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!
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.
Adele, my tour guide for the day, shows me around the prison, built in 1874/75
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.
Daylight through the bars
The stunning Kuto Beach has sand like flour
A cruise ship visits for the day and passengers are ferried to the island to swim or go on little tours
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.
The Mission is the main church on the island and the priest still lives in the beautiful house next door.
Sorry about the pic quality but I just loved this woman sweeping the church with a branch
The araucaria tree are all over the Isle of Pines – and that’s what Capt James Cook named the island after.
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.
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.
How bout this for foosball with a view! At Le Meridien.
Bags this cabana in front of the pool at Le Meridien and settle in for the afternoon.
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…
And this is what you find!
And if you need a wee (yes please) this little hut is where you do it 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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!
Adele took me to the local vanilla plantation but no one was home so we just took photos.
Helloooooo!!! These rural pay phones are still the best way to reach someone in the village. “Hang on while I go find aunty….”
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.
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!