Because, believe it or not, there is more to New Caledonia than just the beach!
Though the postcards may lead us to believe otherwise, there is more to New Caledonia than just perfect beaches. Of course, they are a huge drawcard for anyone looking at visiting the south Pacific island, but they aren’t the be all and end all.
Even if water based activities don’t rate too highly on your holiday activity list, there is still plenty for you to enjoy on a trip to New Caledonia. See below for a guide to some New Caledonian hot spots, and all the great activities you can get involved in there.
LOVE: Hiking, diving, golf, getting your thrills up in the air?
YOU NEED TO GO TO: BOURAIL
On the water
You may be familiar with the brilliantly blue waters of the UNESCO listed lagoon in Bourail from Honeybadger’s season of the Bachelor. Maybe you’re not. Either way, this quiet, coastal area in New Caledonia’s mid west is a must-see if you love the outdoors.
Home to the world’s largest lagoon, Bourail is a thalassophile’s dream. UNESCO has classified the site as a world heritage site, therefore there are very strict rules and regulations protecting the lagoon. There are only a handful of boats licensed to take visitors out to the sea grass fields and barrier reef, and you absolutely cannot take anything from the waters – fish, coral or otherwise.
If you do make it to Bourail, you can hop on a glass bottom boat to see the sea turtles feeding, and check out the exquisite corals from the comfort of the boat. Although, the water is so clear you don’t even need a glass bottom boat to see what lies beneath.
If you do want a closer look, snorkelling and diving are permitted. Whatever you do, don’t touch any of the sea life!
On the land
While there is a huge focus on anything to do with the ocean, there are plenty of fun activities to get involved in if you don’t want to get wet. You can still enjoy the magnificent colours of the lagoon from above on an ultralight flight. If you’re a little more adventurous, you can test your limits with a skydive instead. While you are in the air, keep an eye out for ‘the heart of Voh’; a naturally formed heart shape in the mangroves.
Hiking fans should tackle the trails just behind the Sheraton Deva Spa & Golf Resort, on Gouaro Deva Domain. There are three paths to choose from – Oua Koue (5.5km), Boe Areredi (4.5km) and Giants’ path (6.5km). For a quick route to the views at the top of the ridge, bypass all the longer tracks and head straight up the steeper side trail. It only takes about 7 minutes to get up there.
There are equally as exceptional views from the top of a peak on Gecko Evasion’s property. One of the owner’s of the company will pick you up in their 4WD and navigate to the top of the peak, where a picnic of cold meats, cheese, baguettes and wine will be waiting. The view down across the valley gets even more special as the sun sets.
Fancy yourself as the next Tiger Woods or Karrie Webb? The Sheraton Deva Spa & Golf Resort is home to a Dye designed 18-hole golf course. Teeing off with views of the lagoon is something to remember!
LOVE: Hiking, mountain biking, kayaking or bird spotting?
YOU NEED TO GO TO: BLUE RIVER NATIONAL PARK (PARC PROVINCIAL DE LA RIVIERE BLEAUE)
The south of New Caledonia is a stark contrast to the west coast. In the south, the white sand beaches are no more, and peaks, scrubby growth and red dirt take their place.
No trip to the south would be complete without a visit to Blue River National Park. More resemblant of the Australian outback than the New Caledonia we thought we knew, the south is wild, rugged and a whole different kind of amazing.
There are hiking and biking tracks all through the park, but riders can stick to the car friendly tracks if going off road is a tad too adventurous. You won’t get the most ‘off the beaten-track’ experiences on the car track, but there are still some pretty spectacular views.
Bikers aren’t the only ones that love Blue River National Park. Kayakers have a field day there too. Wind your way through the park, down the river and through the eerily beautiful ‘drowned forrest’; a forrest of bleached logs sticking out the water in the middle of the artificial lake. The river is calm, clean and clear, perfect for a relaxing paddle and cheeky dip if you please. In fact, there is a hidden waterfall and swimming hole somewhere in the park if you can find it!
While you are trying to find the waterfall, keep your eye out for the emblematic cagou bird. They are endangered, but the park has a rehabilitation program running and are single handedly building the population of the cagou back up.
LOVE: A good culinary adventure?
YOU NEED TO GO TO: NOUMEA
Most of New Caledonia’s population lives in the capital, Noumea. With the bulk of the population and tourists being in the city, it is expected that the best of the culinary scene is there too.
The finest of the fine dining is at Le Roof, a magnificent overwater restaurant serving up fresh local flavours. Their specialty is seafood, but there are snails, foi gras and a great selection of cheese for the francophiles too. No matter where you sit in the restaurant, you will get views of the lagoon and hopefully the playful dolphins too.
Cheese fanatics should make a beeline for Chai de l’Hippodrome. Tucked away behind the Hilton, this little bar serves up the absolute best in french wine and cheese. Let them show you through a cheese and wine pairing, or take matters into your own hands and select from their impressively long wine list. If you’re lucky, you might even get a tour of their barrel ageing room!
If you can manage to catch chef Gabby while you are in Noumea, you have to sit down to a meal at Au P’tit Café. The restaurant is only open for 2 hours over lunch and 2.5 hours over dinner from Tuesday to Friday, so planning ahead is necessary. Each week his menu changes depending on what he picks up from the markets, so expect anything from ceviche to a deer burger with yam fries. But the coolest thing about Au P’tit Café is Chef Gabby is implementing a bunch of environmentally friendly practices, and educating chefs around the Pacific on them too.
LOVE: Snorkelling, sailing and stand up paddle-boarding?
YOU NEED TO GO TO: Isles of Pines
Isle of Pines is the most well known of all the Loyalty Islands off New Caledonia. It is also the only Loyalty Island that has a cruise ship port on it. As such, Isle of Pines is more built up than Ouvea and the rest – if you can call it built up. It is still a pristine island with so many natural wonders to offer.
Isle of Pines is one of the only places in New Caledonia where you can sail through turquoise waters on a traditional outrigger. Manned by a kanak, the journey through the bay is peaceful and a truly special one.
Isle of Pines is also one of the only Loyalty Islands with activities like stand up paddle-boarding and kayaking readily available to visitors. If you are a guest at the Le Meridien Isle of Pines, these activities are free on the spectacular lagoon that the hotel fringes.
If you aren’t staying at the hotel, you can still do some pretty cool water based activities. One of the main attractions on the island is the natural swimming pool, piscine naturelle. When the sun is shining, you can see beneath the surface and through to the many schools of fish without even getting in. Once the snorkel is on, you can explore the colourful sea life in the deeper areas of the calm ocean pool.