Nestled in the South Pacific just a short flight from Sydney or Brisbane, New Caledonia has plenty of fans as an overseas destination for some fun in the sun. A territory of France, the islands of New Caledonia are lined with amazing beaches and are surrounded by beautiful blue waters. It is also the home of the Isle of Pines, a picture-perfect island which lies southeast of New Caledonia’s main island of Grande Terre and is known for its tall pine trees and incredible white sand beaches. New Caledonia has a unique blend of islander culture mixed with French influence and is a safe and welcoming destination with something for everyone.
New Caledonia Tourism
New Caledonia is a slowly growing but still often overlooked tourism destination. In 2019, New Caledonia attracted about 130,000 tourists. This number is just a fraction of the almost 900,000 tourists who visited the nearby country of Fiji in the same year, while fellow South Pacific destination Vanuatu attracted about 256,000 tourists. New Caledonia does not market itself in Australia as well as Fiji and Vanuatu do, but it is a similarly impressive destination with warm weather, white sand beaches, mountains and coral reefs to explore. Water lovers can enjoy some great snorkelling and diving, while New Caledonia is also a top destination for surfers. On land, there are plenty of hiking tracks, you can go mountain biking and there are four championship golf courses. There are plenty of cultural activities and museums, as well as art galleries and day spas for those who need some pampering. And don’t forget the food and wine, which has a very distinct French influence.
While it might often be forgotten about by Australians, New Caledonia sure does have plenty to offer.
New Caledonia Regions
If you’re planning a trip to New Caledonia, there are five different regions that you might consider visiting. Nouméa is the capital city, located on the southern coast of the main island of Grande Terre.
The West Side of the main island has a great variety of scenery from its northern tip down to Noumea in the south. The East Coast of the main island includes the stunning central mountain range, while the Great South comprises of the Mont-Dore and Yaté municipalities where rainforests and mining regions provide a great mix of colourful landscapes. Finally, there are the five islands to the east of Grande Terre – Ouvéa, Isle of Pines, Lifou, Tiga and Maré.
New Caledonia Flights
New Caledonia is conveniently located east of Australia and direct flights are available from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The routes between Australia and New Caledonia’s capital of Nouméa are operated by Qantas, as well as New Caledonia’s own local airline – Aircalin. The flight time from Melbourne is about 3 hours and 30 minutes, while Nouméa is about 2 hours and 45 minutes from Sydney and just a touch over two hours from Brisbane.
When is the best time to visit New Caledonia?
The spring months of October and November are generally considered the best time to visit New Caledonia. Nouméa records average daily maximum temperatures of between 26 and 27 degrees Celsius (79 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit) during these months and its lowest rainfall totals for the year.
There is also an average of between 8 and 8.5 hours of sunshine a day during October and November, making them two of the three most sun-soaked months of the year. These months are also outside of the tropical cyclone season, which typically runs from December to April.
New Caledonia Travel Insurance
New Caledonia is generally considered to be a safe destination to visit, with the rate of serious crime very low. However, petty crime like theft does occur, while the region is also prone to tropical cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis and bushfires. As with any international trip, taking out travel insurance is highly recommended if you are planning to head to New Caledonia. Travel insurance can protect you with cover for medical expenses – including Covid-19 – as well as evacuation and repatriation, cancellation fees and lost deposits. You can also be covered for lost, stolen or damaged luggage and personal belongings. Make sure your trip to New Caledonia is properly covered.
Best Resorts in New Caledonia
A few major international hotel chains have a footprint in New Caledonia, as well as some local and French tourism operators. Accommodation prices tend to be quite reasonable in comparison to other Pacific Ocean destinations like Fiji, Tahiti and Hawaii.
Le Méridien Ile des Pins
One of the top rated resorts in New Caledonia is the Le Méridien Ile des Pins, which is a French-inspired brand that sits as part of the Marriott international hotel group. Located on the lovely island that is Isle of Pines, the enchanting resort brings together signature service with luxury amenities and amazing surrounds. Particularly loved by couples, the resort offers direct beach access, a swimming pool, luxury day spa, water sports equipment, a bar and a restaurant featuring some divine French and Melanesian dishes. It is located just a 10-minute drive from the island’s airport and is close to the island’s famous ‘natural swimming pool’ near Oro Bay.
