Naturally splendid and culturally rich, New Caledonia boasts a plethora of delights for the tropical traveller, just three hours from Australia’s Eastern seaboard.
Here’s five reasons why selling New Caledonia is a piece of cake:
- Places to go, people places to see
New Caledonia is a microcosm: from its mainland to the archipelago adorning its flanks, visitors will find a host of different places boasting a larger nation’s equivalent of landscape-locked experiences.
Outside of the buzzing city centre of New Caledonia’s capital Noumea, travellers will find outback plains on the West Coast, tropical mountains on the East and eye-watering, beautiful beaches in the Loyalty Islands. In the South, they’ll find 9,000 hectares of untouched wilderness and red earth underfoot.
- Adventures on offer for the whole family
New Caledonia is home to the world’s longest continuous barrier reef in the world – the second largest overall after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia – and some of the most enviable waters on this side of the world.
Home to an exceptional diversity of plant and wildlife, including 350 species of coral and around 1600 species of fish, New Caledonia’s coral reefs and associated ecosystems were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008. It is here that tourists will find some of the best snorkelling sites in the world.
- Tranquil, uncrowded beaches
Although New Caledonia is world renowned for its beaches and diving sites, finding a private patch of sand along its coast is easier than it sounds. At the Loyalty Islands – Lifou, Mare, Tiga and Ouvea – visitors can find a remote patch of populated coral reef, and untrodden beaches. The Isle of Pines is equally beautiful, housing the endemic Ille des Pins Snail – a delicacy – and is a perfect spot for a French picnic on the beach.
Cheese arrives regularly from France, so it’s possible to pick up soft Reblochon or buttery Beaufort. Travellers can enjoy them the local way with duck rillette, jambon, cornichons and baguettes at a sunset pique-nique on a hillside – and don’t forget the wine or champagne (they’re pleasantly affordable).
- Rich local culture and cuisine
Home to one of the world’s oldest living cultures, the Indigenous Kanak, and Caledonian and French cultures, New Caledonia presents cross-continental influence and synthesis at its best.
New Caledonia’s cultural diversity is best reflected in its food, which marries mouth-watering, flavoursome Pacific Island cooking, with French wine, pastry and tradition.
Local delicacies include Bougna, which is a traditional Melanesian dish combining chicken, lobster or fish with yams, bananas, sweet potatoes and coconut milk wrapped in banana leaves. The food is then steamed in an earth oven heated by hot stones. Bougna is served with a variety of other dishes, including seafood, coconut milk and tropical fruit.
Being an island in the Pacific, it will come as no surprise that seafood features on many restaurant menus with freshly-caught prawns, lobsters, oysters, marlin, mackerel, crab, and mussels for delectable bowls of moules marinières. The market at Port Moselle in Nouméa is one of the best places to pick up fresh seafood, caught by local fishermen.
Boulangeries – best translated as either a bakery, or a place where bread is sold – and patisseries are commonplace throughout New Caledonia, but even roadside petrol stations are stocked with fragrant fresh croissants and pastries.
Outside of forgivably, stuffing your face up and down the country, we recommend tourists visit the Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Nouméa for a look back at the 3000-year-old history of the Kanaks.
- Local festivals
On top of the wealth of delightful New Caledonian foods on offer around the country, there’s also an equally formidable line-up of local festivals celebrating French traditions.
For arrivals around June, check out Nouméa French Cheese Festival – a celebration of the art of cheese-making. There’s also Bastille day celebrations in July, and the French Francolies music festival.
The festival piece de resistance is New Caledonia’s Giant Omelette Festival, which takes place every year around Easter time in Dumbéa, just outside of Nouméa. People celebrate the creation of a giant omelette in remembrance of Napoleon demanding it be made for his soldiers by the townspeople of Bessieres.
Be sure to arrive hungry!
- Budget-friendly travel (fewer than three hours from Sydney)
A taste of France would usually call for a trade in time zones, but if travellers fly out at breakfast from Sydney on your way to New Caledonia, they’ll arrive in Nouméa for lunch. Flights across the Eastern seaboard take fewer than three hours on average to arrive in New Caledonia, which means saving time and money.
For added convenience, the international airline of New Caledonia, Aircalin, operates 12 flights per week non-stop from Australia to Nouméa.
For more information on what New Caledonia has to offer in 2019, click here.