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Best Places to Visit in New Caledonia, Top Attractions
Wondering what to do in New Caledonia? We promise you'll never have a dull moment. New Caledonia has six UNESCO World Heritage sites, all atolls or reefs. It's been a French territory since 1853, so you'll have many opportunities to practice your français. It's home to a fascinating indigenous Melanesian culture that's respected and celebrated. Plus it has some of the most delicious food you'll ever eat on a Pacific holiday. Vive la différence! This tropical holiday is like no other. New Caledonia is more than your typical beach destination. It offers hiking, camping, snorkeling, diving, amazing french food, mountain chalets and of course paradisiac beaches… In this article, we will explore all the best things to do in New Caledonia and why it should be your next travel destination. New Caledonia is an archipelago located in Melanesia, in the Western Pacific Ocean, about 1200 km East of Australia and 2000 km north of New Zealand. It includes Grande Terre (the main island), the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Chesterfield Islands, the Isle of Pines, and a few remote islets and atolls. Despite being about 16 000 km from continental France, New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France, speaks French, and has some great French cuisine. Curiously, New Caledonia is the piece of land located furthest from its sovereign country.
#1- Place des Cocotiers
This is the heart of the city. The square slopes gently from east to west and at the top is a band rotunda, a famous landmark dating back to the late 1800s. Place des Cocotiers is the perfect spot to watch the world go by. Near the band rotunda there’s a popular pétanque pitch and a giant chessboard. Down the other end it’s like a lush botanical garden, with palms and large spreading trees. There's free wi-fi throughout the square.
#2- Le Parc des Grandes Fougères
This 4500-hectare park, in the mountains above Farino, features tropical rainforest with rich and varied flora and fauna. As the name suggests, tree ferns are in abundance, and most of Grande Terre's native birdlife can be spotted. A number of well-signposted hiking tracks range from 45 minutes to six hours, plus there are trails for mountain-bike enthusiasts. Head 6km up the unsealed road from Farino to the park entrance, where you can pick up a trail map.
#3- The Heart of Voh
North of Koné, near the township of Voh, there’s a mangrove swamp which has developed some unusual natural designs. The most intriguing is a perfect heart shape, La Cœur de Voh (The Heart of Voh), which is on the cover of Earth from Above, a book of aerial photography by renowned photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. There’s a track up Mt Kathépaïk to a viewing point at an altitude of 400m (two hours' return), but the Heart is best seen from the air.
#4- Anse Vata
Orientated east–west, this popular beach is a hotspot for visitors to Noumea, with hotels, restaurants, shopping and other attractions. Only 10 minutes from the city centre, the locals relax here too, especially on the petanque courts next to the beach. On a breezy day at Anse Vata, you can watch the colourful kite- and windsurfers skimming up and down the bay. It's only five minutes by taxiboat from here out to Île aux Canards.
#5- Pont de Mouli
It may seem unusual to recommend a road bridge as a top sightseeing spot, but at Pont de Mouli, Ouvéa’s tip, Mouli island, is cut off by a wide channel that flows out of Baie de Lékiny into the lagoon. From the bridge, the display of dazzling white sand and shades of turquoise is occasionally broken by outlines of sharks, rays, turtles and fish swimming beneath you
#6- Baie des Citrons
Orientated north–south and less than 10 minutes from the city centre, trendy Baie des Citrons attracts locals and visitors alike. The beach is great for swimming, while the strip of restaurants, bars and nightclubs along the main road could well pull you in from breakfast until the wee hours.
#7- Aquarium des Lagons
This aquarium is stunning. Species found in New Caledonian waters – including nautilus, sea snakes, stone fish, turtles, sharks and stingrays – have realistic surroundings in their huge tanks. Living coral displays are surprising but don’t miss the emperor of coral reefs: Napoleon fish.
#8- Le Saut du Guerrier
Seven kilometres east of La Roche by sealed road is this gap in the cliffs, 5m wide and 30m above the pounding surf. Legend tells of a warrior who escaped his enemies by leaping across the abyss. Try to imagine the jump as you look down at the rocks and pounding waves below.
#9- Statue of St Maurice
At Baie de St Maurice, this statue commemorates the arrival of the first missionaries on the island and is also a war memorial. There's a solemn line of wooden totem poles just above the beach.
