The UNESCO World Heritage Site of New Caledonia truly stands out from the others. A trip to this French territory allows you to experience many different worlds on just one trip as it comprises dozens of islands which sit east of Australia. New Caledonia is an amazing paradise which will give you a vacation experience like you’ve never had before. If you’re still having doubts, keep reading to know exactly why you should visit New Caledonia this year.
1. Be Surrounded by the Sea
The New Caledonian barrier reef is the largest continuous barrier reef in the world and second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. With over 9,000 square miles of lagoon, water lovers will be in absolute heaven here with countless beaches, coves, and islets which boast amazing weather and sweeping sand.
Boats, catamarans, motor boats, yachts, and Zodiacs all flood the lagoon, so there are infinite ways to experience its beauty. Expert guides are happy to take you on all types of excursions from a luxurious day on a superyacht to a whale watching tour. Not a fan of tours? You can rent a boat to explore at your own pace.
If you’d rather be in the water than on it, it’s just a matter of picking your favorite board. With surfing, bodyboarding, kitesurfing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, and more, New Caledonia has it all, and you can do it year-round. There are even schools along the bay for beginners who want to gain more experience before hitting the waves themselves.
Want to see the water without a board? That’s cool too. When you dive in you can see coral pinnacles and all types of colorful fauna without even needing diving equipment. There are also plenty of amazing dives throughout the lagoon, and not only can you go freediving, but you can also enjoy shipwreck diving.
If you’d rather just chill out and enjoy the water, fishing can be the perfect answer. What type of fishing? That’s completely up to you. You can go deep-sea fishing, spear fishing, fly-fishing, net casting, crab hunting, and more. In fact, New Caledonia is one of the top five fly-fishing locations in the world. This idyllic setting is nearly impossible to beat when it comes to water activities.
2. The Diverse Nature
With ideal weather pretty much all of the time, you’ll rarely want to be indoors in New Caledonia. When you’re outdoors, you’ll be spoiled for choice of activities.
If you’re a fan of heights, tree climbing and ziplining are very popular here. They let you explore the dense vegetation from a vantage point most people will never get to be at.
Once you come down from the tree tops, hop on a quad to experience unique sites which would otherwise be inaccessible. You’ll see everything from waterways to slopes, and they can even fit two people if you’re traveling with kids or someone who doesn’t want to drive. Mountain biking is another option, with several trails available in the city and along the coasts. You can also go on horseback, a part of the way of life here. You can hop on a horse to head up a slope to see majestic viewpoints, or you can ride along the shore.
For a slower pace for your time in New Caledonia, be sure to take a hike. Taking some time to breathe in the fresh air and be present in these once-in-a-lifetime moments which are what will make the trip unforgettable. There are countless hikes to choose from, ranging from easy to more difficult ones. Some take you through the forest and others along mountain ridges for incredible water views. An unforgettable view which requires you to bring along your travel camera is the peak of Mont Panié, New Caledonia’s highest peak at around 5,341 feet.
3. Opportunities in the Sky
We all know New Caledonia is gorgeous, boasting an incredible landscape with everything from dense forest to coral reef. But not many people have had the privilege to see its beauty from above.
Most people are excited to skydive in New Caledonia. That’s understandable. It’s the ultimate adrenaline rush. But you also have so many other choices to experience this beauty by air. Parachuting and paragliding are very popular, but if you prefer having walls around you when you fly, then you can choose from an airplane, a helicopter, or an ultralight aircraft. For some added excitement, definitely go with the ultralight aircraft. You’ll be able to see spectacular sites like never before when you take to the air in New Caledonia.
4. Experience Authentic Bush Life
Out in the New Caledonian bush is where you’ll find the authentic local experience and receive a wonderfully warm welcome.
You’ll find many rich experiences along the west coast route. Grasslands and mountains decorate the area which also has steep slopes and dense vegetation. If you take some time to explore the hidden valleys, you’ll likely come across some of the tribes along the route.
Tribal life reigns on the east coast as salty sea air mixes with nature. Here you can meet the Kanak tribes and learn more about harvesting, hiking, and exploring the lagoon.
