7 Days in New Caledonia
By Jean-Marie Demaret
Resplendent natural beauty and a rich culture meet in New Caledonia, the third largest archipelago in the Pacific after Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.
New Caledonia boasts the largest insular coral reefs in the world and is home to a wide variety of endemic tropical fauna. Adding to its appeal, the Melanesian culture influenced by French colonization is unique. If you’re passing through to Australia or New Zealand, a detour to New Caledonia is a worthy stopover that will add to the highlights of your South Pacific adventure. Its islands are home to several modern marinas with capacity for large and small vessels alike. Good facilities are available in Wé (Lifou), Hienghène, Koumac and Nouméa.
Day 1: NOUMEA
A veritable melting pot of cultures, French, Pacific, Kanak, Asian and Melanesian, Nouméa is a city unlike others. Numerous marinas here boast contemporary facilities, conveniently located near restaurants, cybercafés and the entertainment district.
If the nightlife is your guest’s forte, Nouméa is the place to be. Festivals run into the wee hours and spill into the streets with dining and dancing. In addition, the Tjibaou Culture Centre is a must-see. Kanak culture is well represented at the Centre, which was designed by Renzo Piano, a renowned architect.
Day 2: OUEN ISLAND
After guests have acquainted themselves with the wonders of Nouméa, set sail for Ouen Island, which lies to the “Great South.” If your guests love a spectacular view, Ouen Island, with its beautiful landscape and abundant ecology is a must. Excursions off the boat range from canoe to 4×4 tours of the forests, bays and grassy plains etched out by flowing streams. Between July and October, be sure to keep an eye out for humpback whales, which make the lagoon their home during the winter months. And for a better view, climb to the old jade mine that offers a magnificent vista of the lagoon and “La Grand Terre” (the great land), which lie below.
Day 3: THE ISLE OF PINES
The famous Isle of Pines is 65 miles from Nouméa with about 30 miles of open ocean leading into Kuto Bay. This bay features spectacular rock formations protruding from the water at the beach end and is the “trademark” tourist picture of New Caledonia. The bay also offers good protection from trade winds. Upi Bay is a beautiful place for guests to explore by pirogue (a native sailing boat) while you fuel the yacht. For those who like to take it underwater, a local scuba operator offers some of the best diving experiences in New Caledonia. Very fine white silica sand and truly crystalline waters, enchanting landscape and the warmth of the local inhabitants (the Kuniés) are just some of the attractions that will make your guests’ stay an unforgettable one.
Day 4: LIFOU
Originally called Drehu, Lifou claims a population of 10,000, making it the largest of the Loyalty Islands. Lifou lies 133 nautical miles from Nouméa and is very scenic, offering anchorage 16 meters off the beach in Baie de Gaatcha. As a haven of peace displaying a great respect for tradition and the environment, time seems to stand still in Lifou – protected bays, fine white beaches, the warm welcome of the local inhabitants keep visitors coming back.
The people of Lifou carry their old world traditions into the twenty-first century. Respecting their customs is important so please remind your guests to ask before taking a snapshot or choosing a ripe piece of fruit. Included in the long list of must-sees and must-dos are an old church in Easo, the Temple of Qanono, Sandal Bay, the 40-meter Jokin cliffs, the beach at Peng and the Xodré Cliffs, which feature a view of Tiga Island.
Day 5: OUVEA
Ouvéa is a dream destination with its magnificent emerald lagoon and the longest beach of New Caledonia – 25 kilometers of uninterrupted white sand punctuated by unique green parrots. A northerly sea breeze offers ideal sailing conditions if guests want to get out on the water.
For those who desire solid ground, Mouli Bridge and Church of Saint Joseph are sights to see. The bay and cliffs of Lékiny, the Blue Hole of Anawa and Fayawa Island are some of the unforgettable natural wonders that Ouvéa offers.
Day 6: HIENGHENE
If fishing is on your guests’ wish list, the Northern Province is the place to cruise. Encompassing the ports of Koumac, Hienghène and Touho, the area is home to some of the best fishing waters in New Caledonia. If land activities are more your guests’ speed, you still can’t go wrong in Hienghène, with hiking, biking and horseback riding for all to enjoy. In addition, the port’s waterfalls, coconut plantations and lush vegetation add to its tropical appeal. Beautiful rock formations such as the magnificent Hen and Sphinx rock formations that rise from the sea, and Mount Panié, the highest point in the region, are areas to explore. While at Hienghène, make sure to stop in and try a “bougna,” made with chicken or fish and vegetables that have been wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an earth oven.
DAY 7: HOUAILOU
You will find the center for growing lychee fruit on your way to Houaïlou. Every year in December, the district organizes a lychee festival where the producers association displays the most beautiful fruit of its kind, so be sure to stop in and sample some of the delicious fruit. At Poindimié, the main town of the East Coast, guests can discover coffee plantations and the splendid Beach of Tiéti. A bit down the coast, Houaïlou is the final stop on this seven-day adventure. For guests’ departure, it has a small airport that accommodates private jets or connects with the international airport in Nouméa.
Contact Seal Superyachts New Caledonia to arrange your cruising itinerary