Chateau Royal Beach Resort And Spa
On New Caledonia’s main island on the outskirts of Nouméa, the Chateau Royal Beach Resort and Spa is a highly-rated resort. Conveniently located just a 15-minute drive from the city centre of Nouméa, the resort includes two restaurants offering local and international cuisine, a swimming pool, three bars and a fitness centre. It also has direct access to a casino, there is a nearby tennis court and there are great views out to the ocean. Rooms are spacious and well-appointed and larger family rooms are available.
DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort
If you’ve got your heart set on staying in an overwater bungalow while in New Caledonia, take a look at the DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort. Located on a small private island just off the coast of Nouméa, it is accessible by a short complementary boat transfer. The resort features four restaurants, a pool with swim up bar and a fitness centre. There are a range of room types available on land – including two-bedroom beach villas – as well as some overwater bungalows. The waters surrounding the island are pristine, with travellers often reporting sightings of turtles, among plenty of fish, when they are snorkelling.
Le Méridien Nouméa Resort & Spa
Another Le Méridien property in New Caledonia, this resort is located on the beach on the southern outskirts of Nouméa. It offers direct lagoon access, three on-site restaurants plus a coffee shop, a 24-hour fitness centre, outdoor pool and luxury spa. Travellers say the rooms are spacious and modern and the resort’s grounds are well maintained. It is a resort that it well suited to a romantic getaway for couples, but also accommodates families. A stay at this resort also includes complimentary access to the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, while a casino, night clubs and local restaurants are all within walking distance.
Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Spa & Golf Resort
Located on the west coast of New Caledonia’s main island of Grande Terre, this resort is uniquely located at the base of the Deva Domain hills nature reserve and overlooks the UNESCO World Heritage-listed barrier reef. About a two-hour drive up the coast from Nouméa, the resort includes a pool, yoga classes, a 24-hour gym, a luxury spa and a golf course – Exclusiv Golf Deva New Caledonia.
The accommodation is Melanesian-inspired and includes spacious bungalows. Rooms either overlook the ocean or the golf course.
New Caledonia Top Things to Do
One of the most popular things to do in New Caledonia is to take a trip to Amedee Island. Located just over a 30 minute boat ride away from Nouméa, the picture-perfect tropical island is home to a lighthouse, swaying palm trees and beautiful white beaches. Amedee Island – which is only 400 metres long – and its surrounding lagoon are classified on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The lighthouse stands 56m tall and first operated in 1865, being built after a large number of ships continually found trouble in the surrounding waters. The island is a great place for snorkelling – with turtles often sighted – as well as other water activities like stand up paddle boarding. The island also hosts the world’s smallest Post Office and there is a boutique to buy souvenirs and basic amenities.
Boat transfers to and from the island, as well as organised tours to Amedee Island, operate regularly throughout the year. New Caledonia also has another great way to experience the underwater world – without getting wet. The Aquarium des Lagons Nouvelle Caledonie is a popular and highly-rated attraction in Nouméa, featuring a large number of sea creatures. Information boards include English translations for tourists and the large aquarium is considered a great way to spend a rainy day.
Also in Nouméa, the Tjibaou Cultural Center is a great way to take in some local culture while you are in New Caledonia. Opened in May 1998, the centre offers a lot of cultural activities as well as art exhibitions, show areas and a multimedia library which all promote the kanak cultural heritage.
New Caledonia Best Beaches
New Caledonia has plenty of great beaches, both on the main island of Grande Terre and the smaller surrounding islands. Here are a few of the best.
Located on the west coast of the lovely island, Isle of Pines, it doesn’t get much better than the pure white sands of Kuto Beach. Facing out towards the open ocean, the beach is in a bay and generally has calm and clear waters, making it a perfect spot for some swimming, snorkelling or stand up paddle boarding. The beach is lined with palm trees and pine trees, and there are plenty of fish to find among the coal in the beautiful blue waters. The beach is the first spot cruise ship passengers arrive on tenders during stops to Isle of Pines.
On the east coast of the island of Lifou, Luengoni Beach is simply stunning. Facing out towards Luengoni Bay, visitors describe this spot as having “outrageously turquoise” waters which lap onto a fine white sand beach. The waters are generally calm and visibility is incredibly clear, making it a great spot for snorkelling. The bay is home to plenty of coral, turtles, fish and other marine species.
