France in the Pacific? Feel like a change of pace, a change of heart and a change of culture? How about Parisian panache and savoir fare – and it’s in our neighbourhood. Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia is calling.
Noumea, who knew, so Frenchy so chic! So close to Australia with a French sensibility and a Pacific casualness, the capital city is vibrant and ticks all the boxes for a fine holiday.
I confess to a visit 20 years ago and the planets were not aligning; nothing impressed me and the Pacific destination was ticked off and forgotten about. BUT how things have changed, there’s a young vibrancy here and an independent confidence that didn’t exist a couple of decades ago. So for a holiday with a difference, viva la difference . . .
Say ‘au revoir ‘to Sydney and you are in New Caledonia within three hours to say ‘bonjour’.
- A stay at Marriott’s Le Meridien Noumea Resort & Spa is top of the pops here. A beachfront suite overlooks the gardens and the ocean. Restaurants run the gourmet gamut and you can walk from French to Japanese cuisine within a few steps.
- Head downtown to discover a wealth of hip bars and classy restaurants. Check out (newcaledonia.travel) for a list of rooftop bars, by-the-sea bars and cheese and wine tasting cellars (yes! French wine and French cheese, ooh la la).
- At Port Moselle there’s a small but colourful market with lots of local goods (authenticated signs) and it’s a brilliant place to buy fab fruit and stop for a coffee and a buttery croissant.
- In a water taxi, you can be on an island in Le Lagoon in five minutes. Duck Island has a bar and restaurant and you can swim and snorkel here and if you’re lucky there’ll be a party on after sunset – wild times ahead.
- Visit the beautiful Tjibaou Cultural Centre, a splendid building by architect Renzo Piano. This is centre to discover the local Kanak culture.
- Take a sailing trip around Le Lagoon, so big you think it’s the ocean and stop off at Amedee Island, 40 mins from Noumea. Here a stunning lighthouse awaits you for a climb. The locals call the islet Amadee Lighthouse Island.
- Indulge in lobster thermidor (old school and delicious), baguettes, patisseries offerings of many delights, fresh coconuts – a Gallic blend of influences. Tres bon.
AVERAGE FLIGHT TIME: SYD-NEWCAL 3 hrs; MEL-NEWCAL 3hrs50mins
CURRENCY: The CFC (Change Franc Pacifique).
LANGUAGE: French and English.
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
From September to December, when the days are warm and sunny with little or no rain. But overall – with sunny year-round subtropical weather – New Caledonia is good to visit at anytime of the year.