If Paris discarded its beret in favor of a grass skirt, the result would be New Caledonia’s capital city of Noumea, located on the territory’s main island, Grand Terre. With its air of French Riviera luxury and high-end boutiques, a vacation in Noumea combines European sophistication with old world Pacific Island culture and romance.
Founded in 1860, Noumea is a city of mixed cultural imprints, offering a sultry blend of heritage, entertainment and leisure activities to its visitors.
One of the most westernized capitals in the Pacific Islands, Noumea is also the largest city and capital of New Caledonia. It features beautiful beaches and colonial mansions and is not yet a tourist-heavy destination.
Whereas metropolitan French will hear a bad French accent, wince and say that they speak English, the Francophones of New Caledonia are either less willing or less able to accommodate English speaking tourists. It is probably the latter, since despite the language barrier, they are marvelously willing to persevere in determining how they can help. Without tourist-level French, visitors may find themselves lost here–not that Noumea is a bad place to be lost. The French spoken by the Kanaks is much harder to understand than Parisian French. Think of it as on par with Breton French (or think of the challenge offered by broad Scots or Yorkshire for a naive English-speaker).
With colorful neighborhoods, beautiful bays, various museums, restaurants and nightlife, Noumea offers many activities to visitors wishing to enjoy themselves, learn or relax. In the heart of the city, La Place des Cocotiers is the famous bandstand and a popular area to stroll. In the luxuriant gardens, under the shade of flame trees, the Nouméens love to come and enjoy a quick lunch or just rest here for a while.
Travelers should not miss Noumea’s Chinatown. Here, the traditionally Chinese shops and restaurants offer an exotic change of scenery. At a short distance, the Quartier Latin, Faubourg Blanchot and the old districts of the Vallée du Tir and Vallée des Colons showcase a colonial ambience, with old wooden houses, ironwork decorations and flowering gardens of hibiscus and bougainvillea.
Several bays scatter the coastline surrounding Noumea, including L’Anse Vata and the Baie des Citrons. A paradise for kitesurfers and windsurfers, the bays are also destinations of choice for families, cyclists and joggers. The Nouméens are sport lovers, with exercise enthusiasts flooding the beaches on a frequent basis.
Noumea has a noteworthy food and wine scene offering all kinds of fine dining options and atmospheres, from family style to romantic. Enjoy traditional local cuisine, from seafood prepared in the French Style: oysters, lobsters, mud crabs, coconut crabs, shrimps, and prawns, to bougnas (a traditional feast dish of the Kanak people), to the famous local dish of Caledonian deer, along with a wide selection of great French or Australian wines.
Visitors to Noumea have many options when deciding where to stay the night. Le Meridien Noumea is a five star resort overlooking Anse Vata Bay and offering an extensive array of leisure and recreational activities to its guests. Other fine options include L’escapade Island Resort, La Promenade Apartment Hotel, Royal Tera Beach Resort, Kanua Tera Ecolodge, Le Parc Hotel Noumea, Ramada Plaza Noumea, Le Nouvata, and Le Pacifique.