OUR thoughts on NEW CALEDONIA

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You often hear terms like “Where the South Pacific meets the Cote d’Azure” and “Welcome to The Paris end of The South Pacific” and such like, but it’s not until you actually experience a holiday in New Caledonia that you realise that these terms really are an accurate way to describe this place, well, Noumea City in particular, and Noumea is the arrival point and the primary destination for most travellers. Noumea is only around two and a half hours flight time from Auckland and because it’s so close to New Zealand and Australia it is really easy to underestimate the wonderful difference and “Frenchness” of it all.  There are normally 4 flights each week between Auckland and Noumea (5 flights from 28 October 2014) so it’s the ideal destination for any sort of holiday break be it a short weekender or a longer holiday.  Over recent times New Caledonia has quietly become one of the “in” South Pacific holiday destinations for New Zealanders. 

It is of interest to note that Noumea itself is not really located in the hot tropics.  The weather is pleasant year round and as you venture further north from Noumea up the “Grande Terre” (the main island) or to the northern Loyalty Islands, the weather becomes more and more tropical. The Isle of Pines and the Loyalty Islands are a very pleasant add-on option to a visit to Noumea.

OUR NOUMEA
OUR FLY/DRIVE OPTION
OUR ISLE OF PINES
OUR LOYALTY ISLANDS

OUR NOUMEA

The population of Noumea is just under 100,000 people or 160,000 if you take in greater Noumea, so this is no country town masquerading as a provincial capital!  Fifty percent of the city’s population is European descent, approximately 25% are local Kanak people and the remaining 25% are of Polynesian descent and “others”. The great thing about Noumea is that while it has all the facilities of a good-sized city, it is built around a deep water harbour which includes a series of bays and beaches, the first only 10 minutes out of the city centre.  This gives you a beach holiday with multiple choices of things to see and do such as swimming, sunbathing, a comprehensive range of water sports and island day trips, plus a huge choice of restaurants and cafes and other city-style entertainments in the form of night clubs, bars, discos and casinos. The handiest of the bays and beaches are Baie des Citrons (The Bay of Lemons) and Anse Vata Beach and it is here that most of the resorts and Noumea’s main entertainment precincts are located.  Noumea is the perfect stopover at the start or end of a relaxing holiday in the Loyalty Islands or Isle of Pines but don’t underestimate Noumea as a complete holiday destination. Stay a week or two in Noumea and maybe break it with a mid-week stay down on the south coast at a great little resort on Port Boise or head 160kms up the coast to the new Sheraton Deva Resort at New Caledonia’s second biggest town – Bourail. Drive there and back if you’re looking for an added experience or take our contracted vehicle transfer.   By including an additional side-destination to your holiday in Noumea, you certainly add something special to any longer stay-put holiday. We have a wide range of accommodation options in Noumea, everything from five star international resorts located on or adjacent to the beach to three star self-catering style apartments and Our Specialists will help you find the right one for your needs.

You can have terrific fun finding your way around the greater city area visiting the many places of interest found here.  Jumping on the local transport can be a bit daunting at first if you don’t speak French, but locals are happy to help. The local bus routes are all colour coordinated making it easy to get around.  There is also an Explorer Bus that follows a designated route around the resorts, the city centre, the market and the various museums, cultural centres etc.  Keep an eye out for the hop-on, hop-off Le Petit Train too as that also provides a good service on two different routes around the city sights.  The square in the city centre is known as the “Place des Cocotiers”.  It’s a beautiful garden area full of shady, colourful Flame Trees and the city shops radiate from there.  We are always intrigued by the variety of European goods and food on display.  

Food is a major feature of a visit to Noumea.  The top-end restaurants are world-class.  With around 140 different restaurants and cafes from which to choose representing almost every food region of France.  We won’t go into details here, but would suggest you get hold of the “Taste New Caledonia Gourmet Guide” – ask Our Specialists.  In spite of its title, it does cover the whole range of restaurant options.  Here are three of a huge number of options we would like to recommend to anyone taking a holiday in Noumea.  Firstly try not to miss the Escoffier Hotel School restaurant.  As its name suggests it is a restaurant attached to the Hotel Training School and it’s a very interesting experience to dine there.  It’s not open for dinner every day and bookings are essential.  Secondly, a very good option for lunch or for a picnic on the beach is the “takeaway” food section of any of the many large supermarkets in and around Noumea.  It’s a very French thing, but the supermarkets offer a nice selection of top quality hot and cold ready-to-eat food at reasonable prices.  They have wine at pretty reasonable prices too. Thirdly, to get you started, on your first night in Noumea enjoy a meal at L’astrolabe - a good French restaurant with excellent food. L’astrolabe is in Baie des Citrons and Our Specialists will happily make the booking for you.

