New Caledonia is a Pacific Island you don’t hear that much about. But in just 2.5 hours from Auckland you can step foot onto a little piece of France.
New Caledonia is a French Pacific Island with a unique and tantalising blend of French/Melanesian culture and the capital city, Noumea, is situated on a peninsula, surrounded by bays and beaches.
On one side where the wind whips up the white caps, kite and board surfers are in their element from morning till night, while locals play petanque on the sand.
Around another bay and you’ll find fishermen standing on rocks casting their rods into calmer sea and a little further along families swim in the safe, sparkling waters.
In New Caledonia you’ll find a fusion of the best of two worlds, with French cuisine and wine in plentifully happy supply while on island time. The melodic French language is spoken everywhere which makes it perfect for families whose children are learning the language, or for those of us who fancy brushing up on our school lessons.
You can try everything from five-star French cuisine (yes I ate the frog legs!) to Chinese food in Chinatown. You can buy fresh tuna at the fish market and make your own sashimi back in your self-contained apartment hotel room before joining the throng at Bais des Citron where tables spill out of restaurants and the choices run from pizza to grill, French, Italian, seafood, cocktails and more.
Another reason Noumea is so very different from other Pacific cities is the shopping. This is one cosmopolitan city! If you’re looking for the latest trends from Paris, you’re in luck –although your wallet might not be. There are department stores selling top brands and I could easily spend a couple of hours just in the supermarket stocking up on gooey French cheeses and wine, or browsing for bargains in the Latin Quarter.
Where to stay
Choose a hotel on one of the beaches close to the city; Anse Vata or Baie des Citron.
Anse Vata is where the kite surfers flock and also where you can catch a water taxi for a ten minute ride across to Duck Island, grab a lounger, your book, slap on your hat and sunscreen and order lunch from the island café.
Baie des Citron means Bay of Citrus, or Bay of Lemons, and this is where you’ll want to head for dinner and the nightlife at least once.