Who said there was nothing to do in Noumea? Well, just about everyone I spoke to before I left actually. They were the same people who told me what it was also too expensive. But on a recent trip to New Caledonia I have discovered 11 myth-busting reasons why they were wrong and why you should add Noumea to your bucket list asap!
images by Bruce Tuten via
1. The Beautiful Bays
The city streets might be a bit narrow and steep to welcome cyclists, but bike lanes make the coast perfect to explore on two wheels. Start in the city, passing the ports and marinas full of colourful small boats and great white yachts, continue around to the Baie de Citrons with its coconut tree-lined roads, come out to L’Anse Vata with its bright blue water, paddle boarders and locals playing bocce along the boardwalk. Next, stop under the shadow of Ouen Toro mountain to watch fishermen wade into the water with nothing but a rod.
The whole trip will take only a couple of hours, but why not make a day of it and test out all the beaches along your way?
2. The Colonial Suburbs
Ok so it’s just one suburb, and it won’t take you long, but these cute colonial houses and buildings from the late 1800s to 1930s along the Heritage Trail in the Faubourg Blanchot area are worth checking out.
images Michael Coghlan via
3. Fresh Food from the Noumea Markets
Ignore the rumours that these markets are far more expensive than the supermarkets. There’s sometimes a slight increase, but nothing that’s going to break the bank, and just the sight of all this fresh, locally sourced fruit and seafood is worth the extra few cents.
4. Picnic Heaven
Restaurants and bars here can be expensive and, frankly, a little sub-par. This is the only part of the myth I did find to hold some truth. But does it at all hinder your enjoyment or quality of eating? Nope! Pack up all that delicious local produce you just bought from the markets, add a baguette and dessert from a bakery and you have yourself a top-notch picnic. Just don’t forget the wine and cheese, this is a French settlement after all!
5. The Views from Ouen Toro
With 360 degree views of Noumea, Ouen Toro mountaintop lookout is easily the best. Pick a path to suit your fitness level and walk the 20 minutes to the top, drive or catch the tourist train. Just be sure to stay there until sunset.
If the view wasn’t enough, how about a little history? Australian canons set up during World War II still sit on top of the mountain, a reminder of the surprisingly large role New Caledonia played in the war.
6. Those Sunrises!
You can nap again right after, but catching those morning rays popping up over the mountains as the already relaxed city snoozes is absolutely worth seeing. If you’re really keen, you can pop back to the top of Ouen Toro (sunrise is about 5.30am so give yourself enough time) and watch as the morning sun lights up the lagoon. Stunning!
7. Snorkelling around Duck Island
Jump in a water taxi from L’Anse Vata for some great snorkelling on this small island! Rent gear once you get there or bring your own. I even saw seahorses! Needless to say, the further you get from shore, the bigger and more colourful the fish, but you’ll start seeing sea life as soon as you step in the water.
Drinks, food and shade are available on the island for a price, but you’d be better off packing plenty of sunscreen and snacks.
8. And those Sunsets…
Picture this: as the sun sinks behind some low-lying cloud, making the ocean sparkle, a gentle golden glow turns all the locals gathered with friends and family into silhouettes. Little kids run in and out of the water, giggling, while teenagers swim out to the floating platform to show off their backflips. Older gentleman play bocce on the fields set up next to the footpath. Chatter and laughter is a soft hum over the small waves rolling on the beach. Even the ocean is peaceful here. Need I say more?
9. The bustling Latin Quarter
This section of the city feels very European… if Europe was a lot closer to the sun. Bright colours and cute shutters abounds in this section of the city, and it’ll only take you 10 minutes to walk around. Be sure to head up to the Cathedrale Saint-Joseph (Saint Joseph’s Cathedral) for a quick look around this 1890s church with city and ocean views.
10. The Rich Culture
Noumeans are very proud of their
11. The Sweetness of Doing Nothing
There are very few places in this world where I would say lazing on a beach all day is completely acceptable; but Noumea is one of them. The whole week, I never saw anyone doing anything that was even remotely like rushing, and that feeling is infectious. Just let it wash over you.
So is Noumea dull and too expensive to enjoy yourself? Not even close. Whether you want a completely chilled island getaway, a bit of adventure, or a mix of both, you’ll find it right here.
This is a guest post by Kassia Byrnes.