The third-largest island in the southwest Pacific Ocean after Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, New Caledonia is 932 miles (1,500 kilometres) east of the coast of Australia. It stretches approximately 500 kilometres from coast-to-coast, and passes through the archipelago of Loyalty Islands. New Caledonia stretches approximately 310 miles (500 kilometres) from coast-to-coast, and passes through some remarkably diverse landscapes. Grand Terre is New Caledonia's largest island, and Noumea is located on a hilly peninsula on the south coast of Grand Terre. The capital of New Caledonia and Grand Terre's largest city, Nouméa lies on a protected deep-water harbour, which serves as the chief port for New Caledonia. Nouméa boasts the world's largest lagoon, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with idyllic beaches, bays and Colonial mansions.
Although Nouméa has been inhabited by the Kanaks for 3,000 years, the city's modern-day history dates back to 1851, when British trader James Paddon established a settlement in the vicinity. In 1854, the French established a settlement that was initially named Port-de-France, and renamed Nouméa in 1866. The area served first as a penal colony, and later as a centre for nickel and gold mining. In 1867, road construction began, linking Port Despointes and Anse Vata. The arrival of convicts in 1864 enabled major sanitation and land reclamation works to be carried out from 1869 in the marshy areas. Around 1870, Rue de Sébastopol reached the areas of Mont Coffyn, Pointe de l'Artillerie and the foothills of Orphelinat. In 1897, Nouméa's expansion encompassed Vallée des Colons. In 1902, Rue Georges Clémenceau put Vallée du Tir on the city's doorstep and Baie de la Moselle was gradually filled in. From 1904-1940, Nouméa was linked to Dumbéa and Païta by the Nouméa-Païta Railway. During World War II, Nouméa served as the headquarters of the United States military in the South Pacific. The five-sided U.S. military headquarters complex was adopted after the war as the base for a new regional intergovernmental development organization, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. The 1950's saw the development of Receiving, Motor Pool, Orphelinat and Trianon. Nouméa's outskirts soon stretched to the Ducos, Ouemo, Tina and Nouville peninsulas, and the coastal residential areas of Val Plaisance, Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons sprang up. More recently, the growth in population has led to new suburbs such as N'Géa and Tuband.
The economies of New Caledonia and Nouméa are supported by the mining, business and services sectors. However, the tropical splendour of Grand Terre and construction of a dedicated cruise ship terminal is transforming Nouméa into an increasingly popular tourist destination for outdoor and nature enthusiasts alike. Renowned for its stunning natural beauty, tropical climate and idyllic, white-sand beaches, Nouméa is a region of incredibly rich geographic diversity that includes pristine natural preserves, mangroves and dry forests, lovely parks and green areas, beautiful bays, abundant coral reefs, and the world's largest lagoon. In fact, parts of New Caledonia's lagoons, reefs and mangroves have been designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. This panoramic expanse is comprised of six marine clusters, including two in the South Province; the Grand Lagon Sud (Great Southern Lagoon) and Zone Côtière Ouest, the western coastal area. What's more, Noumea offers easy access for exploring the city, Grand Terre Island, New Caledonia and the offshore islands of the archipelago.
New Caledonia's unique mix of French and old Melanesian cultures offers a wonderful opportunity to explore the people, legacy and traditions of Nouméa, which is home to the majority of the island's French, European, Melanesian, Polynesian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese populations. You can meet the locals and experience indigenous lifestyles and customs during visits to Chinatown, the Quartier Latin (Latin Quarter), Faubourg Blanchot and the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, which is dedicated to the Kanak culture. The history of this beautiful capital city can be explored during visits to the Nouméa, Maritime History and New Caledonian museums, Nouville Convict Settlement, Fort Téréka, Céleste Fountain, Célières House, Château Hagen, Saint Joseph's Cathedral, Old Temple, Amedee Lighthouse, Anse du Fort, and the historic districts of the Vallée du Tir and Vallée des Colons.
Nouméa's seven hills, natural preserves, mangroves, dry forests, lovely parks, green areas, deep-water harbour, idyllic bays, white-sand beaches, abundant coral reefs, and the world's largest lagoon offer a splendid array of scenic and exciting sightseeing venues for outdoor enthusiasts. Land-based excursions include bird-watching at Îlot Larégnère and Rivière-Salée Park, walking on the Ouémo Mangrove Trail, hiking along hills, nature trails and the Nouville Path, bicycling at the Tina Cycle Track, bicycling, jogging and paragliding at Ouen-Toro Park and Hill, rollerblading at Orphanage Bay, walking, jogging, bicycling and roller-blading at the Promenade Pierre-Vernier, eco-tours, 4WD safaris, flight-seeing, hot-air ballooning, horseback-riding, and golfing amidst the lush, tropical splendour of the renowned Tina Golf Club. Scenic and exhilarating water-based excursions include swimming, jet-skiing and high-speed jet-boating, stand-up paddle-boarding, kitesurfing, surfing and parasailing, sea-kayaking along the mangroves, sailing and windsurfing on the White Coast and at Anse Vata, sailing and jet-skiing at Îlot Sainte-Marie, deep-sea fishing, boating and sailing along Noumea's coast and offshore islands, and snorkelling, diving, kitesurfing and sailing at Îlot Maître. Nouméa also offers superb snorkelling and scuba diving in the lagoon, coral barrier reef, Amedee Lighthouse Island, Duck Island, Îlot Signal, Kuendo Beach, Rocher a la Voile, and Baie des Citrons.