#10- Parc Provincial de la Rivière Bleue
There is a visitor information centre by the entrance gate which has good displays in English and French on the park’s flora and fauna. At the entrance you will also find free maps that outline the park’s many walks, ranging from 30 minutes to six hours and easy to difficult. To the west and northwest of the park are Rivière Blanche and Rivière Bleue, Lac de Yaté’s main tributaries. For the Rivière Bleue side, you can drive as far as Pont Perignon. A bus departs regularly (7.30am to 3.15pm, 400 CFP) from there to Vieux Refuge, taking 45 minutes each way. You can also walk, bike or kayak up the river. On the Rivière Blanche side, you can drive along the banks to the end of the road.
#11- Kanak Monument
Directly below Balade Church, this monument, a large Kanak flag, was unveiled on 24 September 2011, 158 years to the day after France took possession of the colony at that exact spot, and a year after the Congress of New Caledonia voted to fly the Kanak flag alongside the French tricolor in the territory. Unlike the nearby Monument de Balade, which celebrates French possession, it is a call for Kanak and New Caledonian independence from France.
#12- Ouvéa Memorial
The large memorial in Wadrilla is a tribute to 19 Kanaks who died in 1988, when French military personnel stormed a cave to free French gendarmes being held hostage by the pro-independence movement. Tragically, pro-independence leaders Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Yeiwene Yeiwene were assassinated opposite the memorial at the first-year memorial ceremony. The perpetrator believed they had ceded too much to France. The names and faces of the 19 are inscribed on the impressive memorial
#13- Le Marché
This colourful multi-hexagonal-shaped market is beside the marina at Port Moselle. Fishermen unload their catch; trucks offload fruit, vegetables and flowers; and there’s fresh-baked bread and cakes, plus delights like terrines and olives. The arts and crafts section includes a central cafe. On Saturday and Sunday live music keeps shoppers entertained. The market is at its busiest early in the morning.
#14- Fayaoué Beach
The highlight of Ouvéa is its magnificent beach and lagoon. While the east coast of the island is mainly rough cliffs pounded by the Pacific Ocean, the west coast faces the protected lagoon and this gorgeous beach stretches from Mouli in the south, fully 25km to St Joseph in the north. Make the most of the swimming, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and other watersport opportunities.
#15- Chapelle Notre Dame de Lourdes
At the large white cross at Easo, stay on the coast road to a parking area below the small Chapelle Notre Dame de Lourdes. Steps lead up the hill to the chapel from where there are fantastic views of Baie de Jinek to the west and Baie du Santal to the east and south. The chapel was originally built in 1898 to commemorate the arrival of the first Catholic missionaries in 1858.
#16- Grotte de la Reine Hortense
This impressive cave tunnels into a limestone cliff at the end of a path through wild tropical gardens. Queen Hortense, wife of a local chief, is believed to have taken refuge here for several months during intertribal conflict in 1855; there’s a smooth rock ledge where she slept. The sealed road down to the cave is signposted.
#17- Brooding Hen & Sphinx
Hienghène’s renowned Poule Couveuse (Brooding Hen) rock formation sits on one side of the entrance to Baie de Hienghène, facing the Sphinx on the other. You can view these two rock formations from the signposted lookout, 2km south of the village. There’s a better profile of the Sphinx about 1.5km north of the village.
#18- Aquarium Naturelle
About 3km south of Tadine is a large Aquarium Naturelle, a rockpool sunk in the cliffs and linked to the sea. Watch for Napoleon fish, perroquettes, picods and sometimes turtles swimming in the translucent water. It is signposted by a parking area beside the main road. No swimming.
#19- Yedjele Beach
The southwest coast has several gorgeous beaches where you can swim or snorkel during the day and watch the glorious sunsets in the evening, but best of the lot is Yedjele Beach. There's an enclosed lagoon with turquoise water, coral outcrops and plenty of tropical fish.
#20- Musée de la Ville de Noumea
The beautiful colonial-style Musée de la Ville de Noumea, which overlooks Place des Cocotiers, is dwarfed by towering palm trees. It features fascinating temporary and permanent displays on the early history of Noumea.
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