When there are not cruise ships visiting Lifou, this beach can be almost empty.
On the southwest coast of the island of Maré, this is another favourite beach in New Caledonia.
Pure white sands meet warm turquoise waters, with lovely backdrops of palm and pine trees.
The waters are generally quite gentle, making them good for exploring on kayak or paddleboard, with equipment available for hire. There is also some colourful marine life to see if you want to grab a snorkelling set and explore the underwater world.
Located about 18km south of Nouméa, this small island is a popular spot for tourists to visit and features some great beaches. Ferries from Nouméa to Amedee Island run regularly throughout the week, with trips taking between 30 and 40 minutes each way. There are beautiful white sand beaches right around Amedee Island and the waters around the island are part of a marine reserve that provide some great snorkelling opportunities.
This lovely beach is located on the west coast of the island of Ouvéa, which is just a short flight from Nouméa. Fayaoue Beach is a 25km costal stretch along the island – making it New Caledonia’s longest beach – and is lined with fine white powdery sand. It is not hard to find a spot along the beach that you can enjoy to yourself given its enormous size and the fact it is on the remote island which is largely untouched by the modern world. The beach faces onto New Caledonia’s famed Caledonian lagoon, which is the largest in the world.
New Caledonia Cruises
You can make a trip from Australia to New Caledonia without jumping on a plane. New Caledonia is often part of itinerates for cruises to the South Pacific, along with nearby countries Fiji and Vanuatu.
Many major cruise lines – including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruises and P&O Cruises – make stops to Nouméa, Isle of Pines, Lifou and Maré on voyages departing from Sydney and Brisbane. You will only get two or three day stops in New Caledonia on these cruises, but they can give you a taste of the beauty and adventure that is on offer in the French territory. If you are considering a cruise to New Caledonia, make sure you visit our dedicated page on Cruise Insurance to ensure you are properly covered for your trip.
Isle of Pines, New Caledonia
Pictures of the lovely Isle of Pines feature prominently in tourism promotions for New Caledonia.
Described as the “gem of southern New Caledonia” the island is surrounded by crystal-clear blue waters and the beaches are uniquely lined with large pine trees. The island has a population of about 2000 people, most of whom are native Melanesian Kanaks.
Getting to Isle of Pines
From Nouméa, you can either fly to or take a boat to Isle of Pines. The flight takes about 20 minutes, while the ferries take about two-and-a-half hours.
Accommodation on Isle of Pines
There are a range of different accommodation options across Isle of Pines for those who want to stay in paradise. The highlight is the top-rated resort Le Méridien Ile des Pins, which is part of the Marriott international hotel group. The enchanting resort has all the features you would expect from a luxury resort and offers direct beach access, not far from Oro Bay. The other top-rated resort on the island is the OURE TERA beach resort on the southern beaches of Isle of Pines near Kuto Bay.
There are standard resort rooms available, as well as larger and more private bungalows. The resort also features an outdoor pool, two restaurants, a bar and private beach access. However, if you are on a budget or want to immerse yourself in the local culture a little more, there are also some smaller locally-operated accommodation providers on the island. These include holiday parks with bungalows for hire, while you can even stay in a house with a local family or hire a traditional hut or a tent for camping.
Must do on Isle of Pines
Visitors rave about the ‘natural swimming pool’ in Oro Bay, which is separated from the rest of the bay by a barrier of rocks and is an amazing spot for snorkelling. The stunning Kuto Beach is the postcard picture place of Isle of Pines, while the nearby Kanumera Bay is also a popular beach and snorkelling spot. On the north side of Isle of Pines is the Oumagne Grotto, also known as the Cave of Queen Hortense. The stunning large caves are another must-visit spot on the island.
Lifou, New Caledonia
An amazing island located about 100km to the east of New Caledonia’s main island, Grande Terre, Lifou is the largest and most populated of the Loyalty Islands Province. As of 2019, Lifou had a population of 9,195 people and is a popular port of call for cruises given its amazing beaches, cliffs, snorkelling and caves.
Getting to Lifou
The quickest way to get to Lifou is to fly, with the island being about a 40-minute flight from Nouméa. Alternatively, you can travel by sea on the ferry, which takes about five hours.