Due to its compact size, Nouméa can be easily explored in just a single day.
Going Ashore in Nouméa
The ship is scheduled to dock at the Quai des Longs Courriers Passenger Terminal. Nouméa's town centre is located just two blocks from the port, and accessible via a short walk on-foot. Taxis are metered, and available outside of the pier. Please make sure to establish a price before starting any journey.
Nouméa is home to a wide array of merchants, shops and markets offering a variety of locally-sourced products for sale. The renowned Port Moselle Market is open every morning, except Monday, from 5 a.m.-11:30 a.m., and offers handicrafts, artwork, jewellery, décor, flowers, fruit, vegetables, bread, cakes, olives, meat, fresh fish, and seafood. Local markets just off Rue Clemenceau and south of the CBD are open daily from 5:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m., and offer reasonably priced food and arts and crafts. Named brands of ready-to-wear leather goods, French perfume and art deco are also available here. Located just 547 yards (500 metres) from the ship, Coconut Square features souvenir shops and is open from 8 a.m.-12 p.m., and 2 p.m.-5 p.m. The Marlene Duty-Free Shop is open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and offers duty-free goods. The Casino Supermarket is open from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. The Librairie Calédo Livres offers books about New Caledonia and the Pacific. L'Association des Sculpteurs de Nouvelle-Calédonie, a sculpture association, is a great source for wooden and soapstone sculptures produced by various sculptors around New Caledonia. Other shops include Artifact for locally-made arts and crafts, and Marine Corail for sporting goods and outdoor equipment. The local currency is the Pacific Franc.
Nouméa is renowned for its French, Moroccan, Italian, Indian, Mediterranean, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and International cuisine. Local specialities include croquet monsieur, a toasted ham-and-cheese sandwich, pain au chocolat, pate, brie, croissants, baguettes, breadfruit, taro, chevre, Caledonian deer, French and Australian wines, fish, shellfish, and seafood. Popular local restaurants in-and-around Nouméa include Le Meridien L'hippocampe, Marmite et Tire Bouchon, Le Bintz, Miretti Gascon, Zanzibar, Au P'tit Café, La table des Gourmets, Le Taom, L'Hippocampe, Stone Grill, L'Assiette du Cagou, L'Edzen, Marmite et Tire Bouchon, L'Atelier Gourmand, Chez Toto, O Garden, Le Pimiento, Malecon Café, Amadeus, Le Petit Bistrot, La Relais de la Vallee, Le Rocher, Manuia, La Pirogue, La Chaumiere, Le Miretti Gascon, L'astrolabe, La Petite Auberge, Le Roof, Entre Terre Et Mer, Amorino New Caledonia, O Mediterranee, Le Galapagos, La Kasbah, Le Mitron 2, Zanzibar, Restaurant Les 3 Be, Aux Antipodes, Restaurant Auberge du Mont Khogi, Il Piccolo Café, Shogun, du Commandant de Mersuay, L'Eau Vive du Pacifique, La Dolce Vida, CaCao Sampaka, Pho Arcade, Casa Italia, La Crêperie Bretonne, Snack Ulysse, and La Perle D'eram, La Case, Le 1881, Café de la Gare, Market Café, Huong-Xua Express, Coco Glacé, Le Bout du Monde, On the Beach, Couleur Café, Le Faré, La Bastide, La Fiesta Chez Alban, La Pointe des Antilles, La Sorbetière, and Boulangerie Marais. Popular hotels for dining include Le Meridien, Chateau Royal, Hilton, Le Lagon, and 360, a revolving restaurant atop one of the Ramada towers.
Tjibaou Cultural Centre
Opened in 1998 in a verdant setting on the Tina Peninsula, the Tjibaou Cultural Centre is dedicated to the Kanak culture. The iconic large, modern wooden round houses, seen on most postcards of New Caledonia, display ancient Kanak artefacts and contemporary Kanak, Melanesian, Oceanic and Pacific artwork, along with exhibitions, traditional dancing and musical performances, resource libraries, and more. Beu Ya, a traditional Kanak meal, is served on the first Saturday of the month (except for January and February). Kanak dance shows by We Ce Ca are held every Tuesday and Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Amenities include a multimedia library, theatre, shop and cafe. Make sure you leave some time to walk around the building's exterior, which was designed by architect Renzo Piano and captures the spirit of the Auracaria pines.
City of Nouméa Museum
Located opposite Place des Cocotiers in the city's beautiful old, Colonial-style Town Hall surrounded by towering palms, this museum houses a miniature model of Noumea during World War II, as well as many other displays about life in Noumea during various historic periods. The museum also features temporary and permanent displays on the penitentiary and early-settler history of Nouméa. Most displays in this museum also have English placards.