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OUR FLY/DRIVE OPTION of the main island (Grande Terre)
It is around 400 km from Noumea up to Poum in the far north of the island.  The roads are good and driving on the right hand side of the road is easy out in the country where the traffic is lighter than in the city.  We like to head off through the hills over to the east coast and wind our way in easy stages up to the far north, then speed back to Noumea via the western plains and farm lands with a stop en route mid way at Kone.  It’s all very French out there – great fun!  Our Specialists can organise your entire journey and the following itinerary gets you to all the main points of interest.  You can add this itinerary on to any New Caledonia holiday or you can do the whole thing in 9 days with a stay in Noumea at the beginning. 

          Day 1 & 2 in Noumea.

Day 3. Noumea to Poindimie.  Poindimie is a quaint village which has a beautiful beach.  Local Kanak People live very traditional lives and are very friendly.

Day 5. Poindimie to Hienghène.  Enjoy startling coastal landscapes backed by Mt Panie New Caledonia’s highest point. You must stop at the belvedere where you get a terrific view of the whole Hienghène Bay with its Brooding Hen Rock. Hienghène is a great spot with a big range of activities to enjoy.

Day 7. Hienghène to Poum.  Cross the Ouaiéme River on New Caledonia’s last existing barge. Drive along the “route de Corniche” on to Poum which is tropical, with lovely white sand beaches.  Enjoy the views of the nearby islands.  Get up early next day, the early morning light is superb.

Day 9. Poum to Kone. Kone is a commercial centre servicing farms and a new nickel mine development at Koniambo. 

Day 11. Kone to Noumea.  Enjoy the coastline en route back to Noumea as you drive directly to Tontouta Airport to drop off rental car before your flight back to Auckland.

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OUR ISLE OF PINES
A twenty minute flight from Noumea’s Magenta Airport, domestic airport near the city, or a three hour fast catamaran boat trip from Noumea will get you to The Isle of Pines.  This is not a huge island but it is made up of a great many curving bays and beautiful beaches.  The dark green columnar pine trees around the beaches give The Isle of Pines a special look.  You can do a day trip from Noumea, but stopping over for a few days is very relaxing and adds something special to a Noumea holiday.  There is a good range of accommodation types and styles.  Relaxation, water sports and beach walking are the order of a stay on The Isle of Pines, or explore the caves, take a traditional outrigger canoe cruise, ride a horse on a beach, hire a bike or a car to get around – they’re all good options here.

OUR LOYALTY ISLANDS
Three distinctly different islands are only 40 to 60 minutes by scenic flight from Noumea’s Magenta Airport.  Ouvea, the most northerly island group is physically a little like Aitutaki in The Cook Islands in as much that it has a long thin main island and a ring of small islands radiating out from the main island forming a wide lagoon.  The pure white sand beaches go for kilometres without a break.  Lifou, the biggest of the Loyalty Islands, features beautiful beaches which are distinguished by lava rock outcrops that give them a feeling of seclusion and shelter.  Mare’s coastline is a little rockier but the beaches are no less spectacular.  Life out on the Loyalty Islands feels slower and very relaxed.  There are nice little villages to enjoy, spectacular snorkelling and SCUBA diving and some very special restaurants to enjoy where local seafood is a specialty.  There is plenty to interest visitors but what we like about a stay on Ouvea, Lifou and Mare, is the feeling of being somewhere special and a bit off the beaten track. There are just enough tourists visiting each year to provide a good standard and range of facilities but there is still plenty of personal space in which to relax and unwind. The local people have retained much of their customary ways, they are very welcoming and overall the French influence adds something special to the enjoyment of your stay.

All the Pacific Islands offer the traveller a different Pacific experience and New Caledonia certainly does that.  Go to Noumea for its cosmopolitan city style combined with beach life.  Take a trip up the island to enjoy more of the local Kanak culture, the natural beauty and to see modern industries mingling with the relics of the past.  Venture out to the Isle of Pines and the Loyalty Islands for utter relaxation and remember, all this comes with quite a dash of French style.

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Currency:
French Pacific Franc (XPF)
Most major credit cards are accepted.

Electricity: 240V / 50Hz

Flying time: approx. 2.5 hours from Auckland, New Zealand.

Local Time: 11 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Weather:
A semi-tropical climate with January to March being the wet season, heavy rain is likely in February. Average yearly temperature is 26 degrees celcius.

Entry requirements:
* Valid passport for at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay (NZ passport holders).
* A valid return or onward air ticket and sufficient funds.

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