Somewhere in the South Pacific, there's a collection of islands – each diverse and unique in its own right – that offer a perfect, remote, paradise-type escape. It’s called New Caledonia, which is somewhat ironic seeing as how the Kanak people, its earliest inhabitants, settled there more than 3,000 years ago. Although this is not often the first destination that comes to mind, there’s plenty to see and do that make it an attractive choice for those seeking the road less travelled.
The scenic beauty of New Caledonia is reason enough to pay these islands a visit. With unbelievably blue waters, white sand beaches and stunning landscapes, it’s a piece of heaven on earth. Here, you’ll find a remote and peaceful retreat, however, there’s plenty to do for those who prefer to keep active. New Caledonia is also considered a melting pot of ethnic communities, and in addition to its Kanak roots, you’ll find a blend of European and Asian cultures. And did we mention average year-round temperatures sit around 25 degrees Celsius? It’s absolute perfection. All this to say, this place can be whatever you want to make of it; blissful and serene, or active and enticing.
WHAT TO DO
NOUMÉA: New Caledonia’s capital city faces the sea and is lined with inviting beaches and islands. Its mix of culture and styles is apparent in the architecture and activity throughout. Find museums, art galleries, theaters and cinemas in Nouméa, as well as beautifully restored colonial-era houses like Maison Célières or the old Nouméa City Hall. Because of its Pacific positioning, visitors to Nouméa have easy access to snorkeling, windsurfing, and kitesurfing, as well as golf, tennis and, of course, swimming.
THE EAST COAST: Set between the central mountain range and the ocean, the eastern coast offers great views and perfect flora. The population here is largely of Melanesian origin, which makes for a certain flavour of authenticity. Road trip from Pouebo to Ponerihouen and enjoy the panoramas, with stops to see ‘La Poule’ in Hienghène’s and the Tao waterfall. Mwara beach, not far from the village of Thio, is worth a visit, and about 30 minutes from there is Port Bouquet’s bay. (Venture off-shore to the islets of Némou and Toupéti for snorkelling.)
THE GREAT SOUTH: For clients interested in outdoor activities, the Great South is calling their name. Some key spots to hit are Blue River Provincial Park (the largest park in New Caledonia), Mont-Dore (where an imposing mass dominates the lagoon at the entrance of Nouméa), and the Madeleine waterfalls – considered one of the most beautiful botanic trails in the area. Divers should pay a visit to Prony to explore the Needle of Prony, an underwater chimney discovered in 1979.
THE ISLANDS: Each island of New Caledonia has its own character, charm and appeal. On Ouvéa, find a beach of white sand stretching for almost 25 kilometres, majestic coconut plantations, and great diving sites, especially around the Pléïades Reef. Lifou is characterised by its variety of scenery, where there are pristine beaches, steep cliffs, deep forests and caves. As for Maré, its bold scenery and the deep connection that the Mareans have with nature have created a unique identity for this particular island.
HOW TO GET THERE
New Caledonia is a tempting add-on for travellers visiting Japan, Australia or New Zealand. With flights into Nouméa from 10 international destinations including Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Auckland, Toyko and Osaka, Aircalin can get your clients there.
DID YOU KNOW?
Oro, Kanumera, Upi - once you’ve set eyes on these three bays, it’s easy to understand why the Isle of Pines is known as “the island closest to paradise.”
❋ Information sourced from www.newcaledonia.travel/en