Musée de L'Histoire Maritime (Maritime History Museum)
Located on the Baie de la Moselle waterfront, this little museum is packed with maritime artefacts, including a humongous rudder, lighthouse lamp and models of New Caledonian ships. It also regularly hosts international exhibits and displays interesting exhibitions on the early seafaring days in New Caledonia. There is also an ever-increasing collection of objects salvaged from the wrecks of La Boussole and L'Astrolabe, two ships commanded by French navigator Jean-François de la Pérouse during his ill-fated voyage in 1788. The ships sank in a cyclone off Vanikoro in the Solomon Islands.
Musée de Nouvelle-Calédonie (New Caledonian Museum)
Located on the corner of Avenue Foch and Rue Eugène-Porcheron in the Latin Quarter, the Musée de Nouvelle-Calédonie provides an excellent introduction to traditional Kanak regional Pacific culture. The museum offers a unique insight into the art, culture and social life of Melanesian societies through an extensive collection of petroglyphs, carvings, sculptures, funerary masks, spears, huts, weapons, décor, boats, and everyday objects. Local exhibits are displayed on the ground floor, and regional artefacts on the mezzanine level. Guided visits around the Pacific collections are available year-round; reservation are required. On the first Sunday of each month, entry is free.
Nouville Convict Settlement
West of central Noumea is the Nouville area. The settlement site of the first Europeans to arrive here, it was converted into a penal colony in the 19th-century. Historical tours of the penitentiary's principal buildings are offered here, and include old barracks, convict-built stone warehouses, a chapel, prison cells, Commandant's quarters, bakery, water tower, workshops, 'Boulevard of Crime', guard's quarters, and Theatre de l'île.
Below Fort Téréka on the Nouville Peninsula, the Mocamana Association has built two paths with wooden logs and informative signs that provide an excellent opportunity to explore the historical and natural heritage of Noumea. The first path, 0.93 miles (1.5 kilometres) long, is educational, with signs providing information about the wealth of flora and fauna in the dry forest. The second path, 0.74 miles (1.2 kilometres) long, is the Sentier des Légendes (Legends Path), which offers a delightful stroll leading to the foot of the Fort Téréka remains.
Located beneath the summit of the Nouville Peninsula, Fort Téréka is a battery dating back to 1896 and equipped with four 5.5-inch (14 centimetre) revolving cannons on tracks. Built in 1877 and classified as an historic monument in 1978, Fort Téréka originally included platforms connected to each other by underground tunnels made of brick, a water tank, powder magazine, various small engineering structures, etc. and an underground passage about 328 feet (100 metres) in length. This passage emerges near the guard's quarters, which are now gone. However, many of these elements still exist and can be visited, particularly the cannon battery and underground passage. On the top of the hill is an observation tower and map under shelter, thus enabling you to pinpoint landmarks in a panorama that takes in Nouméa's great natural harbour and the channels through the reef on the horizon.
Mwâ Ka (House of Mankind) Totem Pole
The magnificent, 39.3-foot (12-metre) totem pole, topped by a grande case (chief's hut) complete with flèche faîtière, stands in a landscaped square opposite the Musée de Nouvelle-Calédonie. The carvings of Mwâ Ka are divided into eight cylindrical sections representing the eight customary regions of New Caledonia. Mounted on a concrete double-hulled pirogue, the Mwâ Ka symbolises the mast but also the central post of a case. At the rear of the pirogue, a wooden helmsman steers the Mwâ Ka ever-forward. The square's flowerbed arrangements depicting stars and moons are symbolic of navigation. The Mwâ Ka was conceived by the Kanak community to commemorate 24 September, the anniversary of the French annexation of New Caledonia in 1853. Initially a day of mourning, the creation of the Mwâ Ka in 2005 symbolised the end of the mourning period, thus giving the date a new significance. The erection of the Mwâ Ka was a way of burying past suffering related to French colonisation, and turning what was a painful anniversary into a day for celebrating Kanak identity and the new multi-ethnic identity of New Caledonia.
La Fontaine Céleste
Located in the heart of the city of Nouméa is La Place des Cocotiers (Coconut Square), which is bordered by numerous shops and a hotel. At the centre of the square is the Céleste Fountain, which was inaugurated on 2 September 1893 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the annexation of New Caledonia by France. Measuring 26.2 feet (eight metres) high, La Fontaine Céleste was sculpted by local artist Paul Mahoux and moved in place by prison labourers. At the time, it was the centre of a roundabout.
La Maison Célières (Célières House)
La Maison Célières is a superb example of the city's rich colonial heritage, and among the most beautiful Colonial-style house in New Caledonia. Situated in Faubourg Blanchot, it is currently known as the Maison du Livre (House of Books).
Château Hagen is a magnificent house constructed in the Vallée des Colons between 1889 and 1892, and nestled amidst a lovely parkland.
Cathédrale St. Joseph (Saint Joseph's Cathedral)
Cathédrale St. Joseph sits on a slope overlooking much of the city centre. Its construction, by prison labourers, began in 1888. It features two bell towers 82 feet (25 metres) in height, beautifully-coloured stained-glass windows and elaborate carvings on the pulpit, altar panels and confessional, and carved panelling behind the altars in the side chapels. The main entrance is generally locked, but you should find the side doors open. The cathedral's forecourt overlooks a large part of the city centre.
