Capital and gateway to New Caledonia, Nouméa is a town that has a lot to offer; incoming travelers begin their exploration from here…after a long trip probably you want to stretch a little before moving again. A stop of 4 or 5 days can be enough to get in contact with this new land, with its pre-colonial past, with its culture, with its inhabitants. Let’s discover together which are the main attractions of Nouméa and its surroundings, we will also point out those that can be done also in adverse weather conditions because, as you have already guessed, we could not miss the rain in the dry season! When this unpleasant inconvenience occurs we are forced to move from the beach vacation to the cultural one, but we are quite sure that if you came here it is not just for the beach life…isn’t it?
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Baie de l’Anse Vata (Anse Vata Bay)
It is the most touristic part of the city and is located in the south part of Nouméa. It is characterized by hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops, agencies and services for tourists, you will also find a tourist office with a very helpful staff. Tourism has developed in this part of the city mainly due to the wide bay, in fact there is the most beautiful beach of the city, where the sea takes on enchanting colors. However it is also the most exposed part to the winds and with the 22°C of August it could make you rethinking on the utility of the swimsuit that you are wearing under the sweatshirt…but don’t worry, because it doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the sea at Nouméa, you need just to move to sheltered bays, such as Lemon Bay, or beaches at the foot of some huge buildings, such as the Chateau Royal beach (located at one end of the Anse Vata). If, on the other hand, you love sports where the wind is the protagonist then you are in the right place! Along the promenade there is always some van from the schools of windsurfing, kitesurfing and water sports or equipment rental agencies. At last, the Anse Vata bay is the docking point for taxi boats that, with short trips, lead you to the small islands of the lagoon (you can also see them from the beach, we will talk about them above). The Anse Vata bay is connected to the city center by several bus lines, or by feet, through a 4 km walk.
Baie des Citrons (Lemon Bay)
A beautiful bay near the Anse Vata, sheltered from the winds, with a calm sea: it was our backup beach, when on the Anse Vata strong winds prevented us even from getting ourselves in swimsuit. It must be said that the sea is slightly less beautiful than the Anse Vata (the seabed is a bit darker so you will notice less shades of blue), but except for temporary alarms or bathing prohibitions here you can bathe always, in winter too. The beach is spacious and along the waterfront road there are a series of trendy hotels and cafes where you can eat and drink.
Île aux Canard (Ducks Island)
Despite its name, you will not find any duck here. The island is very small and its surface is mainly occupied by a bar/restaurant and by the beach umbrellas (we were able to place our towels on the shore just because we come at a low tide). It is still worthwhile to pay a visit for various reasons:
- the beach that looks towards the Anse Vata is completely sheltered from the winds, you could come here for your sea day when on land it is not possible or only for a short stop of a few hours;
- the underwater path to do with mask and fins is a UNESCO Heritage site: the staff will indicate where to enter the water and the path to follow through the coral reef is indicated;
- the island is a real open-air museum that you can discover while walking: in total harmony with the surrounding environment, the island hosts a collection of 100 contemporary works by local and South Pacific artists, made of different materials and depicting subjects inspired by man and nature.
The island can be reached in about 5 minutes by taxi boat from Anse Vata. When you are buying the ticket, you will also have to book the return and present yourself at the boat’s docking at the right time. The round trip has a cost of 1250 XPF (about 10 euros) per person.
Îlot Maîtres (Master Island)
It is the island on which there is a beautiful resort with stilts over the water and can be reached with a short navigation (about 15 minutes) from the Anse Vata. It is a fairly small island and apart from the hotel there is nothing else, you could come here for a couple of hours or make a whole day at sea on its beautiful beaches (and you will definitely have more space than the Ducks Island to place your towel on the sand).
Îlot du Phare Amédée (Amedee Lighthouse Island)
It is the most sensational island to visit around Nouméa, but it is also the most far (about an hour of navigation). The best way to enjoy it is to rely on the excursion organized by MaryD Entrerprise, which has practically the exclusive on the visits, for info and reservations you will find their agency on the Anse Vata waterfront. The excursion is held once a week (on Sundays, but may vary depending on the season) and is quite expensive, but it is worth it. The island is famous for the tall metal lighthouse, the ring snakes, the tiny post office, the beaches and the beautiful coral reef. If you want to know more information and see more images, we suggest you read our article about the excursion on the island.
