Noumea is a bustling cosmopolitan city with a distinct French feel offering a mix of chic très French combined with laid-back Pacific island lifestyle and flavours.
From the bustling atmosphere of the Port Moselle markets to the classic colonial architecture and exploring the world’s largest lagoon, Noumea abounds with an array of activities and beautiful places to explore for free. Below are our top five.
1. Check out the View
Admire the breathtaking views of New Caledonia’s capital, including the surrounding bays and pristine lagoons. A great vantage point is Ouen Toro (132m) at Anse Vata. Covering an area of sixty hectares this lookout offers spectacular views showcasing all of Anse Vata, the nearby islands and, farther to the south, the iconic lighthouse of Amedee Islet. For those wanting to get a little closer to the action and explore the world’s largest lagoon for themselves, grab the snorkels and head straight off the beach outside your hotel or discover one of the outer reefs or offshore coral islands — it’s an underwater paradise.
2. DIY Colonial Architecture Tour
Enjoy the French Riviera atmosphere and Pacific vibe of Noumea by exploring its beautiful bays and vibrant neighbourhoods. Noumea has various architectural styles with quaint wooden cottages existing alongside art deco properties from the 1930s along with the cylindrical volumes and flat roofs of the sixties. Take a stroll around New Caledonia’s oldest neighbourhood, Faubourg Blanchot, for colonial mansions while the districts of Vallée du Tir and Vallée des Colons offer simple wooden cottages and colonial homes adorned with pretty ironwork and flowering gardens of hibiscus and bougainvillea.
3. Visit the Morning Markets & taste the Local Products
The popular Port Moselle market is open daily 5-11am (except Mondays). Here you’ll find locals shopping for island produce and the day’s freshest catch. Indulge in delicious treats, stock up on fresh natural produce, try gourmet products and find unique arts and crafts. Be sure to take some time out and enjoy a steaming espresso and a warm buttery pain au chocolat at the café in the centre of the market place.
4. Make the Most of the Largest Lagoon in the World
Discover Noumea’s popular beach spots such as Anse Vata and Baie de Citrons (Lemon Bay). Anse Vata is the city’s largest beach and the more chic of the two. With a number of hotels only a stone’s throw from the shore line, enjoy leisurely strolls along the beach, sunbathe or choose from numerous water sport activities such as kite surfing, wind surfing, jet skiing, surfing or diving. Alternatively, put together a picnic from the local store’s selection of delicious bites such as French cheeses, meats and fresh baguettes. Grab a bottle of French wine or champagne along the way and you are set for a sunshine feast. Unpack your picnic on the sheltered Baie des Citrons where you can spend the afternoon grazing your French treats while taking in the breathtaking panoramic lagoon views.
5. Chill like the Locals at Place des Cocotiers
La Place des Cocotiers with its famous bandstand is the place where people love to stroll. In the luxuriant gardens, under the shade of flame trees, the Nouméens often enjoy a quick lunch or rest. This attractive gardened square at the heart of the city is the perfect spot to watch the world go by. Here, you’ll find young couples strolling together, businessmen marching on through and Kanak ladies braiding hair. Many also stop to read Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes daily newspaper. You can even watch the locals play chess, or if you think you’ve got what it takes, join in. On Thursday evenings the square is transformed into a thriving market with local arts, crafts, music, dancing, food and drink.
As you can see, travellers are spoilt for choice in New Caledonia, and that’s before they’ve even left the capital.
For more information visit: new-caledonia.co.nz or aircalin.com
www.new-caledonia.co.nz | www.aircalin.co.nz
Photography | © Martial Dosdane / NCTPS