and other attractions spread through Grande Terre.
In Noumea, you can find several museums, art galleries, and theaters making it the true artistic core of the country. There are still some colonial houses like Maison Célières, Château Hagen and the old Nouméa City Hall, which are great sights when roaming around the town.
The Promenade, Sebastopol Street, and Alma Street are the 3 main streets you shouldn’t miss when visiting Noumea, while Baie des Citrons, Anse Vata Bay, the World War 2 museum, and Ouen Toro are the 4 biggest tourist attractions in Noumea.
#2 Hike to Mont Dore
The summit of Mont-Dore dominates the panorama south to Noumea and provides magnificent views of the town, the islands, and the lagoons.
The hike is about 7 km and is fairly difficult mostly because it has some steep parts. You should count with about 4 hours to do this trail. There are several ways up, but the most beautiful is probably the cliff trail.
#3 Discover Mare
It’s difficult to choose the most fascinating island in New Caledonia, but Mare is certainly a great contender. Mare offers its visitors incredible views mixed with an exceptionally rich history and a strong identity.
Despite this, Mare is still a largely wild and untouched island, yet it has many interesting things to do and see. Among Mare’s attractions we need to highligh a few:
- The Shabadran terraces – These are somehow difficult to reach, but well worth the time and effort. They are some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
- Warrior’s leap – a must-see place for anyone going to Mare, these jagged and sharp cliffs are picturesque. The legend says that a warrior jumped these cliffs to escape his enemies. The leap is 5-7 meters wide, it isn’t a good idea to try it yourself…
- Natural Aquarium – a shallow natural pool with emerald water created by coral walls and supplied with a subterranean source. This large and shallow lake is a refuge for turtles and fish. It’s an astonishing place, but note that swimming is prohibited.
#4 Biking, hiking and kayking in Blue River Provincial Park
The Blue river park is easily the most popular park in New Caledonia. This provincial park offers great hiking, biking, and kayaking opportunities.
We strongly advise you to hire bikes in the park and cycle along the paths. It’s a truly wonderful way of getting to know the park. Or on the other hand, enjoy a paddle in one of the kayaks down the sky blue waters of the Blue River.
#5 Go snorkeling on a huge lagoon
The New Caledonian barrier reef is the longest continuous barrier reef in the world and the second largest after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. With almost 1500km long, it surrounds Grande Terre, Isle of Pines, and a few other smaller ones.
With such a long reef and marvelous beaches, there are snorkeling opportunities spread all over New Caledonia. The water in this enormous lagoon holds an incredible variety of fish and other sea animals in a kaleidoscope of colors and forms that will make your mind blow.
#6 Do a day trip to Amédée Island
Amedee island is a special marine reserve within the 24,000 km² coral reef lagoon of New Caledonia and probably the best day trip from Noumea. The island is home to the Amedee lighthouse, built in 1865 to provide ships with safe passage through a small break in the reef. This is the Boulari passage, which leads to Noumea.
You can take a private boat or go as part of a day tour on the island, with plenty of things to do – look at turtles from the glass-bottomed boat, visit the reef break, swim, snorkel and so on…
However, most importantly you should climb the lighthouse for great views across the lagoon. With 56 meters high, this famous landmark is an imposing attraction, but those views are breathtaking…
#7 Relax in Isle of Pines
It’s difficult to picture a more dreamy place than the Isle of Pines… It has everything you want from a paradisiac island, snow-white sand beaches, palm trees, turquoise lagoons, a coral reef booming with life… and the exotic bonus of pine trees in a tropical island…
The Isle of Pines is very popular as a romantic getaway and sometimes viewed as a honeymoon destination. Well, let’s face it, it is… but it’s more than only that. For us, Isle of Pines is a place where you have time to relax, as a couple or not…
It’s not that you don’t have plenty of things to do… You can go snorkeling or diving in the reefs, hiking in the interior of the island, kayaking, and swimming on the bays, sunbathing in beach and so on… But, it’s the slow pace of the island lifestyle that will make you unwind.
#8 Enjoy the local food
Despite being on the other part of the planet, New Caledonia is part of France, and it’s been part of France for many years now. France’s influence in the cuisine is obvious and everywhere. It’s fairly easy to find French food and French-influenced food like croissants, French cheeses, chocolates, wines.
Yet, you can also find traditional Polynesian food, which is pretty exotic but delicious. When it comes to local food you should try the Bougna, a dish which combines chicken and fish with bananas, sweet potatoes, yams and coconut milk all wrapped in banana leaves.
However, we believe you’ll find it way more interesting to taste the food that mixes the French technique (and quality) with the exotic touch of South Pacific cuisine and heritage while making the most of local ingredients. Things like: Unicorn fish poached in Malibu and white wine, served with mashed potatoes and saffron scented mussels, asparagus, and broad beans sound pretty good, right?
Best time to visit New Caledonia
New Caledonia has a nice semi-tropical climate, with a hot and rainy season, and a cooler and drier season. The average temperatures go as low as 20º average in cooler months and 28º in the hottest. The Summers are hot and humid and go between December and March, while winters are cooler and drier are between June and September.
You should be aware that cyclones are possible in New Caledonia, usually from November to May, though they are most likely from late December to early April.
The best time to visit New Caledonia is probably during October and November. During this time, temperatures are already going up and there’s little rain yet. During the colder months it may be chilly for sunbathing and swimming and during summers there’s a higher probability of rain…
What to pack when traveling to New Caledonia
When it comes to clothing, it really depends on what will be your activities and mostly when you are traveling to New Caledonia. In the winter (from June to August) you should bring light clothes for the day, but don’t forget long sleeve clothes and possibly a light jacket for the evening; a light raincoat will also be needed. In the summer (from December to February): bring tropics-friendly, loose-fitting clothing, a sun hat, a light sweatshirt for the evening, and even a light raincoat.
Other items you really shouldn’t forget to bring to New Caledonia include:
- waterproof phone cover – In New Caledonia you are always close to the water so additional protection to your phone is a good idea.
- Good Power bank – While traveling you may end up without access to electricity for long periods of time, so a power bank will help you make sure you always have your phone and camera working.
- Neck pillow – Let’s be honest, New Caledonia is pretty amazing but it’s far from everything, even Australia and New Zealand. Your flight will be long, or very long… Check here our full neck pillows buying guides.
- Go Pro – You’ll visit wonderful places in New Caledonia and you’ll do some adventure activities. A Go Pro is easily the best way to save those moments forever.
- Waterproof dry bag – If you are into snorkeling or diving, or kayaking or any water activity then, you really should take a waterproof dry bag. Tip: if you get a bigger one, you may even use it as a day pack on some occasions.
- Snorkeling gear – As you already know by now, New Caledonia has some serious snorkeling spots and sometimes they are just off the beach. If you take your own gear you won’t need to rent every time you want to snorkel. You’ll save a ton and it’s much more hygienic.
- Rubber-soled water shoes – the reefs are sharp and will cut your feet… it’s so much easier and safer to take water shoes and don’t worry about it anymore…
- Light daypack – New Caledonia has some amazing day trips, hiking trips, full day tours and so on. We strongly advise you to take a small, light backpack to use on these trips. It’s also very useful if you are going to the smaller islands for the day…
This is a sponsored post written by travel drafts and brought to you by New Caledonia and Air Cailin.