Located on Boulevard Vauban, near the Cathedral, the Old Temple is a Protestant place of worship. Due to the building's outstanding acoustics, the Old Temple hosts many concerts.
Le Marché de la Moselle (Port Moselle/Noumea Market)
The Port Moselle Market is open every morning, except Monday, from 5 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Located at Port Moselle, just a short stroll from the Hôtel de la Province Sud, this covered market is made up of five hexagonal pavilions topped with blue tiled roofs. The market has a lively, multi-ethnic atmosphere and is an interesting place to explore. It sells a wide range of locally-produced arts and crafts, jewellery, décor, flowers, fruit, vegetables, bread, cakes, olives, meat, and fish and seafood, which is brought in daily. The fascinating fish market, set apart from the other buildings, sells fresh seafood of all shapes and sizes, including fish, lobsters, crabs, prawns, and squid. On Saturday and Sunday, a group of local musicians playing ukuleles and other stringed instruments keep shoppers entertained. Just about everyone in Nouméa comes here, not just to buy fresh produce, but also for the pleasure of meeting up and chatting together.
Arte Bello Gallery
The Arte Bello Gallery presents a delightful array of works by Caledonian artists and artists of the Pacific. In addition to wonderful original paintings and sculptures, the gallery offers lithographs, digigraphies and reproductions at affordable prices.
Baie de l'Orphelinat (Orphanage Bay)
From Mont Vénus, take in splendid panoramic views of the bay in early morning light, or watch the sun set behind the sailing boats at anchor. The Baie de l'Orphelinat pedestrian promenade, with its landscaping and benches, makes it possible to walk, bike, rollerblade or push a stroller along 984 feet (300 metres) of seafront in a lovely, landscaped setting. The Baie de l'Orphelinat also offers convenient access to Baie des Citrons and Anse l'anse Vata.
La Place des Cocotiers (Coconut Square)
The heart of the city and starting point for a stroll around the city centre, La Place des Cocotiers is a series of four landscaped, open squares. La Place des Cocotiers is best-known for its Céleste Fountain, the zero-kilometre marker from where all distances are measured, and Music Kiosk, a band rotunda dating from the late-1880s. Near the band rotunda there's a popular pétanque pitch and giant chessboard. The opposite end is like a lush botanical garden, with palms and large trees. The four public squares are ideal for reading, chatting, playing chess, people-watching, and taking in a show whilst sitting on the tiers at the Music Kiosk in the 'Espace Feillet' (Feillet Square). Regular concerts and street markets are held in Place des Cocotiers; the popular Jeudis du Centre Ville street market has a different theme each week. Stalls sell arts and crafts, fresh produce, cakes and local dishes, and entertainment includes live music and traditional dance.
Ouen-Toro Park and Hill
The Ouen-Toro Municipal Park spans a 148-acre (60-hectare) area that is free from motorised traffic, and a haven for walkers, joggers and paragliding enthusiasts. A protected reserve, it shelters a section of dry forest and population of sandalwood trees. Marked walking paths are bordered by typical New Caledonian vegetation, made up of many endemic and rare dry forest species.
Magnin Point denotes the end of the Anse Vata neighbourhood. Ouen-Toro Hill rises up opposite this rocky point. A road runs the length of the municipal park, and leads to the 420-foot (128 metre) high summit overlooking the lagoon. It is topped with two superb cannons, installed by the Australian army in 1940. The summit offers spectacular panoramic vistas of Noumea and its surrounds. Coming back down, the road around the hill offers many splendid views overlooking the various sides of the city. To the south, see the Méridien and Château Royal hotels, which are bordered by the beaches of Château Royal and Anse Vata, along with the distant islands of Île aux Canards and Îlot Maître. To the west, see the Baie des Citrons and Baie de l'Orphelinat. To the north, see the residential districts of Val Plaisance, Motor Pool, Receiving and N'Géa. To the east, see Sainte-Marie Bay and its little islands, along with the distant mountains of Mont-Dore and the hills of New Caledonia's Grand Sud (Great South).
Côte Blanche (White Coast)
A stretch of the Promenade Pierre-Vernier, located at the foot of Ouen-Toro, overlooks the Côte Blanche. It is a mecca for sailing enthusiasts, especially light catamarans and windsurfing. Walking along the Côte Blanche is a delight at any time. Paragliders, borne on air currents, hover overhead. Kite-surfers' sails can be seen leaping from the crest of one wave to another, above a white-capped turquoise lagoon. A little further away and depending very much on the tide, seafood lovers plunge their hands into crevices and chinks on the exposed foreshore.
Promenade Pierre-Vernier starts at the foot of the road that climbs up to the top of Ouen-Toro, and runs along the Côte Blanche to the Sainte-Marie Bay, near the Eau Vive roundabout. The landscaped, 2.48-mile (four-kilometre) promenade provides a well-planned route along the seafront for a pleasant, safe walk or exercising, especially at the fitness trail just after the sailing school, heading towards Sainte-Marie. Lined with coconut palms, Promenade Pierre-Vernier is a beloved meeting point, as much for family outings on Sundays as fitness enthusiasts. Its natural surface makes it a favourite spot for joggers and walkers. A second, 1.86-mile (three-kilometre) long track has been laid for bicycling and roller-blading.
