With its elegant urban infrastructure in a stunning natural setting, Noumea is a truly unique island and part of the New Caledonia archipelago. Noumea started as a penal colony, but has since evolved to a lovely metropolis and today has almost two thirds of New Caledonia’s population. While much of the archipelago of New Caledonia has a large percentage of Kanak people – the indigenous inhabitants who live in tribal areas across the country – Noumea is predominantly European with a strong French influence. The city’s center and Place de Cocotiers, the main park, are located close to the harbor and several churches date back to the late 19th century. Other attractions include a world-class aquarium at Anse Vata, several long beaches to the south, and a noteworthy collection of Kanak and South Pacific objects at the Museum of New Caledonia. The architectural gem of the city is the Tjibaou Cultural Center, the structure of which resembles sails, or the roofs of Kanak houses hidden behind mangroves.