Parc Zoologique et Forestier Michel Corbasson (Michel Corbasson Zoological and Botanical Park)
It is a protected reserve for the flora and fauna of the New Caledonia. It is located about 3 km from the city center, from where it can be reached by bus (line 41 terminates in front of the entrance), by taxi or with a shared transfer. People come mainly to see the cagou, the endemic bird of New Caledonia, with gray plumage, the wings with the tip in black and white stripes and a pretty crest of feathers on the head that raises only during the love rituals, however once inside you can admire many other species of birds, reptiles and tropical mammals. The visit of the park is without guide and takes about a couple of hours.
And if it should rain? So our list goes on with a series of ideas indoors.
Aquarium des Lagons (Lagoon Aquarium)
It is located in the tourist area of Nouméa, on the promontory that divides Anse Vata Bay from Lemon Bay. The visit lasts about an hour and starts with a series of indoor pools divided by thematic areas (fresh water, ocean depths, coastal waters, lagoons, etc.), where you can admire the beautiful marine species that inhabit the waters of the New Caledonia, plus an outdoor pool in which there are huge sea turtles, which you can observe from different perspectives (front, turning around the tank, and from above). Some wooden totems decorate the small garden that leads to the outdoor pool. The entrance fee is 1500 XPF per person (about 12.5 EUR). For more information and a virtual visit, you can consult the Aquarium website .
Center Culturel Tjibaou (Tjibaou Cultural Center)
An unmissable stop for travellers, a mixture of modern and traditional style with the result of enhancing and preserving the culture of the native peoples: the Jean Marie Tjibaou center has become the emblem of the Kanak culture. The structure is made with cutting-edge materials and techniques, it is composed of 10 circular pavilions whose shape resembles the typical Kanak huts (a project conceived by the architect Renzo Piano) and blends harmoniously with the surrounding environment. The center wants to be a tribute to the Kanak population and was built in 1998 to protect their culture almost destroyed by the French colonists. The pavilions are accessible from a long internal corridor and host permanent or temporary exhibitions, a conference room, a library, an auditorium, music/dance/sculpture rooms, a coffee bar, offices, a shop. But the visit is not limited only to these attractions, in fact an external path winds through the luxuriant garden which has been enriched with many reconstructions of huts, wooden totems and other everyday objects: most of their social life took place in fact at the open air and this garden wants to underline it. Cut out half a day for this visit, as the duration will depend on your hunger for knowledge about this population through photos, videos, reconstructions. We suggest you bring a picnic lunch to be eaten in the outdoor park (in case of good weather condition). The admission fee is 1000 XPF and the cultural center can be comfortably reached from the center of Nouméa by bus (line 40).
Musée de la Nouvelle-Calédonie (Museum of New Caledonia)
After the Tjibaou Cultural Center, this is the second unmissable place for those who want to get in touch with the Kanak culture and the cultures of the South Pacific. Here you will find a large quantity of everyday objects, funerary statues, wooden totems, reconstruction of huts, clothes…if it is the first time that you approach the Melanesian culture you will find the visit very interesting. The museum is on two floors, it is all indoors, but you can visit it quite quickly, consider about an hour. The entrance fee is 500 XPF and the building is located in the city center so you won’t have any difficulty to reach it.
If you want to learn more about the cultural side or if you have more days of bad weather, we also recommend the Musée de la Ville (City Museum), the Musée Maritime (Sea Museum) and the Musée de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale (Second World War Museum).
Also don’t forget to take a walk in the Center Ville (the city center) of Nouméa where you will find
- the Marché Moselle food market, set up in the morning in the blue-roofed pavilions near the port;
- Place des Cocotiers, a square with a park where there is a gazebo that often hosts performances and concerts by local artists, this is a meeting place for the inhabitants of Nouméa;
- the Cathédrale Saint-Joseph de Nouméa, which dominates the city from above and its structure is very reminiscent of Notre Dame of Paris;
- the Quartier Latin, the neighborhood that embraces the port area;
- the Quartier Asiatique, near Place de Cocotiers, is composed of a street decorated with typical red lanterns, here you can find shops and Chinese restaurants.
There is no real itinerary to follow, simply lose yourself through the maze of streets in the center and if you want to buy something really typical, enter one of the many jewelry stores and buy the beautiful black pearl of the Pacific.
We had read a lot about Nouméa before our visit, we had discovered his nickname “little Paris of the Pacific” a bit for the language, a bit for the fine French restaurants and the boutiques. We therefore expected a sparkling city and instead what we found was far from it: Nouméa is shy and reserved, has the charm of a quiet colonial South Pacific town, where the simplicity and humility of its inhabitants are an added value. Come and discover it with your eyes and get excited by its introverted soul.
See you soon