Paradise Unknown: Discover New Caledonia

28 June 2014

Imagine the sophistication of all things French in the midst of a turquoise paradise; throw in the beauty of an indigenous Melanesian culture and what do you get? New Caledonia. Follow our guide and discover the heart of this little-known slice of beautiful South Pacific paradise.

 Dive into paradise

Rewind & Unwind

Let’s start with the obvious. Once you’re in the heart of the South Pacific there’s only one objective: to relax. The backdrop is idyllic and the same trade winds that enabled the European empire to expand are now beckoning you to the tropics. The landscape is one of endless blue, inundated by sea.

Clearly, New Caledonia is all about the water. So, pop a tropical flower in your hair and get yourself onto one of New Caledonia’s many pristine beaches. You’ll meet some friendly vendors along the way, who will be more than happy to refresh your palate with coconuts, kebabs and lobsters. You don’t even have to leave the waters’ edge as night falls – you can slumber in one of New Caledonia’s famed over-water huts.

Learn And Live Like The Locals

Dust off your high school French and get into the spirit of New Caledonian life. Enjoy being welcomed on-board local buses with ‘Madam’ or ‘Monsieur’, or explore the culture of the indigenous Kanak people and learn a phrase or two from one of their 28 languages.

If you’re into history, New Caledonia has an interesting French penal colony past. There is also much to learn about European settlement, as well as the clan-based culture and customs of the Kanak people.

 Go your own way in New Caledonia

Food & Festivals

There are five major cultural groups in New Caledonia, so you know what that means – culinary odyssey. The Kanak people are happy to serve up their traditional earth-cooked casserole known as 'bougna' and there’s also cuisine by French nationals, Polynesians, Indonesians and Vietnamese who now call New Caledonia home.

New Caledonians celebrate their food through an array of festivals and pay homage to local ingredients, especially the culturally significant yam. There’s the Venison and Prawn Festival that includes a prawn-shelling competition, the Pastry Contest with participants competing for the honour of best patisserie, and the Candlenut Worm Fair with its quest to find the champion worm eater.

The Avocado Festival in Maré deserves a special mention as it showcases local farmers and village life while honouring the humble avocado. Visitors are offered home-stay accommodation and welcomed as friends with the rare opportunity to experience tribal life. Try avocado inspired salads, an avocado tart for dessert, and one of the chiefs wifes' famous avocado milkshakes.

Choose Your Own Adventure

New Caledonia is a scenic marvel, so let your imagination run rampant as you stroll through a wild tropical garden and find yourself at the mouth of the impressive Grotte de la Reine Hortense cave. You can make the most of the inland terrain with a hike along Mont-Dore or Yaté Lake. The beauty of New Caledonia’s diversity is that it’s suitable for all ages, every budget and there’s never a shortage of things to do.

The biodiversity of New Caledonia is as spectacular as the surrounds. The Grande Terre’s central mountain range has created different landforms and microclimates that allow unique plant and animal species to survive – you can visit New Caledonia’s cosmopolitan capital Noumea here too.

Despite all the inland adventures, before long you’ll find yourself back alongside the tropical waters. Get your snorkel on and explore the underwater world of New Caledonia with remarkable reefs and tropical fish easily seen in transparent waters. You can also jet ski, kite surf or enjoy the view along the horizon by sailing the magical waters. It truly is paradise in New Caledonia.

Marina Barbaro

Marina Barbaro has written for Australian travel guides and traversed widely for business and pleasure. She loves to tour a city by night, mix with the locals and hear her name pronounced differently around the world. She has enjoyed the beauty of many countries including Fiji, Vietnam, Mexico, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.