The nearby archipelago might be cheaper, more adventurous and more culturally diverse than you think!
New Caledonia is a natural playground, rich in adventure and culture – both on land and sea. The island nation is a fusion of French culture and dishes, traditional Kanak lodging and history, pristine island beaches, waterfalls, UNESCO World Heritage lagoons and some pretty top-notch hiking trails.
The collection of islands sits in the Pacific Ocean, but it’s only a two-hour flight from Brisbane and under three hours from Auckland! The main island is Grand Terre, home to the capital city Noumea, and it’s surrounded by smaller tropical islands, known for their white sand beaches and traditional lifestyles.
Adventure Experiences For Everyone
There’s a heap of adventure on offer in New Caledonia – let’s start with hiking.
Hike The GR NC1
The combo of coastal and inland trails means multi-day hikes like the GR NC1, or day walks both in the north, south, and on the islands, are on offer. Couple this with a homestay with a local Kanak family to experience daily life on the island and learn more about its history.
For those looking to immerse themselves in the landscape, the GRNC1 in the south of Grand Terre, offers a seven stage trail that runs from the old Prony Village – steeped in history and lovingly restored – to the mountain tops at Dumbea.
Or Go For A Day Walk
If you’re not up to tackling the full trek you can hire a local guide to organise day walks in the area for you. Along the way, you’ll take in waterfalls, historic mining sites, rainforest, mountains and the stunning Blue River Park, a 9000 hectare nature reserve. Jump on the shuttle bus to get around the park, take a walk or rent a bike to explore more of this natural playground.
After taking in the contrasting beauty of the landscape on foot, jump in a kayak, or onto a stand-up paddleboard and explore the blue lagoons and azure ocean. Take a moonlight paddle through the Drowned Forest, or sea kayak along the coast, stopping to explore the many bays and beaches along the way.
If you prefer something faster, hire a jet ski and explore the surrounding islands, Miami Vice style.
Or Take It At A Run
For those looking for more of an adrenalin-fuelled adventure, check out the many organised trail running events that take you through the mountains, giving you a challenging goal to train for, and breathtaking views to take in en route.
Happier below the surface? There’s plenty of world-class dive sites to choose from along the 1500km barrier reef. New Caledonia is a diver’s paradise and offers sites teeming with marine life, suitable for all levels of divers.
There’s good visibility most of the year and the chance to see manta rays and sharks. Snorkelling in the secluded Jinek Bay off the island of Lifou takes you to a magical underwater world with plenty of coral and sea life to marvel at.
Or Have A Pedal
On the smaller islands such as the Isle of Pines, you can hire a bike for the day and cycle ‘round the island to explore the historical sites, secret bays and beaches.
Fly Above It All
Take to the sky in a plane or microlight to see the beauty of the turquoise ocean, lined by reef from above. Marvel over the magnitude of the World Heritage listed Caledonian Lagoon as it stretches out for miles, or check out the famous Heart of Voh, best seen from the air.
Travel To Suit All Budgets
New Caledonia and the outer islands offer accommodation for all price ranges. From camping in grassy, beachside grounds, to family bungalows, bed and breakfasts, serviced apartments, eco lodges, or luxury resorts.
To experience the traditional culture, stay with a family at a tribal homestay on one of the islands and feast on the exotic Kanak dish, bougna (it’s a bounty of island veggies and meats, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a pit of hot coals).
For the independent traveller, it’s easy to hire a car on Noumea and book campsites along the way. The roads are good and there’s very little traffic outside of the main city.
Tastes And Flavours For Everyone
In between your adventures, be sure to leave time to sample the local dishes. New Caledonia offers an array of different tastes and cuisines, influenced by the French, Kanak and Caledonian cultures. Freshly caught seafood is a feature on most menus, but you can’t walk past the patisseries and local markets in Noumea without stopping for a buttery croissant or hot French baguette.
Pack a picnic and head to the beach, or splash out at a waterside restaurant to enjoy a sunset dinner of French cuisine. Round off your day on the beach with a delicious gelato; the local artisans craft them into the shape of flowers, pretty neat!
Exploring the streets of Noumea, with French architecture, designer shops, cafes and even French cars, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve travelled to Europe, instead of an island in the Pacific!
A World Away Without The Jetlag!
New Caledonia is just a few hours from Melbourne (3.5hrs), Sydney (3hrs) and Brisbane (2hrs) by plane, when flying direct with the local airline Aircalin. Within just a few hours you can enjoy the magical combination of a South Pacific island with French and Melanesian influence and culture.
Fly to Noumea on the main island, and hire a car to explore the offering of bays, pristine beaches, hiking trails and the iconic Blue River Provincial Park. Or island hop from the smaller Magenta airport in the south, on a small plane with Air Caledonie for some chilled-out island time on the Isle of Pines. Ferries also operate from Noumea to the islands if you prefer to travel by sea.
New Caledonia’s huge array of outdoor activities, set in stunning natural locations and coupled with a fusion of cultures, makes for a magical, yet affordable adventure holiday. And it’s only a few hours from home!
Planning your combination of adventures on land and sea is all part of the fun, and with so many tropical islands to choose from, you might find yourself taking more than one trip to this island paradise.
A bitta ‘venture inspo