This French territory in the South Pacific that comprises dozens of tropical islands offers an assortment of experiences ranging from the spectacular to the divine. If you’re on the look-out for a tropical vacation par excellence, then the appeal of this UNESCO World Heritage Site off the coast of Australia should be blisteringly obvious.
If you even doubt for a second that this is where your next yacht vacation should be, then keep reading. We’re sure those doubts will be extirpated before the last sentence in this article.
Crystal Clear Lagoons Abound
There are 9,000 square miles of lagoon in New Caledonia, encircled by the world’s second-largest coral reef. Truly, this place is an oceanic paradise that will more than gratify the thalassophile in you. Not just that, there are countless beaches, islets, and coves waiting to be explored.
There exists a preponderance of ways to explore New Caledonia, too, and getting a tour guide to take you on an excursion to the archipelago, whether on a motorboat, a superyacht, or a catamaran, will be both easy and uncomplicated. Head to the outer islands and explore the white-sanded beaches of Ouvea, the crystal clear waters of Maré, or the natural swimming pool of Oro Bay.
Because this group of islands is blessed with beach weather practically 365 days in a year, water sports like surfing, kitesurfing, and windsurfing can be done all-year-round. The climate is ideal, and one will rarely want to be indoors at New Caledonia. Indeed, take a stroll along Nouméa’s lagoon on any windy day and you’ll notice kitesurfers filling the horizon, gliding across the surface of the ocean. This archipelagic paradise has some of the best kitesurfing spots in the world and there are also plenty of schools by the bay who can guide you into taking up the sport.
Needless to say, New Caledonia, the home of the world’s second-largest marine park, is a diver’s and snorkeler’s paradise too, with its clear waters, plentiful marine life, and coral reefs that stretch 1,500 km across. What’s more, there are numerous shipwrecks and marine structures to explore, as well as many other dive sites that are suitable for beginners and experts alike.
Explore the Landscape
Hiking and trekking in New Caledonia simply cannot be beaten, and there are a slew of trails to choose from whether you’re a beginner or an avid trekker. Indeed, the many beautiful and varied hiking trails here in this naturally mountainous landscape will be worthy of any tourist’s attention. So get your backpack ready, because this diverse region has a lot to offer to those who want to explore the area on foot. Hike to the N’ga Peak, the highest summit in the Isle of Pines, and see the amazing Caledonian Terrain from above. It is an hour’s climb but you’ll be rewarded with the most awesome views. You can also hike your way across majestic surroundings to the summit of Monte Panié, the highest peak in all of New Caledonia, and see exotic plants that only exist in this corner of the world.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can also try the Grande Randonnée hiking trail, which is widely considered to be one of the best hiking trails in the world. It is around 4 to 7 hours of hiking for each stage of the 7 stage hiking trail. And adventurers hike through an exquisitely unspoiled landscape at every stage—through rivers, creeks, and jaw-dropping mountain ranges—that is sure to test their stamina and strength.
Go Whale Watching
If you book a trip to these beautiful islands between July to September, you might even see some humpback whales! Every year, hundreds of them migrate from the frigid temperatures of the southern hemisphere to go to the warm waters of New Caledonia. They mate and give birth close to shore, in and around the southern part of the lagoon, only to depart to the open ocean and head back for Antarctica around September.
Charter a catamaran to Prony Bay early in the morning while the lagoon is at its calmest, and as long as you’re in the area between July and September, an encounter with a humpback between will almost always be assured. Humpbacks are naturally curious, so one might even come close to your boat and investigate. Whatever happens, and however nature wants the show to go, what’s certain is that it will be a spectacle that you and your family will never forget.
Enjoy the Haute Cuisine
For the foodie in you, New Caledonia caters to a variety of tastes and offers gastronomic adventures in spades. It’s a French territory, after all, so you know the food will be great. In fact, New Caledonia’s cuisine is a unique mixture of Asian-Melanesian and French flavors and is renowned for oscillating between the traditional and contemporary.
Naturally, a corollary of having the largest lagoon in the world is that New Caledonia is also a seafood haven. The variety of seafood here is simply amazing. From the fish to the coconut crabs, to coquillages and blue prawns, seafood doesn’t get any better than it is in New Celadonia.
Within this paradisiacal set of islands will you also find French cooking at its best. Discover the flavors of Chez Toto, one of Noumea’s best restaurants, and try their traditional blanquette de veau, quenelles, or foie gras. If you prefer cuisine that is a fusion of French, Melanesian, and Tahitian elements, then head over to L’Edzen in Noumea and experience the amalgamation of colors and tastes.
Be sure to also experience New Caledonia’s authentic local Kanak dishes, like Bougna, which is perhaps the island’s most popular dish. It is a dish that consists of taro, yam, sweet potato, banana, and pieces of either chicken, fish, crab, prawns or lobster. They are wrapped in banana leaves and buried to slowly cook in a ground oven for hours, using red-hot rocks heated by fire.
Because deer hunting is common in Grand Terre, which is the main island of New Caledonia, the place is also popular for its venison. It’s typically prepared in a skewer or turned into a stew, and is a taste that any tourist will do well to sample.