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New Caledonia: what to do on the Isle of Pines

Without a doubt, the Isle of Pines is the hero of New Caledonia. It’s a 20 minute flight from Noumea or a 2.5 hour ferry ride – but they don’t run every day!

Isle of Pines New Caledonia

Welcome to the Isle of Pines! Just 80km from Noumea

The first place to stop is the old prison, built by French convicts to hold them and their scallywag peers and now overrun by weeds on the way to Kuto Beach.

Prison Isle of Pines

Adele, my tour guide for the day, shows me around the prison, built in 1874/75

Prison Isle of Pines

Over 33 years 21,000 convicts were shipped out here and built their own cells. They served 8 years, then other 8 working the land and were then able to leave as free men.

Isle of Pines prison bars

Daylight through the bars

Kuto beach Isle of Pines

The stunning Kuto Beach has sand like flour

Cruise ship at Kuto Bay Isle of Pines

A cruise ship visits for the day and passengers are ferried to the island to swim or go on little tours

Cleo of Isle of Pines

The delightful Cleo, aka Hilary Roots, is a kiwi who visited the Isle of Pines 39 years ago and stayed! She runs a little boutique selling tops and sarongs down here on Kuto Beach.

Mission, Isle of Pines

The Mission is the main church on the island and the priest still lives in the beautiful house next door.

The Mission Isle of Pines

Sorry about the pic quality but I just loved this woman sweeping the church with a branch

araucaria trees, Isle of Pines

The araucaria tree are all over the Isle of Pines – and that’s what Capt James Cook named the island after.

Grand Terre, Isle of Pines

This traditional canoe (with its little outboard motor!) is made here on the beach of St Joseph Bay by the local tribe. There are 8 tribes on the Isle of Pines they each do different jobs.

Le Meridien Isle of Pines

I had lunch at Le Meridien. As the cruise ship was in they had a barbecue on with local meats, cheeses and salads to be enjoyed out here by the pool.

Le Meridien, New Caledonia

How bout this for foosball with a view! At Le Meridien.

Cabana le Meridien New Caldeonia

Bags this cabana in front of the pool at Le Meridien and settle in for the afternoon.

Natural Pool Isle of Pines

Take a walk to the Natural Pool, just near Le Meridien. At low tide it’s about a 10 minute walk across the lagoon and around the beach…

Natural pool Isle of Pines

And this is what you find!

Natural Pool toilet Isle of Pines

And if you need a wee (yes please) this little hut is where you do it 🙂

Queen Hortense cave Isle of Pines

This cave was where the young 16 year old future Queen Hortense hid for a year while the locals tribes fought over whether she should assume the role.

Queen Hortense cav

Way back in the dark she hid and a couple of her friends brought her food at night for a year. She went on to study French and when the King (her father) was presented with a document from the French to sign, she was able to translate it. Needless to say, he made some changes to the treaty!

Isle of Pines snail

These whopping snails live here in the undergrowth at Queen Hortense’s cave. They’re a delicacy. Umm not today thanks! This one went back where we found it.

Leme Jean-Yves sandalwood, Isle of Pines

Then we visited Leme Jean-Yves who makes sandalwood essence. Bet you didn’t see that coming! His tribe are the sandalwood people and his job is to boil up huge vats of the timber and catch the steam to make essence which is sent to Noumea and sent off to become perfume. It smells divine in here!

Vanilla beans New Caledonia

Adele took me to the local vanilla plantation but no one was home so we just took photos.

rural Pay phone Isle of Pines

Helloooooo!!! These rural pay phones are still the best way to reach someone in the village. “Hang on while I go find aunty….”

Oure Tere resort Isle of Pines

And the 2nd resort to consider staying at here is the 4-star Ouré Tere, right on the quiet Kanumera beach with bungalows dotted around the gardens.

Oure Tera happy hour Isle of Pines

My day on the Isle of Pines ended here….


My trip was very generously supported by Aircalin NZ and New Caledonia Tourism NZ. Thanks guys!



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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!