Accommodation on Lifou
In terms of resort accommodation, there are not a lot of options on Lifou. The main option is Hotel Oasis De Kiamu, which is located on the east coast of Lifou and features an outdoor swimming pool, restaurant and private beach. It is a resort that is much enjoyed by families. There are also a couple of options for homestays with local families, or you can rent a traditional hut for a true authentic experience in New Caledonia.
Must do on Lifou
If you are looking for the best beach in Lifou, the locals will point you to Luengoni Beach. With amazing blue waters and fine white sand, it is great for swimming, sunbaking or snorkelling.
Cruise ships tenders arrive at Easo Beach on the northern part of Lifou, which is a nice spot in itself for the same activities. For a nice view of the island, take a walk up the hill from Easo Beach to Notre Dame de Lourdes, a small church in a prime location. You can also go swimming in underground caves that are just a short walk from Easo Beach, with the Lue Jajinyi Cave presenting a cool experience. Other highlights include The Natural Aquarium, which is a great snorkelling spot, and the beautiful Jokin Cliffs.
Maré, New Caledonia
Located south-east of Lifou and east of New Caledonia’s main island, Grande Terre, Maré is still a largely unspoilt paradise within the Loyalty Islands Province. It is considered the place in New Caledonia to “get away from it all”.
As of 2019, it had a population of just 5,757 people, 97.2 per cent of whom were Melanesian Kanaks.
Getting to Maré
You can take a flight to Maré from Nouméa in about 40 minutes. Alternatively, you can travel by ferry, which takes about four hours.
Accommodation on Maré
Accommodation on Maré is quite limited. There is one main hotel – Hotel Nengone Village – on the west coast. Alternatively, there are some homestay options or you can pitch a tent at one of the island’s campsites.
Must do on Maré
Like most of New Caledonia’s islands, Maré is surrounded by some stunning beaches to explore.
But you can also hire a car or a bicycle and find plenty of things to see inland. One top spot to put on your list is The Natural Aquarium, located about 3km from Tadine. It is a virtual swimming pool carve out of coral with crystal clear water. About 10km away is the Pethoen cave, which is another impressive sight within a tropical forest. Also be sure to visit the Warrior’s leap and the Shabadran terraces.
New Caledonia History
The first traces of Humans on New Caledonia date back to 1600-500 BC. Explorer James Cook was the first European to discover the islands on September 4, 1774 and named them “New Caledonia”.
On September 24, 1853, France formally took possession of New Caledonia and founded the Port-de-France in Nouméa. The French deported over 20,000 criminals and political prisoners to the island after it became a penal colony in 1864. Mining for nickel drove the growth of New Caledonia, which eventually became an official overseas territory of France in 1946. Multiple referendums have been held over recent years, with the people of New Caledonia choosing to stay as part of France rather than seek independence.
New Caledonia Weather
New Caledonia enjoys a warm and tropical climate year-round. The capital city of Nouméa overserves average daily maximum temperatures of 26.3 degrees Celsius (79.4 degrees Fahrenheit) across the year. The warmest months are December to March, which see average daily maximum temperatures of 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit). The coldest months are between June and September, when maximum daily temperatures average between 23 and 24 degrees Celsius (73 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit). The first six months of the year are the wettest, with rain falling on up to 12 days a month between January and June. The second half of the year from July to December is drier, but Nouméa can still record some significant rainfall during these months. New Caledonia is also prone to being affected by tropical cyclones, which are most likely to occur between December and April.
New Caledonia Population
According to the 2019 Census, New Caledonia had a population of 271,228 people. The indigenous people of New Caledonia – known as the Kanak people – numbered 111,856 people in the survey.
Europeans accounted for 65,488 of the total population. The official language of New Caledonia if French, but 33 Melanesian-Polynesian dialects are also spoken. The primary religion in New Caledonia is Roman Catholic, accounting for 60 per cent of the population.
New Caledonia Currency
While it is an overseas territory of France, New Caledonia uses the CFP franc as its official currency.
Travellers can withdraw cash from an ATM with a debit or credit card on arrival to New Caledonia, or can use a currency exchange service before departing Australia. Debit and credit card acceptance is widespread in New Caledonia, however cash can come in handy for things like markets and tipping.