The Getaway
20 Things to Do in New Caledonia

Welcome to New Caledonia, where the elegance of France seamlessly melds into Pacific island charm. This archipelago features a diverse range of landscapes, from pristine beaches to lush forests and gorgeous mountain summits. Adventurers delight in traversing the land and sea while culture enthusiasts and families can appreciate the myriad things to do in New Caledonia. From romantic seaside sunsets to whale watching or exploring museums and abandoned villages, this region is a phenomenal vacation destination.

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01 Visit the Tjibaou Cultural Centre

Noumea, New Caledonia -August 4, 2019: Mountain view with some of the building's airy shell structures at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, a native art museum in Noumea, New Caledonia. Daniela Constantinescu/Shutterstock

The Tjibaou Cultural Centre is a testament to Kanak and Oceanic arts and cultures, featuring a media library, performance venues, a museum, and an art center. Beyond marveling at the indigenous heritage through exhibitions and performances, the building itself is a sight to behold.

Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, it features a curved axial layout that seamlessly merges traditional Kanak Grand Huts and modern international architectural techniques. The surrounding landscaping further echoes traditional Kanak design elements to elevate the experience.

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02 Snorkel or dive in the Isle of Pines

Île des Pins (Isle of Pines)

Snorkelers and divers are in for a treat in New Caledonia. The crystal-clear waters surrounding the islands are teeming with vibrant marine life. Coral reefs attract a range of fish to the area, including angelfish, clownfish, and groupers. Sandy beds and seagrass meadows make for serene settings.

Since the water is so calm in many areas surrounding the islands, it's suitable for beginners or families wanting to get under-the-sea views for the first time.

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03 Explore the Heart of Voh

Heart of Voh, aerial view, formation of mangroves vegetation resembles a heart seen from above, New Caledonia, Melanesia, South Pacific Ocean. Heart of Earth. Earth day. Love life, save environment.

In the northwest of New Caledonia, a natural heart-shaped formation has emerged within a mangrove. The Heart of Voh, named for its location and shape, delights viewers. However, for the best views, you'll need to get up high.

You have options to get the best views. The 2.5-hour hike to the top of Mont Kathépaïk provides panoramic views, including the heart-shaped clearing in the distance between two rivers.

Of course, you could always go higher than the mountain's summit. An unforgettable adventure with unbelievable views awaits if you book a micro flight or helicopter tour.

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04 Relax at Anse-Vata Beach

Sunset over Anse Vata Beach, Noumea, New Caledonia Aurelien Ducos/Shutterstock

Tourists and locals alike can agree on one thing: Anse-Vata Beach is among the best leisure locations in Nouméa. Spend your day sunbathing on the absolutely stunning beach or get wet trying your hand at an abundance of water sports.

It's surrounded by numerous bustling cafes and restaurants too, making it a one-stop shop for a full day of relaxation or beachside adventures.

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05 Tour Blue River Provincial Park

Blue River Provincial Park (Parc provincial de la Rivière Bleue), in Yaté Commune, South Province, New Caledonia, tropical landscape with haze, maquis shrubland, tropical rainforest.

Blue River Provincial Park is a vibrant expanse of biodiversity. This nature reserve encompasses 22,000 hectares. With several trails that take you around rivers, lakes, and forests, you'll find some of the most amazing natural sights on the island.

Marvel at gargantuan grand kaori trees that can reach impressive heights of 131 feet (40 meters) and diameters of about 9 feet (2.7 meters). Keep an eye out for unique animals, such as the cagou, a unique flightless bird. It's a particularly symbolic species to the natives of New Caledonia.

Whether hiking, biking, kayaking, or simply picnicking, this is one destination you won't want to miss.

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06 Climb Mont-Dore

New Caledonia, Mont-Dore, Corniche Park

Mont-Dore reaches altitudes of over 2600 feet (800 meters) above sea level. If you make your way to the top, you're greeted by breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding areas. You'll be able to see the sea stretch endlessly on the horizon, and if you get lucky, you might catch sight of a humpback whale as it breaches.

Of course, that's not all this iconic mountain has to offer. Hidden within the banyan trees, the historical village of Prony remains. It was once a penal colony where laborers logged and mined. Now, it's been restored as a tourist attraction and even offers overnight lodging.

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07 Experience the Cultural Festivals

New Caledonia's vibrant culture shines through its myriad festivals. Every month, there's something going on, ranging from beloved festivals celebrating the avocado harvest to annual regattas and marathons.

Each September, the must-see event of Nouméa Carnival takes place, transforming the city streets into a lively festival of bright lights, brilliant costumes, and explosive fireworks displays. It culminates in an unforgettable parade with live music and performances.

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08 Dine at Overwater Restaurants in Nouméa

Sure, dining with seafront views is impressive, but you can't beat the breathtaking experience of overwater dining. Several restaurants in Nouméa bring your meal right over the sea in stilted verandas. With crystalline Caribbean waters and stunning views setting the ambiance, you'll enjoy exquisite cuisine. Many pair French culinary techniques with local tropical flavors for an unforgettable gastronomic adventure. Le Roof is a local favorite with phenomenal service. An expansive menu delights diners while balcony views dazzle.

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09 Discover the WWII History at Musée de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale

History lovers adore the Musée de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. A half-moon installed by the U.S. Army in Nouméa in 1943 was transformed in 2002 to become an extensive museum dedicated to World War II.