A lush and relaxing green space in the heart of the city and just a stone's throw from the beach, the lovely-landscaped, 14.8-acre (six-hectare) Receiving Park provides the town centre with a proper green space of its own, and offers an opportunity to enjoy a picnic in the middle of a beautiful plateau. A square in front of the main entrance (opposite the post office) and the opening of a broad path across it forms the park's framework, with smaller pathways leading off from there. Plant life in the park is based around four themes: mining maquis scrubland; dry forest; a hillside in bloom, representative of the blossoming of New Caledonian flora; and a palm collection from the municipal nursery. The park also features a panoramic viewpoint, 21,527-square-foot (2,000-square-metre), fenced off dog-park, footbridge straddling the water basin, benches, picnic tables, and water fountains.
Rivière-Salée Park is a beautiful, 21.7-acre (8.8-hectare) area bordering a lagoon. The park features numerous shade trees and trails that are ideal for walking, picnicking, using the play and pétanque pitch areas, or admiring the birdlife, including the little bittern, a species of heron that nests in the nearby mangroves. The latest additions to the park include an experimental garden that could become an educational site for schools, a fitness trail, an area with flower and vegetable micro-gardens, and a lookout hill area.
Tina Golf Club
Located near the Tjibaou Cultural Centre in the city of Nouméa, the Tina Golf Club is one of three, 18-hole golf courses (along with Dumbea and Quenghi) in New Caledonia. The lush fairways at Tina are laid out along the coast overlooking a lagoon. Each hole is revealed as the course winds its way through mangrove plantations in a special nature reserve, thereby enhancing the tropical setting of this South Pacific golfing paradise. The 6,440-yard (5,889-metre) Tina is the premier New Caledonian layout, and the course uses the natural lie of the land to great effect, with a hilly front nine and a back nine that follows the shoreline.
Tina Cycle Track
Between Tina Golf Course and the mangroves lies a 4.66-mile (7.5 kilometre) track that is exclusively reserved for cyclists; walking, skateboarding, rollerblading or motorbikes are not permitted. The South Province opted to turn it into an urban cycling centre in a natural setting, creating three mountain bike tracks in the forest. Located just 10 minutes from Noumea, the Tina Cycle Track at Pointe Lasalle winds its way over a magnificent setting, with traditional farés spaced along the route for taking a rest, and a children's play area at its entrance.
Le Parc Zoologique et Forestier (Michel Corbasson Zoological and Forest Park)
Located approximately 2.5 miles (about four kilometres) from the city centre, the 88.9-acre (36-hectare) Le Parc Zoologique et Forestier is home to 600 animals and 126 plant species, 35 of which are endemic. A great spot to spend a morning or afternoon with the kids, the park is home to native species such as the cagou, roussette (fruit bat), notou and various parakeets. Non-native species include birds, monkeys and baboons. Peacocks strut around the grounds showing off their beautiful feathers. Small children can pet tame donkeys, goats and deer, or feed the ducks and geese. The park includes a children's playground and lawns that are ideal for picnicking, or a café at the entrance for lunch and snacks. A geological museum housed in the building by the entrance, and a permanent exhibition at the 'Maison de la Nature', explore the natural habitats in New Caledonia. An organic market is also open on the third Sunday of the month.
Aquarium des Lagons (Lagoons Aquarium)
Located between Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons, the stunning Aquarium des Lagons features huge tanks housing a splendid array of species found in New Caledonian waters, including nautilus, sea snakes, stone fish, Napoleon fish, turtles, sharks, coral, and nautilus, and abounds with information about the local marine life of the island. During your visit, these and other undersea wonders whilst travelling through New Caledonia's different aquatic ecosystems. A daily fish-feeding at 1 p.m., interactive quiz at 3 p.m. and films in the Projection Room at 4 p.m. enhance your experience. Additional activities are offered on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.
Ouémo Mangrove Trail
Located opposite the Marie-Havand School at Ouémo, a raised wooden pathway delves deep into the mangroves, thus affording a serene enclave in the heart of the city, and a chance to unobtrusively observe the local flora and fauna. Stroll along 492 yards (450 metres) of teak decking, and view plant and animal species identified by information panels marking the way. Wooden benches are spaced along the route so you can relax, track down fiddler crabs and mudskippers, observe the fantastic mangrove roots at close-range, or listen to the call of the many birds hidden in the vegetation.
Îlot Amédée (Amedee Lighthouse Island)
This islet lies a little under 13 nautical miles (about 24 kilometres) south-southeast of Port Moselle and before the Boulari Channel, one of the main points where ships can enter New Caledonia's lagoon. Lying in an area classed as a protected marine reserve, this islet is particularly renowned for its powdery, white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters abounding with tropical fish, turtles, coral beds and nearby wrecks, the Dieppoise and Ever Prosperity. Îlot Amédée is also famous for its lighthouse. It stands 183 feet (56 metres) in height, was presented to the colony by Emperor Napoleon III and officially opened on 15 November 1865. In clear weather, the light from the Amédée Lighthouse can be seen for up to 32 nautical miles (nearly 60 kilometres).
