New Caledonia Guide
Five Things First Time Travellers To New Caledonia Should Know
- On Sundays and Mondays, most attractions are closed. Plan around this and spend the day relaxing on the beach or exploring the island on foot.
- Pack insect repellent. You'll need it to keep the mosquitos and other creatures away and avoid exposing yourself to diseases like Malaria and Dengue Fever. It's also a good idea to bring pants and a long sleeved shirt that you can wear in the evenings when the mosquitos are the most active.
- If you want to stay at a tribal homestay, you'll need to bring the chief a small gift. This is a sign of respect, and the same custom is applicable if you want to camp on their land or visit sacred sites.
- Don't photograph the huts in Lifou. It's considered disrespectful to the locals as the site is sacred. It's also advised to ask permission before you take anyone's photo, especially children.
- Bring your own snorkelling gear. If you plan on exploring the nearby coral reefs, you'll save a lot of money by using your own equipment. It will also give you more freedom as you won't have to go to the shop every time you feel like exploring the ocean's depths.
Best Time To Visit New Caledonia
The best time to visit New Caledonia depends on what you'd like to do.
If you want to spend your days diving and hiking, the ideal time of year to visit is during the cooler months. From April to November, the temperatures lower to an average 26°C making treks through the forests much more bearable.
The lack of rainfall also means that the country's dive sites are at their best visibility. April is one of the best times of year to spot the migrating whales from the shore or on board a boat.
But the preferable weather conditions also means it's New Caledonia's peak season. Expect higher visitor numbers, hotel rates and airfare prices.
During the summer months (January to March), the temperatures are boiling, and it's the country's cyclone season. The less than perfect weather sees many travellers staying away, but it's the best time of year to find a deal at a top resort.
For culture lovers, the summer months are an ideal time to visit. There are many traditional festivals to attend, and if your day is rained out, there are enough museums, restaurants and art galleries to keep you entertained.
New Caledonia Cities
Noumea is the capital and largest city of New Caledonia. Located on the main island of Grande Terre, it's known for its mix of cultures and beautiful bays.
Make sure you spend some time visiting the museums, wandering around the neighbourhoods and soaking up the lively nightlife. For lovers of the arts, Noumea also features several galleries and theatres that make it the artistic heart of the country.
Bourail is a small village that boasts a number of beautiful old buildings. It's a wonderful stop if you're interested in the history of the country and want to learn more about its past. Visit the old lighthouse, military post office and even the last guillotine used on the island.
If you're a nature lover, the village is also home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site barrier reef that's teeming with an array of marine life.
Dumbea is a must-visit for travellers who want to explore New Caledonia's natural heritage. The town is near Dumbea River, which is made up of rock pools, surrounded by lush vegetation.
It's also within walking distance of a number of hikes. The most popular is the trail up to Malaoui Peak which gives visitors beautiful panoramic views of the landscape below.
Top Attractions in New Caledonia
Standing at 56 metres high, Amedee Lighthouse is one of Noumea's most popular day trips. Built in 1862 by the French engineers in Paris, it's one of the tallest in the world.
To get there, it's only a short 24-kilometre boat ride from the mainland. Once at the top of the lighthouse, you'll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the island and the nearby reef lagoon. The small island also boasts excellent snorkelling spots and is a must-visit for anyone visiting New Caledonia.
Just make sure you keep a lookout for the sea snakes that often visit the island's sandy beaches.
Blue River Provincial Park
The Blue River Provincial Park is the most visited park in New Caledonia. Located on the island of Grand Terre, the 9,000-hectare park is known for its exotic scenery, "sunken forest" and outdoor activities.
Some of the best ways to explore the natural beauty of the park are to spend the day cycling, kayaking or walking through the forests. It's possible to hire bikes from the visitor's centre, and you can even camp for a night in the woods.
Keep a lookout for the park's wildlife. It's home to some of the region's rarest endemic birds.
The New Caledonia Museum
The New Caledonia Museum is renowned for its collection of Kanak art. Since the 1970s it's inherited pieces from all over the island and now has excellent examples of huts, artwork, clothing and farming practices.
Often overlooked by visitors, it's well worth a visit to understand the island's history and diversity of its culture.
The museum also explores the other Pacific cultures. From Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, it draws interesting cultural parallels and has a vast collection of Oceanian objects on display.
The museum is open every day except Tuesdays and entrance is free for children under 12.
Standing at 1,629 metres above sea level, Mount Panie is the highest peak in the country.
Located in the Chaine Centrale mountain range, it's famous for its breathtaking waterholes and hiking trails. Mount Panie is also home to nearly 100 species of butterfly and a vast number of endemic plants.
If you're interested in learning more about the local culture, guided tours are also available. You can visit the tribes in the area and learn more about their unique traditions and way of life.
Located on Ouvea Island, Fayaoue Beach stretches for 25 km from Mouli to St Joseph. It's New Caledonia's longest beach and is fringed by crystal clear blue water. It's considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the Pacific and attracts sun worshippers from around the world.
Besides the excellent opportunities for working on your tan, this beach has more than enough water-based activities to keep you entertained. Spend your afternoon kayaking in the calm waters, sailing or windsurfing.
The atoll is also part of a protected area called the New Caledonia Lagoon. It boasts world-class diving sites that are full of colourful marine life and coral reefs.
Major International Airports in New Caledonia
- La Tontouta International Airport