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Ready to get off the beaten path? While everyone is busy talking about Fiji for their bucket list trip to the South Pacific, we here at AllTheRooms think you should strongly consider New Caledonia. Located between Fiji and Australia (about a two-hour flight from Brisbane), New Caledonia is a French island territory with tons to offer. It has all the stunning beaches and landscapes you’d expect from an island in the South Pacific, but also lots of indigenous cultures, French influences, bustling markets, live music, and delicious food. Here are 10 incredible things to do in Nomeau, New Caledonia.
Anse Vata Beach
You can’t go wrong by b-lining it from the La Tontouta International Airport to the white sandy beaches of New Caledonia. Anse Vata is an excellent spot with white sandy beaches and a long promenade flanked with beautiful palm trees. Only 10 minutes from downtown Noumea, Anse Vata is lined with restaurants, cafes, hotels, and lots of attractions. Enjoy watching the windsurfers and kite surfers when the conditions are right, and be sure to catch a round of petanque, a lawn game similar to bocce ball.
Baie des Citrons (Lemon Bay)
Just around the corner from Anse Vata is the famous Baie des Citrons, the island’s second most popular beach spot. It attracts visitors and locals alike, and is an excellent place for swimming with very few waves and currents. The quiet bay is hemmed in by a beachside boulevard filled with ritzy French restaurants, nightclubs, and cafes. Feel free to set aside an entire day (and night, and morning) to hang out at Anse Vata and Lemon Bay.
Le Marche de la Moselle (Port Moselle Markets)
Getting lost in colorful markets is often one of the best and most authentic ways to experience a new place, and New Caledonia is no exception. Noumea’s Le Marche de la Moselle is a seaside market where fishermen unload their catch, trucks drop off baskets of exotic fruit, and tons of stands sell everything from olives to vegetables and flowers. There’s an arts and crafts section, and on the weekends, Le Marche has live music to entertain visitors. The market is busiest in the early mornings, so visit then for the full experience or wait until the afternoon to have a more peaceful stroll. If you’re like us and really appreciate a good market, check out the Best Thai Markets in Bangkok.
Tjibaou Cultural Center
Before becoming a French colony in the mid-19th century, New Caledonia was filled with thriving indigenous communities, the most prominent of which being the Kanak. In 1998, the Tjibaou Cultural Center opened to commemorate the Kanak culture and stand as a representation of the community. It’s a bit outside of the city of Noumea, but it’s well worth the trek — just look at the architecture. Inside, you’ll find an art museum, performance spaces, a library, a botanical garden, and a research and creation center.
Place des Cocotiers
The Place des Cocotiers is the de-facto central square in Noumea. It’s a great meeting spot, a brilliant place to people watch, and an excellent area to just watch the world go by. The slanting square includes a symbolic statue, a giant chess board, a petanque pitch, and a lush botanical garden. Often times, you’ll find live music and twice a month the Place des Cocotiers hosts the popular Jeudis du Centre Ville street market, which has a different theme each time it pops up.
New Caledonia’s Mont Dore is hands down the island’s best hike. Start in the early morning to beat the heat, and truck up the four-hour climb to the 2,559-foot peak. Up top, you’ll be treated to drool-worthy panoramic views over the water and over to the rest of Grande Terre. Resources are very limited en route to the top, so be sure to pack lots of water and snacks. And — the same goes for The Best Places to go Hiking in Japan and Where to go Hiking in Nepal — don’t spoil it by going overkill on the google image search. Let yourself be surprised.
Musée de la Nouvelle Calédonie
The Musée de la Nouvelle Calédonie offers another opportunity to learn about and appreciate the Kanak culture of centuries past. This museum offers a hands-on snapshot of the lives they led with examples of their huts, artwork, clothing, and farming practices.
FOL Hill Graffiti and Lookout
FOL Hill is a lookout spot and a popular tour for cruise ships passing by the area. High up on the hill stands an old decrepit theater that has been the canvas for impressive graffiti over the years. Spend some time admiring the street art and then soak in the 360-degree views. Whether a clear day or not, you should be able to see right down to the ports where the cruise ships are docked.
Le Faré du Palm Beach
Once you’ve built up an appetite, make sure Le Faré du Palm Beach is high on your itinerary for places to eat. The restaurant is filled with plants giving it a botanical garden feel, and is located just steps from the water. Come for the mid-morning brunch specials boasting foods like loaded crepes or treat yourself to a tasty burger.
Aquarium des Lagons
If you don’t have the time or energy to embark on a full snorkel or scuba adventure, there’s no shame in heading over to Noumea’s aquarium. The Aquarium des Lagons is located out on the island’s hilly peninsula and hosts tons of species that are all native to the South Pacific — especially the waters around New Caledonia. Sea snakes, stonefish, turtles, sharks, and stingrays all live in huge tanks that replicate their natural environment.