The South Pacific has been increasing steadily in popularity over the last few years. With the increase in cruising, people are seeing many of these islands as holiday destinations in themselves and are returning for longer visits. Nouméa is one such island city on my list to revisit for a longer stay. Nouméa is the capital city of New Caledonia and it is located on the largest island of the group, Grande Terre. Colonised by the English first in 1851, the French followed in 1854 and created a settlement called Port-De-France, which was renamed to Nouméa in 1866. The city is rich in history, it was used initially as a penal colony, then moved onto the mining of gold and nickel. In WWII it was headquarters for the US military’s South Pacific division and the American influence can be seen today with the names of some of the districts. The city itself is home to about 100 000 people of various nationalities such as European, Polynesian, Indonesian and Vietnamese along with local population groups. The primary language is French, however some of the population has a grasp on basic English.
Top things to do in Nouméa
1. Get a bus pass- access to the cities buses can be purchased for about $10AUD a day. These buses do clockwise and anti-clock wise routes and are easy to catch.
2. Visit a museum- for a better understanding of the region, visit a local museum. The Museum of New Caledonia has a wonderful collection of South Pacific artifacts. Or maybe try the Museum of Maritime History or the Tjibaou Cultural center (www.adck.nc/en/ ). Just remember that most of Nouméa observes a siesta type break in the middle of the day, and attractions such as museums will close.
3. Go to the Aquarium – Noumea has a stunning aquarium, The Aquarium of the Lagoon (www.aquarium.nc/en/). Check out the cute clown fish and other marine life from the local region.
4. Hang out at the beach- The beaches in the region are stunning and are a wonderful place for people watching. Both tourists and locals alike flock to the beaches to catch some sun, take a swim, hang out and exercise.
5. Explore the neighborhoods- Wander through the parks in the central downtown area, have some Asian snacks in Chinatown or view the colonial architecture in the Latin Quarter.
6. Enjoy the food- With the French influence, Noumea is a haven for wonderful food and wines. Local seafood features heavily, along with local produce and French and Australian wines. Another way to enjoy the food is to take a French Cooking class, maybe you can learn something to try at home!
Lastly, don’t forget you are on an island holiday. Relax, take in some sun and sea and enjoy the slower pace!
The best season to visit is between April and August as it is slightly cooler, but outside of cyclone season.
Flights from $700/person return.