An Endless Summer In New Caledonia

7 October 2015
Read Time: 2.0 mins

“Don't bother to get off the ship,” a couple of my fellow frequent cruisers counselled. “Wait for the island stops.”

It wasn't the most auspicious introduction to the New Caledonia capital, but I wasn't deterred.  I’d left Sydney Harbour on a chilly 17-degree August day and sailed into a welcoming warm and sunny winter in Nouméa, and after two days on a cruise ship, I was keen to reclaim my land legs and explore a new location, never mind the naysayers. If rustic markets, palm tree-lined boulevards and charming colonial houses float your boat, you'll find this section of the South Pacific most appealing too.

 The view from Ouen Toro, Noumea. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Just two hours' direct flight from Brisbane to Nouméa on Aircalin, or a two-day cruise away, New Caledonia has beach appeal in spades. Capital Nouméa on the main island of Grand Terre has portside markets heaving with tropical produce, a selection of indulgent French pastries and an array of antipasto staples for the beginnings of a picnic in paradise.

 Plan your perfect picnic at the Noumea Morning Market. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

With succulent seafood, French wines and gelato macarons also on the menu, it's lucky the locals embrace an active lifestyle with body-conscious Nouméans always on the move – cycling on the hilly streets, running along palm-fringed Onte Côte Blanche and swimming in crystal-clear water in Baie des Citrons (Lemon Bay), a perfect 21 degrees Celsius all year round.


More New Caledonia experiences. New Caledonia: France's Most Idyllic Spot?

Learn more about New Caledonia. Paradise Unknown: Discover New Caledonia


 Goat cheese salad and French fries at Duke's Bar-Restaurant in Lemon Bay. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

While infused with Gallic sophistication – New Caledonia is known as the Pacific French Riviera – tropical landscapes and picture-perfect beaches are what really lure holidaymakers to this South Pacific locale. As well as the shoreside diversions of Nouméa, other seaside delights are just a day trip or cruise away.

 The verdant view from the hilltop church on Lifou. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

The sparsely populated Iles Loyauté (Loyalty Islands) is rich in Kanak culture, relaxation and adventure. Lifou, the largest island, is ringed with coral gardens and an underwater marine world waiting to be discovered by divers and snorkellers in Baie de Jinek. Follow the lilt of Melanesian songs and sample village life at stalls serving local curries, fresh crusty baguettes and fried coconut cake.

 Blue lagoons on Maré. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

If images of white sand and clear aquamarine lagoons embody your idea of a South Sea paradise, Maré is that technicolour vision brought to life. Also part of the Loyalty Islands, the small island of Maré harbours the stunning Yejele Beach, a 20-minute bus transfer from the jetty through verdant green jungle to tranquil waters built for floating and lazing the day away. Explore the crevices of the Petheon Caves or cool off in freshwater swimming holes if you’re feeling more active.

 Crushed coral abounds on beautiful Yejele Beach. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Another New Caledonian island idyll is Isle of Pines (Ile des Pins), a 20-minute flight or 2.5-hour ferry ride from Nouméa and an escape from the everyday. Infused with a laidback ambience, Isle of Pines is visually stunning and deservedly designated an UNESCO World Heritage site. Don’t miss a dip in the otherworldly beauty of the freshwater pool at Oro Bay – you’ll be glad you got off the boat!

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Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to New Caledonia.

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Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.