In the vibrant heart of the Anse Vata tourist area, you can stroll around the beautiful lawns and Pacific trees set between the beach and shopping centre. There is also a 'flag-bearer', the last remains of what was known as the 'Pentagon', or American Forces Headquarters, during World War II. The city's largest beach, Anse Vata is a beautiful, long beach that starts at the creek of the same name, opposite the shopping mall, and stretches along the entire bay to Rocher à la Voile Point. Since it is very much exposed to prevailing winds, Anse Vata Beach is used more for relaxing, strolling, picnicking, spending time with friends, and board-sports than swimming. It is also the headquarters for windsurfers, the starting point for crossings to Île aux Canards (whether by water taxi, windsurfing or by swimming in the annual official competition), as well as being the course for the traditional race of home-made floats and vessels, Régate des Touques. A few kiosks on the beach offer a wide array of water-sports equipment for rent.
L'île aux Canards (Duck Island)
Located just minutes from the Anse Vata Outdoor Activities Centre by water-taxi or glass-bottomed boat, which you catch from below the Fun Beach restaurant at the northern end of the same Anse Vata cove, L'île aux Canards is a truly exquisite getaway to discover without venturing very far from the city. Bask on a sunbed in the shade of a parasol, relax with a meal or drink under the traditional thatched faré, and swim in the sea or along the 1,312-foot (400-metre) Underwater Trail. Situated close to the beach in a marine park, the Underwater Trail has a snorkelling track that has even better coral beds and more tropical fish to see than at Anse Vata. L'île aux Canards is also home to a Botanical Trail, which highlights the shrubby vegetation, and an Art Trail, where around a hundred original artworks by oceanic sculptors and visual artists are on display.
Located approximately 4.66 miles (about 7.5 kilometres) from Port Moselle, approximately 2.8 miles (about 4.5 kilometres) from Anse Vata and aligned behind Île aux Canards, Îlot Maître is situated in the heart of a 494-acre (200-hectare) marine reserve with a huge fish population. It is fringed with white-sand beaches that are ideal for a little dip at high tide. Amidst the coral outcrops, diving enthusiasts can explore the marvels of the underwater flora and fauna. This little island is also a favourite spot for kite-surfers and sailors from Noumea, who regularly moor their sailboats here for the whole week-end. Other visitors to Îlot Maître can take a shuttle boat from Port Moselle, or a water taxi from Anse Vata. A luxury hotel, the Escapade, is located in the centre of the islet. It has two types of accommodation; garden-view bungalows amidst the vegetation, and over-water bungalows, with superb views of the setting sun. Hotel amenities include a swimming pool, bar-restaurant and water sports activities.
There are no less than three Sainte-Marie islets framing the bay of the same name, and located southeast of Noumea; Îlot Sainte-Marie (or Grand Sainte-Marie or Ile N'Géa), Îlot Uéré (or Petit Sainte-Marie) and the more modest Îlot N'do. Îlot Sainte-Marie has several beaches used for camping or picnicking by Noumeans and, in particular, by students from the Côte Blanche Sailing Centre. It is also an ideal site for introducing beginners to the art of sailing and navigation. Îlot Uéré has a single beach in a small cove that is used for mooring pleasure boats, and is very popular with jet skiers.
Located opposite the Dumbéa Channel, Îlot Signal lies approximately eight nautical miles (about 15 kilometres) west of Noumea and about 45 minutes away by boat. It was here that Captain Tardy de Montravel had a 32.8-foot (10-metre) high triangular pyramid that was built from wood and coral, and used to signal to ships heading to Nouméa through the Dumbéa Channel. Today, a small pathway has been laid out to tour the islet and view the remains of this former beacon. There are many coral formations encircling the islet, which is classified as a nature reserve. You can snorkel and scuba dive to explore the diverse coral and fish species here, bask on Signal's idyllic, white-sand beaches or relax in the shade of the traditional thatched farés.
Îlot Larégnère lies approximately seven nautical miles (about 13 kilometres) west-southwest of Noumea, or 40 minutes away by water taxi. With its fine sandy beaches, crystal-clear water and extraordinary underwater scenery, this is a prized destination among Nouméans on weekends and holidays. You can pitch a tent here, alongside one of the traditional thatched farés, and go snorkelling or scuba diving in the nature reserve amidst 130 fish species, including clown fish, butterfly fish, angelfish and parrotfish. Striped sea snakes, turtles and black-tipped reef sharks may also cross your path, especially if you go beyond the islet's coral barrier reef to swim over the drop-off, in water that is up to 23 feet (seven metres) in depth. Îlot Larégnère is also home to an abundant seabird population that includes the black-naped tern and wedge-tailed shearwater.
