New Caledonia's Nouméa has even more to offer than stunning beaches and friendly locals. Check out this list of 15 activities that show the range of experiences you can have in this delightful South Pacific destination.
1. Shop local at Centre Ville
Centre Ville draw the shopping-savvy set to its narrow streets. Centred on the Rue d’Alma, the network of streets around the main square Place des Cocotiers, has many a surprise. New Caledonian mix with boutiques for a diverse shopping experience.
2. Check out Chinatown
The new Chinatown, or Quartier Asiatique, opened in October 2013. Around 7% of Nouméa’s population has Asian heritage, and a statue here honours the Vietnamese workers who came to New Caledonia to mine for chrome and nickel in the late 19th century. Complete your visit with delicious nem spring rolls and Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk.
3. Wander through Place des Cocotiers
Place des Cocotiers itself is a metaphor for New Caledonia: it’s a typically French central square fringed with the South Pacific coconut trees and Kanak totems. Kanak ladies braid hair and many stop and read Les Nouvelles, the Caledonian daily newspaper. Watch the locals play chess, or if you think you’ve got what it takes, join in.
4. Get a sweets fix at chocolatiers in the Latin quarter
A highlight of the Latin Quarter is the chocolatiers, whose use of locally-sourced cacao, vanilla beans and sugar give the products a unique flavour. These incredible purveyors of chocolate and other treats will make even the quickest pitstop an unforgettable experience.
5. Admire colonial architecture at Faubourg Blanchot
Many of the best examples of French Pacific colonial architecture can be found in Faubourg Blanchot – the earliest bourgeois neighbourhood of the burgeoning colony in the late 19th century. The suburb contains almost 60 colonial homes and four other historical buildings that are all expertly mapped out in English in a new walking trail. Wind your way back to the former city prison at the top of the Latin Quarter.
6. Explore the nightlife
With a beat throbbing into the bay until early in the morning every weekend, Noumea’s coastal suburbs promise much in the way of nightlife. Several bars perched atop a pontoon jutting out into Anse Vata have launched New Caledonian live acts and DJs into the international arena for over a decade.
7. Learn about indigenous culture at the Tjibaou cultural center
Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the Tjibaou Cultural Centre is a world-class museum, gallery, exhibition and interpretive hub and is a major tourist drawcard for those wanting an insight into New Caledonia’s Melanesian peoples.
8. Take a day trip to an offshore island
L'ile aux Canards, or Duck Island, is just a two minute water taxi ride from Anse Vata pier. On land, there's both a nature trail and an art trail to explore. offshore, the shallow underwater trail is well-marked with signs that help identify the varied marine life.
9. Walk from Port Moselle along the bays
Like its antipodean sister cities, Nouméa has some great walks around its most famous bays. The place to start is Port Moselle, home to the inter-island ferries, taxi boat and yacht charters that can sail you to one of Nouméa Bay’s many islands for daytrips.
10. Visit the Port Moselle market for a tasty treat
Behind the marina is the town’s central market, which is a melting pot of cultures. The food represents this mix in the most delicious way. Walk through and see enormous yams and taros vying for space with fresh baguettes, French cheeses and local cured meats. Visit early on Saturdays and Sundays to ensure you get the best of the locally grown produce and the freshest offerings from the plentiful coastal waters.
11. Relax at a day spa
For the ultimate in indulgence, visit the spa Chateau Royal with its aquatonic spa pool, which is the largest in Noumea. The city also has a host of other options – both hotels and institutes – offering treatment options including hamam, massage, spa and sauna.
12. Be the big cheese
One of the best things about New Caledonia is its selection of exquisite French cheeses. Despite New Zealand dairy making inroads and local producers starting new artisan creameries, most fromage on the shelves of Nouméa’s supermarkets and specialist cheese shops is imported from mainland France.
13. Go underwater without getting wet
For undersea action, head to the city's main fish tank, l'Aquarium des Lagons, which reopened in 2007 in a start-of-heart building. Sitting on a headland between Anse Vata and the Baie des Citrons, the aquarium also offers one of the best views in Noumea.
14. Discover the beauty of Kuendu Beach
For another memorable coastal option, Kuendu Beach is located just 10 minutes away from the city centre and boasts a beautiful sandy stretch which is very popular among local families. The nearby hotel also waterslides, a restaurant, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. Or get an historical experience and visit the remains of Fort Tereka.
15. See Nouméa from on high
Ouen Toro provides a marvellous view over Noumea’s lagoon and surrounding islands. From here, you can see the distant Amedee lighthouse in fine weather, while views of Mount Dore and the city of Noumea are guaranteed. There’s also another lookout behind the Noumea Cathedral, Mont Venus, and another on the way to the zoological and botanical garden park.