As you visit, you'll explore the effects this conflict had on New Caledonia and the world at large. As you explore a plethora of exhibits and artifacts, you'll delve into the events, from Caledonia and Kanak volunteers taking the front lines to the transformation of local society.

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10 Visit Amédée Lighthouse

Phare Amédée lighthouse in New Caledonia with palm tree

Designed by one of the engineers responsible for the Eiffel Tower, the Amédée Lighthouse was first built in Paris before being dismantled into 1,265 pieces and sent via sea to New Caledonia. After its reassembly in 1865, it illuminated one of just three natural passages through the coral reef surrounding the island. It's now located on a protected marine reserve, and if you make it up the 247 steps of cast-iron stairs, you'll be greeted by some of the most beautiful panoramic views while surrounded by history.

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11 Snorkel at Duck Island (Îlot Canard)

Snorkeling in Carribean sea Patryk_Kosmider / Getty Images

Just a short taxi boat ride away from Nouméa, Duck Island (Îlot Canard) has been designated a marine reserve. Its gorgeous underwater trail has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its rich marine ecosystem, and you're invited to snorkel along it.

Following the buoy-marked trail takes you into a bright world of coral reefs and marine life. You'll find yourself surrounded by a whole school of fish, large and small, shimmering through filtered sunlight. Look down, and you might be greeted by giant clams or crabs scuttling their way across the ground.

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12 Explore the Domaine de Deva

More UNESCO World Heritage Site adventures are at the Domaine de Deva. This sprawling natural area is jam-packed with outdoor excursions. Mountain biking and horse riding offer quick ways to get around and enjoy the 360-degree views. If you need to beat the heat, check out the myriad water sports available here.

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13 Relax at Mouli Beach

Palm trees on the coast of Ouvea lagoon on Ouvea Island, Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia. The lagoon was listed as Unesco World Heritage site in 2008.

For more seaside luxuriating, check out Mouli Beach. Located on Ouvéa, one of the Loyalty Islands, you'll find shimmering seas and glittering white sands. Within the lagoon, marine life, like rays, turtles, and fish, swim around in abundance. Mouli Bridge, which connects Ouvéa to Mouli, is the perfect vantage point to watch them.

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14 Tour the Rock Formations at Hienghène

Sunset over Hienghene, New Caledonia

Right off the coast of Hienghène, awe-inspiring rock formations tower above the lagoon. The unique shapes forged from limestone also hold significant symbolism within the archipelago. The most iconic is known as the puxa, translating to "brooding hen."

The journey there is a big part of the appeal for nature enthusiasts. You'll venture north of Nouméa toward Koné and navigate the Central Mountain Range to arrive in Hienghène. Once there, you're free to marvel by the road or get up close by kayak or boat.

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15 Swim at Tao Waterfall

Tao waterfall, Grande Terre, New Caledonia

North of Hienghène, one of New Caledonia's most picturesque waterfalls awaits. You can marvel at it from the road or pay a fee to walk to the foot of the waterfall. However, because the path can be dangerous when wet, this trail is only accessible when weather permits. The 30-minute walk weaves through verdant foliage before opening up to the waterfall, where you can swim in the pool.

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16 Walk the Lékiny Cliffs

The cliffs on the idyllic island of Ouvéa, New Caledonia

The Lékiny Cliffs on Ouvéa inspire excursions with amazing views. Guided walking tours take you through trails offering breathtaking natural beauty. You'll have to take a boat at high tide, but when tides are low, it's accessible on foot. Around the cliff's base, the clear waters encourage snorkeling through coral reefs.

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17 Visit Fort Teremba

Fort Teremba, a French colonial fort and prison, near Moindou on New Caledonia, with Teremba Bay in the background

Fort Teremba in Moindou takes you into New Caledonia's colonial past. Built-in 1871, it served as a penal colony, though now it's an open-air museum. Explore the daily lives of convicts as you learn more about the region's extensive history. Restored structures, including a historically accurate guillotine and cells, provide insight into the 1878 Kanak revolt, while guided tours offer further context.

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18 Visit Nouméa's Museums

https://www.instagram.com/p/BxCIwO5HJeX/

Nouméa's museums offer unique opportunities to peer into local arts and culture. Le Musée Maritime de Nouvelle-Caledonie, for example, is loaded with opportunities to explore objects recovered from shipwrecks. Others delve into World War II or local histories. There's no shortage of learning opportunities at the various museums you'll find in Nouméa and surrounding areas.

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19 Take a Boat Tour

Not much can beat feeling the briny breeze whipping through your hair as the sun shines above you and gentle waves carry you. So much of New Caledonia can be explored by boat. It's a memorable way of exploring the seas and rivers to take in the gorgeous landscapes.

From whale-watching tours and fishing in the bays and coves to kayaking through nature reserves, opportunities abound. Snorkeling tours by taxi boats, cruising through lagoons, and so many more water adventures will keep you endlessly busy.

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20 Stroll Through the Markets of Nouméa

Sunset Noumea city New Caledonia

Throughout Nouméa, wonderful markets line the streets. The most popular is the Port Moselle Market. Expect bustling markets with stalls piled high with artisan goods, freshly caught seafood, the freshest tropical fruits you can get your hands on, and so much more. Pick up some fresh morsels and a coffee, then watch the boats sail by the harbor for a peaceful afternoon.

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