We'd always dreamed of visiting the South Pacific and on moving to Australia that goal was suddenly in easy reach. At just two and a half hours by plane from Sydney to Noumea, it's actually closer than heading to Far North Queensland.
The allure of New Caledonia is not just the white sand beaches and clear turquoise water, it was also the fact that it is a French territory. Bordeaux wine and croissants in the heart of the South Pacific? Yes please!
It didn't disappoint and quickly became one of our favourite beach destinations in the world. Our top tip for your trip would be to check out the cruise ship schedules for small islands such as Iles des Pins.They don't stay for long so it's not much of an issue but not only will the beach get busy, the price of food and drink will go up. If like us you make the mistake of heading for lunch at this time, tell the restaurant you are staying on the island and the price will miraculously decrease!
Here are our top recommends for best things to do in beautiful New Caledonia.
1. Visit one of the world's most beautiful beaches, Oro Bay
We've been lucky enough to see some beautiful beaches in our time, especially having now been living in Australia for over four years.
It will be hard to ever beat the beauty of Oro bay. Sand so white it's almost blinding without sunglasses, dazzling turquoise water and fringed by palms. If you've been looking for paradise it's right here in Oro bay, New Caledonia.
2. Get your snorkel on, Piscine Naturelle
This is probably one of the most delightful places we've ever been swimming. It feels like a bit of a secret, we visited late one afternoon and were the only ones there, I'm not sure if that was luck but it's worth a try.
It's a flat and easy 20 minute walk from the car park, or the Le Meridien hotel if that's where you are staying. The water is crystal clear, and it's completely protected, so though you can see the sea in the distance, the rocks inbetween mean that it is calm as a millpond.
Snorkellers will delight in all the tropical fish, and it's the first place we ever saw giant clams! Even if you don't like snorkelling definitely pop by for a swim.
3. Climb Pic N'Ga
Ok so the walk itself is not the prettiest and it's a continuous slog uphill. There are stretches of the path which are just rubble, which can make going up or down tricky. But the view from the top is nothing short of breathtaking.
It was a long time before we could bring ourselves to head back down and leave it behind. You can see islands and bright blue reef all around you.
Best of all, no one else seems to like climbing hills on tropical islands, so you should have it all to yourself.
4. Sail on a traditional Pirogue
If you're looking for a relaxing way to see more of the island then look no further than a trip on one of the island's beautiful outrigger boats. Serenity doesn't even begin to cover it.
5. Take a hike to see turtles, Bourail
We love hiking and even if we visit tropical islands we will always be looking out for the next trail. The Le Santier des Trois Baies (Path of the Three Bays) was particularly perfect as it was beautiful and easy, just what we were looking for on an island holiday.
There is a small amount of up and down as you pass over the bays but the gradient is easy and the views are always with you. From the hill on top of the first bay look down and you can see lots of turtles with your naked eye.Not just one or two but loads of them, popping their heads in and out of the water, it was beautiful to see.
The bays make for stunning picnic locations or the chance for a dip so you can make a whole morning or afternoon out of this short 4km walk.
6. Eat lobster in paradise
Lobster made the menu of every restaurant we ate at and much to my delight it was not much more expensive than any other seafood option.
It's fresh and delicious and you can enjoy i with the sand between your toes. We tried it at several places but the best value was actually at the hotel we where we were staying: Kou-Bugny, Kuto Bay.
7. Hire a car and explore, Iles Des Pins
We always love exploring by car or by scooter so you have complete freedom over what you want to see and when. Iles des Pins is a great place to rent a car or scooter: the roads are very good, and needless to say, incredibly scenic.
There are so many places to stop along the way and if you have even the slightest interest in photography you'll be hopping in and out the car all day.
We stopped at many secluded beaches as well as to see the unusual totem poles at St Maurice Bay. We also had a seafood lunch at Le Meridien which was delicious. Even if you can't stretch to a room it's well worth heading to for a decadent lunch or dinner.
8. Catch a sunset, Kuto Bay
To be honest this could also be a contender for the world's most beautiful beach. It's heavenly! If you want to feel like you've woken up in a dream, take a nap in the afternoon and wake up on this beach at sunset. There are no words.
9. Take the plane, Noumea to Iles des Pins
Truth be told we booked the ferry. It was only when a few weeks before our trip the ferry company cancelled our booking that we bit the bullet and booked the more expensive flight. It was worth every penny.
Just buy that flight. Trust us.
It was as good as any scenic flight I've done and it was just a simple 20 minute charter flight. Oh how I love New Caledonia.
10. Take a stroll at Poe beach
At over 13km long, there's plenty of opportunity to stretch your leg at this beautiful white sand beach. If you prefer to sit and relax or go for a dip there's plenty of room to lay your towel.
On our visits the only other people we encountered were a couple of local fishermen, still practicing the traditional method of simply throwing a net out in the shallows.
Where we stayed
Iles Des Pins
It took us a while to decide where to stay on Iles des Pins. We wanted to stay at Le Meridien but just couldn't justify the price tag. In the end we settled for Hotel Kou-Bugny.
It was a midrange hotel, clean and the rooms had some nice traditional features, such as wood carvings. The other major selling point was that it was a two minute walk to Kuto Bay. Conveniently, it was also where we hired our car.
On the mainland we stayed at the Sheraton Deva, Bourail.
This was one of the most stunning hotels we had ever stayed in and we were lucky that it had only recently opened and were offering 50% off.
We stayed in an individual garden bungle. The decor inside was heavenly and their was a huge free standing bath tub. The balcony was nice with a big comfy sofa and if we squinted we could make out the sea : )
The one let down was the food, which was inconsistent and largely average. They may have ironed out the kinks by now though.
We also stayed briefly in Noumea at Hotel Le Paris. This was a cheapie (by New Cal standards) and if you are just looking for somewhere to lay your head, very doable. Nothing to write home about but clean and in a fairly good location in the city.
Interested in other South Pacific destinations? Why not check out our post on Vanuatu.
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Have you visited the South Pacific? Any recommends for things we've missed for our next trip to New Caledonia? Let us know in the comments.