Along the way there are several guest houses as well as well-known hotels like the Sheraton. This is a perfect rural getaway where you’ll be treated like bush royalty. They even have a “table d’hôte” network, or the “Welcome to the Farm” network. You’ll be welcomed home by well-known farmers who will serve typical bush cuisine like bougna, venison stew, and homemade jam. Nearly 50 landowners have joined the movement, and each have a unique flair. Some specialize in fish, others in guava paste, others in papaya curry. You’re sure to leave with lasting memories when you spend time in the bush.
5. Ultimate Relaxation
New Caledonia allows you to forget the stress of life and soak in the serenity. Hotels throughout the islands are known for ensuring that guests are relaxed and stress-free during their visit. It’s not uncommon to see personal spas at the doorstep of bungalows at many hotels. Along with spas, views can range from everything to a coconut grove to a golf course. For the ultimate way to experience paradise, you can stay in an overwater bungalow with direct sea access at the Ilot Maitre’s Escapade Island Resort.
While a spa experience is a must, shopping lovers will also be busy in the capital city of Nouméa. The city offers a collection of small, local shops along with well-known brands which can keep you occupied throughout your entire trip. Rue de l’Alma and Rue de Sébastopol are the must-visit streets if you’re on the lookout for French fashion. The area is also decorated with small accessory shops and bigger brands like Apple. Whether it’s jewelry, decorations, or anything else you’re looking for, you’ll love the one-of-a-kind items you find in New Caledonia.
6. History and Culture
The culture of New Caledonia is bursting at the seams. Your senses will be joyously overwhelmed with everything it has to offer.
This former colony receives its architectural heritage from colonial settlers and convicts who forged the identity next to the Kanak heritage. The capital city has a certain charm about it thanks to these colonial houses, but they’re starting to disappear due to their fragile structures. If you can, visit in September when many of these houses open their doors as a public exhibit.
Museums abound in New Caledonia with everything from spaces dedicated to World War II to an open-air museum geared toward learning about the mining village of Tiébaghi. With many of the museums found in Nouméa, you’ll discover that they do a wonderful job of celebrating the contemporary culture while preserving the history and memory of what New Caledonia used to be.
Art is truly loved and appreciated here. There are artists, painters, sculptures, singers, dancers, and actors everywhere you look. Along with art in the street, art is also very popular in galleries and at the theater. Several festivals are put on throughout the year to celebrate art, music, film, dance, and more.
7. Flavor Fusion At Its Finest
The blend of cultures here creates some of the best food you’ll ever eat. Not only is there a French influence, but also influences from Melanesian, Asian, Wallisian, and Tahitian cultures.
Many high-end hotels will have food to die for. You’ll be able to take your pick of a la carte menus or delicious buffets as you enjoy everything from seafood to bougna. Bougna is a traditional Melanesian stew made with either chicken, fish, or a local meat and then mixed with yams, sweet potatoes, bananes poingo, ignames, and cooked in coconut milk – it’s the territory’s most popular dish.
The French impact is definitely felt here by way of luxury products. You’ll fall in love with the foie gras, chocolate, world-famous French wine and champagne, as well as other treats which will excite your taste buds.
The local flavors are nothing to sleep on either, as many visitors often not only enjoy them, but bring them back home as souvenirs. Corned beef, vanilla pods, pepper puree, and honey are only a few of the things you’ll want to leave space for in your luggage so you can take them back home to share and enjoy.
8. The Perfect Couples Retreat
To answer your first question…yes! You can legally get married here without being a resident. With the Nouméa Townhall team on hand, you’ll be able to request decorations, music, live streaming, and anything else you want to make your special day truly unforgettable.
If you’re already married and missed the chance to do your wedding on the island, then it’s now the perfect place for a honeymoon or vacation. There are numerous hotels throughout New Caledonia which are happy to cater to couples looking to get the most out of their time there. There are endless perfect date spots throughout and there are even lists of things like the best places to watch the sunset and the top spots for proposals.
New Caledonia basically sells itself. If it wasn’t on your travel list for this year, we’re sure it is now. It has everything you could want in a vacation and you’ll want to return before you even leave. You’re sure to enjoy your time maxing and relaxing in the gorgeousness that is New Caledonia.