As with all the islands in the warm and welcoming waters of the Pacific, New Caledonia is equally immersed in turquoise waves, mountain peaks and emerald bushland. Yet, it remains a unique gem of the ocean – a cultural blend of the indigenous people and European communities all sharing the same sandy shores create an idyllic vacation spot for those seeking an experience genuinely off the beaten track and still imbued with versatile cultural heritage.
Where France meets Melanesia
This tropical Eden is as diverse as its people, so understanding the essence of New Caledonia begins with traveling to the various corners of the islands to meet and greet the locals. They will be more than happy to communicate with you in French, while their native tongues are so numerous and different that tribes cannot use them to talk amongst themselves.
Colonial architecture interspersed with tribal totems, and all of that colorful cultural richness in the embrace of palm trees, crisp white beaches and olive coves, creates the essence of what makes these islands so irresistible. Do your best to take a ride along the coastal roads, explore all the corners of the mainland and visit the neighboring tribes and you’ll be greeted with smiles and waving wherever you go. And don’t be surprised if you find some of the Kanak women playing cricket, it’s one of their favorite pastime activities!
Taste the spirit of New Caledonia
You can only imagine the culinary wonders and the cultural wealth of a place that is, in its essence, so accepting of variety and nurtures its vast spectrum of different origins. A perfect example of where modern meets the ancient is the Tjibaou Cultural Centre in the capital city of Nouméa, where you can see original Kanak artifacts. There are other galleries and colonial buildings worth a visit, and the sandy beaches are more than enough to keep you occupied in restful meditation for hours on end.
As soon as you find your perfect Noumea accommodation, such as a dreamy overwater bungalow or a luxurious suite, treat yourself to a dinner at some of the city’s finest French restaurants such as La Chaumière or Le Roof. Taste the local mixture of seafood and veggies called Bougna, and fill your days with activities such as sunbathing, snorkeling, and windsurfing. Finally, join an aerial tour over the islands to soak in the perfect bird’s eye view of this little piece of paradise, including the famous Heart of Voh.
Get to know the flora and fauna
The animal kingdom as well as the plant life are as unusual and authentic as the island's’ people, so don’t forget to stop by the New Caledonia zoo and botanical gardens, where you can enjoy an exotic stroll among their native wildlife and even feed some of their famous Kagu birds. Thanks to the mountain range that spans across the center of Grande Terre, certain species unique to this region still survive and create an incredible diversity seen only in few other places in the world.
In addition to its dramatic mountain peaks, the underwater world is as mesmerizing and exotic as the shores. Grand Terre as well as Isle of Pines and a handful of other smaller islands are in the embrace of the second largest coral reef in the world, where you can swim in the serene blue lagoon and enjoy the company of the local turtles and tropical fish.
Visiting this remote collectivity of tropical islands will offer you a glimpse into an intact universe of peace, diversity and beauty unlike any other. Even if you choose to spend your precious time just lounging on the many dream-like beaches, or completely abandon your holiday spirit and visit every gallery and gathering in town, New Caledonia will not fail to give you a memorable experience you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.
Marie Nieves is a travel blogger who loves unusual trips, active holidays, gadgets and creative ideas. Her favourite writer is Tracy Chevalier and she always carries one of her books in her bag.
Most of her free time at home she spends walking her Labrador Retriever named Max. She is an avid lover of photography who loves to talk about her experiences.