Surrounded by a Heritage-listed lagoon that exudes just about every hue of blue, green and turquoise, the beaches of New Caledonia have the power to convert any city dweller into a bona-fide beach bum with just a single glance. Enticing, inviting and clean, these beaches don’t just feature on the front cover of glossy travel magazines – odds are they also cameo in daydreams about escaping to that perfect island paradise as a part-time gig, too.
But listen up: as much as New Caledonia’s appeal continues to grow, attracting more and more overseas visitors (after all, it’s only a two-hour flight from Brisbane), there are still beaches that remain hidden to the average tourist – but not for long. Here are five off-the-beaten-track beaches that are worth the detour.
1. Ilot Maitre Island, Grande Terre
Practically floating on the world-famous lagoon, Ilot Maitre Island isn’t exactly hidden. But its remote location off the mainland coast (reachable in a 20-minute water taxi ride from Noumea) makes it just that little harder to visit, and so it naturally sees fewer tourists than other parts of New Caledonia. This tiny coral atoll is part of a 200-hectare natural reserve and it’s not uncommon to spot turtles in the turquoise water while snorkelling, diving or kayaking – or under your luxury bungalow, if you decide to stay overnight at L’Escapade Island Resort.
2. Piscine Naturelle, Isle of Pines
Set off on the 15-minute trudge along a forest path from the Le Meridien Isle of Pines to reach the Piscine Naturelle (natural swimming pool) at Oro Bay. The pool’s warm, crystalline water – perfect for snorkelling – hides an underwater world alive with tropical fish and coral, while up above the island’s iconic pine trees stand sentry in the background, perfectly complementing the scene.
The rest of Oro Bay offers plenty of sandy coastline for some privacy and relaxation, too. Or you could also sail aboard a traditional pirogue through incredibly clear water past equally incredible rock formations.
3. Hienga Islet, Grande Terre
This hidden and uninhabited islet 15 minutes from the coast in Hienghene in New Caledonia’s North Provence isn’t just gobsmackingly beautiful and liable to compel you to use up all the space on your memory card (or phone) with pictures. Yes the sand here is the finest, whitest you’ve even seen. And no, you can’t stay here. But what makes Hienga Islet totally awesome is the underwater world just off its shores.
Here, a circuit has been laid out for snorkelers to follow, taking them through an aquatic wonderland of schools of tropical fish, colourful coral formations and there’s even the chance to swim with a turtle or two.
4. Fayaoue Beach on Ouvea Island, Loyalty Islands
Generously stretching for 25 heavenly kilometres from Mouli in the south to St Joseph in the north on Ouvea Island, Fayaoue Beach (New Caledonia’s longest beach) is not short on privacy. Detaching yourself from its talcum powder-like sand and warm water the colour of blue curacao when it’s time to leave is the hard part.
You’ll find it enjoyable enough just lying about and bronzing and taking about a million selfies here. But if the mood for action strikes you, water-based activities aplenty can be organised, such as kayaking, sailing and windsurfing.
5. Peng Beach on Lifou Island, Loyalty Islands
Pardon the cliche but Peng Beach isn’t just a beach: it’s a work of art. Unlike other forms of artistic beauty that can be admired from afar, this beach demands in-the-flesh visitation – and you’d be wise to adhere.
For one, the warm turquoise water will soothe your soul. And second, words and images simply can’t capture the degree of beauty found here.
We’re talking the softest powdery sand your toes have ever dug into and the most spectacular hues of blue and green you’ve ever seen, all set to a backdrop of swaying palm trees. Indeed, just a single visit will convert you for life – you’ve been warned!