In Magenta, along Rue Gervolino en route to the domestic airport, a beach and park has been developed with barbecue facilities, picnic tables and a pétanque pitch. On weekends, the grey-sand Magenta Beach attracts a large number of Nouméan families. At low tide, a broad section of the foreshore is left exposed. When the trade wind blows, thrill-seeking windsurfers zip to-and-fro across the bays.
Plage du Château Royal (Beach of the Royal Castle)
The Beach of the Royal Castle, formerly located in front of the Club Med, is today situated in front of the Royal Castle Hotel. It is accessed by a small staircase that descends on the north side of the beach, from the car park located in the grand bend in the promenade Roger-Laroque.
Located at the tip of the Nouville Peninsula, Kuendu cove offers an attractive, sandy beach with a pleasant and shady grassed area. This is a very popular spot with Noumeans on weekends. Although close to Noumea, it is a welcome escape from the big city. To the right of the beach is the Kuendu Beach Hotel complex. Long been established in this lovely cove, it features a restaurant and bungalows, some at ground level and others raised up over the water on stilts, and offers various water sports activities. The water here is shallow, and you have to wade quite a way out to swim. Around the small headland is a marine reserve that is ideal for snorkelling. You can either swim there from the beach, or continue up the dirt road past the beach. From the top of the small rise is a path leading down to the headland.
Baie des Citrons Beach
The pretty beach at Baie des Citrons is Noumea's busiest, offers good shade and shelter from the prevailing winds, and is ideal for swimming. Long-distance swimmers cross it from one point to the other, and new rafts ply the beach's calm waters each summer. In the evening, Baie des Citrons Beach is a popular spot for Noumea's youth.
Notre-Dame du Pacifique (Our Lady of the Pacific) Statue
A municipal pedestrian footpath, marked out by the Cagoutrek Company, offers an opportunity to embark on a lovely, 0.74-mile (1.2-kilometre) stroll to the Notre-Dame du Pacifique Statue, one of Noumea's most beautiful lookout points from the OPT Tower. Departure from the car park at Notre Dame du Pacifique.
Mont-Coffyn is a lovely lookout point that is located right at the top of Rue du Maréchal-Leclerc, just next to the TDF antenna. This viewpoint offers spectacular panoramic vistas of Noumea's various neighbourhoods, FOL Hill, the Koghi Mountain range, Faubourg Blanchot district, Vallée des Colons, Mont-Dore, mountains of the Grand Sud, Ouen-Toro, and Sainte-Marie Island. Mont Coffyn is accessible via Mont-Vénus, or the Nouvelle-Calédonie broadcasting centre. Mont Coffyn is hard to miss; it is home to the famous Croix de Lorraine, a huge chocolate-coloured cross that can be seen from anywhere in town. The cross tops the monument that was officially opened on 18 June 1973 in honour of the New Caledonian soldiers who died in World War II. The site includes a car park, several public benches and shady columnar pines, which are ideal for a restorative siesta.
Montagne Coupée (Carved-Out Mountain)
Montagne Coupée takes its name from Montravel Hill, the mountain on which the neighbourhood is built. A section of Montravel Hill was cut in the early-20th century to enable the first cars and railway line to pass through. The 548-foot (167-metre) summit of this hill, also known as the OPT Tower, is Noumea's highest point and offers incredibly scenic views in all directions. The view is especially beautiful in the early-morning hours, when the sun is still low in the sky and lights up the lagoon in a warm glow. To access the summit, head towards the Parc Forestier (Forest Park). At Rue Melvin Jones, take the short path on the left that leads up to the platform where the tower stands.
Anse du Fort
Around 1860, fortifications were erected on a small headland projecting from Pointe aux Longs Cous that was turned into army ground. Ouémo Fort was equipped with a battery of cannons as part of Nouméa's coastal defence system. After being abandoned, dismantled then reassembled, the two cannons were finally restored to the site in 1991. A very pretty garden was laid out there in 2007, and the battery became accessible to the public once more. Today, there is a short walk around the two pieces of artillery out to the point, which offers magnificent vistas overlooking the lagoon, Magenta, Tina, Mont-Dore, and the southern landscapes. A lovely spot for a picnic, romantic getaway or short history lesson.
The city of Nouméa has over 247 acres (100 hectares) of dry forest. The term 'dry forest', or 'sclerophyllous forest', is given to all woodland formations that grow in a dry climate; less than 43.3 inches (1,100 millimetres) of rainfall per year. They are found on Nouméa's west coast, very often on private property, and stretch from the coast up to an altitude of 1,312 feet (400 metres), mostly on sedimentary rock. Many of the plants have tough, rigid, glossy leaves able to endure a significant water shortage during the dry season. Dry forest is now the most endangered type of vegetation on Noumea. Out of the 1,737 square miles (4,500 square kilometres) that used to cover the west coast, only one percent still survive. Yet, this ecosystem offers a remarkable degree of botanic diversity and micro-endemism. The New Caledonian Dry Forest Conservation Program works hard on a daily basis to preserve what still exists, promote regeneration, and heighten awareness of what is at stake and the challenges facing the environment.
