New Caledonia is only two hours flying time from Brisbane and under three hours from Sydney, and with the strong Australian dollar there has never been a better time to go.
Famous for its delicious, authentic and quality food – Noumea has over 120 restaurants. Here you can choose from over 100 varieties of cheese, pate de foie gras, baguettes, French wines and champagne. Divine.
New Caledonia is an oasis of rare and unique flora and fauna – one of the world’s four richest locations for biodiversity. Its coral reef encircles the mainland, La Grande Terre, and its azure lagoon is the largest in the world.
Snorkelling, fishing, boating – everything can be done independently or with a local guide. A water taxi service operates between Anse Vata in Noumea and the small nearby islands, Ile aux Canards and l’Ilot Maitre.
Yachts can be chartered, with a skipper to take you where you want to go. Or arrange an expedition on a pirogue, the traditional outrigger sailing boats. You will see one of these, preserved from the islands’ earliest times, in the museum in Noumea. Perhaps hire a canoe, or a motor boat.
For travellers, day trips or longer visits to nearby or outlying islands are all easy, by plane or boat. Lifou, Mare, Ouvea and Isle of Pines are exotic and unforgettable.
You may choose to visit a Kanak village, where the tribal residents share age-old culture and crafts; perhaps a pre-arranged bougna, the traditional slow-roasted feast of coconut-steeped seafoods, meats and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves.
Just wandering around a golf course might be your idea of heaven. Le Golf de Tina lures golfers with its 5600m, 18-hole course (72 par), stretching away from the foot of the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, 10 minutes from the city centre.
In the capital, the Musee de la Ville, the renowned Aquarium and Tjibaou Cultural Centre, memorable inside and out for its buildings and exhibits, are all on the agenda.
A bonus for travellers is the chance of arriving and finding something unscheduled, perhaps a local festival. Various regions hold colourful events. Luck into one of these and it could be the highlight of your stay. Check with the tourist offices or your hotel concierge when you arrive, and find out what’s going on.
Noumea’s annual August Jazz Festival is something to aim for, as are the cowboy-country festivities of the Northern Province.
Kone holds a rodeo in April, and the big annual Bourail Agricultural Fair, in mid-August, stages spectacular rodeos and other ranch-country events.
In this cattle-raising Northern Province you know you will be eating very well.