New Caledonia is quite a unique place to visit. I first heard of it from a uni mate when I was studying in New Zealand yonks ago and it’s always been at the back of my mind to pop by as it’s only a mere 2.5 hour flight from Sydney. I almost went there in 2008, which seems like ages ago now, but glad I held out because as it happens, NC is a French territory and who better to go with than my half-French husband? As luck would have it.. j’ai vraiment de la chance!
Île-des-Pins, where we went first, is about a 20-minute flight from Noumea. The island is a stunning, pristine slice of paradise and as it’s name suggests, is full of pine trees. It is a little different from the usual coconut palms (there was plenty of that too) when you think of the tropics, but the pine trees looked perfectly normal for some reason, and made for an incredible landscape. One of the highlights was the piscine naturelle, a natural rock pool about 10 minutes’ walk from Le Meridien that was just teeming with wild lagoon fish. Kanumera bay, and it’s giant sacred rock, was a beautiful place to hang out and we even made the hike up Pic Ngâ, the highest point on the island. As far as islands go, this one’s pretty f*cking stunning and perfect for a honeymoon – we were completely disconnected (no roaming) and after the wedding shenanigans, it was just what we both needed.
We also spent over a week in Noumea, the capital city of New Caledonia, which gave us plenty of time to explore. The city itself is probably just how you’d expect an island capital to look like, except everything is in French and the cheese/wine sections in the local supermarkets are even more vast and varied than those in Sydney. But as far as cost goes, it’s a pretty expensive place to have a holiday. Anse Vata, the main beach we were at, rings in at an impressive third place on the Beach Price Index for most expensive beaches in the world.. eep. Eating out was pretty pricey, but as we were there for about ten days, we had time to explore the local markets and bakeries for amazing French bread and pastries (our fave was L’atelier Gourmand) and the supermarkets were filled with specialty French imports like Marennes-Oléron oysters and raw milk cheese, which doesn’t come cheap but when you think about how hard it is to get those oysters in Sydney but easily available in the middle of the Pacific… the French certainly love their food :)
The Tjibaou Cultural Centre is a beautiful piece of architecture (designed by Renzo Piano who is probably most famous for the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the London ‘Shard’) that definitely warrants a visit. Our favourite place to eat was at Au P’tit Café, that serves up delicious food made with locally sourced, sustainable produce. One of the highlights from the grand terre was the forêt noyée (drowned forest) in the Parc Provincial de la Riviere Bleue where we spent a hot, humid day cycling around the park – electric bikes are just the best!
Photos by W and I.