The city of Noumea has nearly 568 acres (230 hectares) of mangroves. There are mangroves here that are over 300 years old, and home to around 50 bird species. Unfortunately, the mangroves have lost 25% of their surface area since the start of the '60s, mainly due to urbanization, yet this rich ecosystem plays a major role. The mangroves are a buffer zone between land and sea, protecting the coast from erosion by the sea, filtering river water, preventing sediment from smothering corals, and acting as a nursery and larder for many species of birds and marine organisms. Conservation of these mangroves is therefore crucial, both ecologically and economically. As a result, ongoing mangrove protection efforts are currently underway to fortify Noumea's mangrove areas.
Coral Reefs and Lagoon
With 994 miles (1,600 kilometres) of reef and 3,089 square miles (8,000 square kilometres) of coral formations, New Caledonia is surrounded by the world's largest lagoon, and parts of the lagoon, reefs and mangroves have been designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. This serial site is made up of six marine clusters, including two in the South Province; the Grand Lagon Sud (Great Southern Lagoon) and the western coastal area, the Zone Côtière Ouest. The South Province has established Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) with an aim of preserving the biodiversity of habitats, and encouraging the repopulation of the unprotected surrounding areas. Since being established, they have helped lead to the doubling in the number of fish species found around the protected areas. The MPAs extend from Bourail to the Sarcelle channel, comprising approximately 109,467 acres (44,300 hectares) of monitored lagoon areas.
Held each February, Mardi Gras on Nouméa is an entertaining event filled with fancy dress, confetti and joyous celebration. Crêpes, drinks, games, dancing, and face-painting stands are provided for all children.
Fête de la Musique (Music Festival)
Held each June, the Fête de la Musique is the city centre's largest musical performance, and features over 80 amateur and professional groups performing in more than a dozen venues.
Held each July, the Lantern Parade is highlighted by the distribution of 3,500 lanterns, and a parade with the City Council and Junior City Councillor. Entertainment at the Music Kiosk, a funfair in Place de la Marne and a firework display from the Town Hall roof are included.
Associations, groups and community centres are invited to participate in Nouméa's Carnival, which is held each August. Giant screens are set up along the parade route at Avenue de la Victoire and Jules Ferry, thus enabling everyone to enjoy the entire show live as it unfolds.
Régate des Touques (Oil Drum Regatta)
Each October, around 40, 12-member teams from local companies, groups and associations compete on the water at Anse Vata. Each team balances on homemade rafts made of oil drums and using oars, pedaloes or sails to propel themselves to the finish line. The Femmes Funk Festival is also held on the first weekend in October.
Gypsy Jazz Festival
The Gypsy Jazz Festival is the first festival in the South Pacific area devoted entirely to the music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. An ever-increasing number of people coming from many neighbouring countries like Australia, New Zealand and Japan confer an international character to the Gypsy Jazz Festival. The Balkans' music, electro swing and all of the different styles of Gypsy music are celebrated. At the close of the festival, a concert lasting more than seven hours is organized at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre in an enchanting setting.
For a month spanning the Christmas period, everyone in Nouméa can admire the illuminations put in place for the festive season's celebrations at the Music Kiosk, Town Museum, Town Hall terrace, Place des Cocotiers, markets, Baie de l'Orphelinat, and other areas.
Letters to Father Christmas
A few days before Christmas, a letter box for Father Christmas is set up in Coconut Square, and children are encouraged to come along and post their letters. Entertainment is provided at the Music Kiosk.
Arrival of Father Christmas
Thousands of children gather around the Céleste Fountain on Christmas Eve in order to see and touch Father Christmas. He rides around Place des Cocotiers (Coconut Square) on his sleigh before the Mayor presents him with the keys to all of the houses in Nouméa.
To celebrate the New Year, a huge fireworks display, accompanied by music, takes place on the Petite Rade (small harbour).
Noumea offers a wonderful selection of outdoor activities. Included are bird-watching at Îlot Larégnère and Rivière-Salée Park, walking on the Ouémo Mangrove Trail, hiking along hills, nature trails and the Nouville Path, bicycling at the Tina Cycle Track, bicycling, jogging and paragliding at Ouen-Toro Municipal Park and Hill, rollerblading at Orphanage Bay, walking, jogging, bicycling and roller-blading at the Promenade Pierre-Vernier, eco-tours, 4WD safaris, flight-seeing, hot-air ballooning, horseback-riding, and golfing amidst the lush, tropical splendour of the renowned Tina Golf Club. Scenic and exciting water-based excursions include swimming, jet-skiing and high-speed jet-boating, stand-up paddle-boarding, kitesurfing, surfing and parasailing, sea-kayaking along the mangroves, sailing and windsurfing on the White Coast and at Anse Vata, sailing and jet-skiing at Îlot Sainte-Marie, deep-sea fishing, boating and sailing along Nouméa's coast and offshore islands, and snorkelling, diving, kitesurfing and sailing at Îlot Maître. Nouméa also offers superb snorkelling and scuba diving in the lagoon, coral barrier reef, Amedee Lighthouse Island, Duck Island, Îlot Signal, Kuendo Beach, Rocher a la Voile, and Baie des Citrons.
Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Shore Concierge Office on board the ship.