From the moment you unload your kids from the plane after your three-hour flight from Auckland to Noumea, in fact it’s under three hours – barely time for them to start asking if we’re there yet – you’ll know you’ve landed somewhere very different.
It’s fun and fascinating and for kids visiting New Caledonia for the first time – they are about to be immersed into a whole new culture of French/Melanesia with new food to try, people to speak to and great beaches to play on.
Here are some cool things to do with kids in New Caledonia:
Practice your French
Even if your children are not learning French and your own memory from school lessons is fading, one of the coolest things about being plonked on this South Pacific island is the chance to practice. Teach them some basic words before you go and encourage them to at least greet waitresses with a hearty “bonjour” and a “merci” when the food arrives.
Where to stay in Noumea
If you can, buy a package in one of the many hotels with kitchenettes (choose from studios to three bedroom suites), that way you can do your own breakfasts – and there’s nothing quite as delicious as warm pain au chocolat baked fresh each day from the local bakery. Most hotels are dotted along Anse Vata beach where there’s plenty to see and do, and most of them are self catering so a little kitchen for breakfast and your all-important happy hour nibbles, is easy to find.
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Where to stock up on food in Noumea
I love supermarkets in other countries, and in Noumea you get the best of both worlds with French fare like gooey cheeses, pate, charcuterie and great wine, plus the local fresh fruit and veges. My tip is to head to one of the larger supermarkets (take a taxi to Geant) to stock up with family essentials (and you’ll find lots of New Zealand brands too for fussy eaters).
Spend the day at Duck Island
Most of Noumea seems to be closed on Mondays when it comes to tours and attractions, so this is the perfect day to head over to Duck Island, or Ile aux Carnards, for the day. It’s a short water taxi ride from Anse Vata Beach and once there you can snorkel, swim and sunbathe. Take a picnic or dine at their restaurant and watch the kite surfers when the wind is up. Or join in!
Shop for souvenirs at Port Moselle Market
Take the kids to the Noumea Market at Port Moselle where they can spend their francs on handmade jewellery and sarongs. The fish marche next door is where you want to come for fresh fish straight off the boat because there’s nothing quite as delicious as tuna sashimi in your hotel with that bottle of French red and a crispy baguette of a happy hour!
Sundays and Mondays are quiet in New Caledonia (read closed) so bring your snorkelling gear if you want to just step into the water at any moment, especially if you’re out at Duck Island.
• Stroll along palm tree-line Anse Vata Beach and learn to wind surf, kite surf or rent a catamaran or kayak.
• Play petanque with the locals on pitches along the beach, or just watch and take photos.
• Visit the Aquarium. It’s small but really good with lots of fascinating sea life and corals and the critters that live among them.
• Take the little Petit Train for a ride into town.
• Or the very daring can try Accrobranche – zip lining.
Eating out in Noumea
The beaches of Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons (just around the corner) have plenty of dining options sprawled along the road front to please all your little ducklings. You’ll find familiar plates like burgers and pizza to fine French fare, seafood restaurants and everything in between.
If you want something more classy, “manners night” we called it as kids, head to Au P’tit Café where one of the country’s best chefs serves up French inspired meals with a Pacific twist, or go to Le Roof in an overwater restaurant at the end of Anse Vata beach where the fish play under your table.