New Caledonia (New Caledonia)

Languages: French

Currencies: XPF · CFP franc (₣)

Capitol: Nouméa

Continents: Oceania

More useful information

Area: 18,575km2

Population: 271,960

Traffic/driving side: right

Landlocked country: No

Independent country: No

United Nations member: No

IDD Prefix: +687

Timezones: UTC+11:00

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Last updated on March 24, 2024

When I first came up with the idea of traveling to New Caledonia, I knew very little about it. I was in Australia and the island seemed close enough for another adventurous destination, since it is only 2 hours flight from Brisbane and 3 hours from Sydney – from the west coast of Australia. 

How surprised I was to discover the New Caledonia barrier reef is the second largest in the world after Australian one. What’s more this small country has created world’s biggest lagoon and protected bioreserve on the planet! Sounds incredible? It really is, but before you start putting your itinerary let me present in this travel guide for New Caledonia everything you need to know before landing on this French territory. 

Full travel guide for New Caledonia – home to world’s largest lagoon.

Travel guide for New Caledonia.

If you are looking for exceptional tropical lagoons, coral reefs and unique marine biodiversity, New Caledonia is a destination to take!

The whole New Caledonia archipelago stretches across 140 virgin islands. The land is still untouched and protected by the UNESCO World Heritage.

New Caledonia, despite having the second largest barrier reef system in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, is still very unknown destination. You may be wondering whether it is worth going to New Caledonia, my answer would be yes, simply because it’s a unique coral paradise in the Pacific crystal-clear waters.

I wish the Kanak culture was more expoused and visible on the island (Kanak are the original inhabitants of New Caledonia). Another thing you need to know about is that the island is definitely more expensive than other Pacific Islands. But with this travel guide for New Caledonia you’ll be able to plan things in advance with affordable budget.

Where is New Caledonia located?

New Caledonia Island is located in the Pacific Ocean, east of Australia (2-3 hour flight from the east coast) and north of New Zealand

The two neighbouring islands are: Fiji and Vanuatu.

New Caledonia is French overseas collectivity with significant autonomy. 

Grande Terre - main island of New Caledonia.

Grande Terre is the main island of New Caledonia with Noumea biggest city. North of the island is mostly covered with dense tropical forests and wild beaches. On the south you’ll find really beautiful mountain ranges with opportunities for hiking. Don’t miss exploring traditional Melanesian villages and enjoy water activities across the paradise islands. Sounds adventurous for a one/two weeks tropical holidays, which can be reached with 2 hours flight from Australia (Brisbane) and 3 hours from Sydney.

How to get here?

BY PLANE: New Caledonia has few airports with the main Nouméa-La Tontouta International Airport in the capital city. 

The easiest and shortest way to travel to NC is by plane from east coast of Australia, however there are many flights from major Australian cities usually with Quantas Airlines.

From Brisbane is it 2 hours flight and from 3 hours flight, check here on SkyScanner.com for best deals – the prices can be really attractive if booked in advance. I paid ~ $250 two weeks ahead of the flight, which was quite late.

SHIP CRUISE: There are plenty of 7-9 nights cruise options from Sydney or Brisbane.

New Caledonia useful travel information.

VISA: Most passports would be visa free but check your requirements before booking a flight on iVisa.com. 

BIO SECURITY CHECK: on the border, you are not suppouse to bring any primary or dairy foods, fruit and vegetables or raw meat products, animals, etc – same rules like other islands in the Pacific.

WATER: Tap water is generally safe to drink in towns/however if you have a chace boil it first.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: Always travel with medical insurance, visit for SafetyWing for best offers.

ACCOMMODATION: Quite expensive – I would highly advise to book in advance: Agoda.com has very affordable options.

CAPITAL CITY: Noumea, modern with any shops and services available including (Decathlon, Auchan, Carrefour)! 

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Tanéo (taneo.nc) – official public transport in Noumea – quite good within Noumea, outside the city there is no bus network to take you around. See my travel advice for New Caledonia.

ATMs: Widely accessible. Card payments accepted in most places.

CURRENCY: Pacific Franc XPF 1€~119.3317 XPF

LANGUAGE: French, hiwever people speak little English.

How to get from La Tontouta International Airport to Nouema?

There are few ways to get from Tontouta Airport to Noumea city centre. The airport is located 50 kilometres from Noumea.

PUBLIC BUS: Nouema does not have a great public transportation, but it is possible to catch a local bus P4 from the airport. There are only 4 buses per day – 2 early in the morning and 2 in the afternoon: for detailed schedule visit official website taneo.nc.

It takes about 1h 20 minutes to get from the airport to Noumea by local bus. 

Full travel guide for New Caledonia – home to world’s largest lagoon.

SHUTTLE: the most convenient way to get from the airport to Noumea is by shuttle bus, which dropps you off in your hotel. You can either book it onlina in advance: https://www.arcenciel.nc/fr/home or find them on the right side from the airport exit. One way transfer cost ~ USD25 per person. (3000 XPF).

Me of course wasn’t prepared and I didn’t book any transportation, hoping for a public bus. But there was no public bus after 5pm, so luckily I got a place in the shuttle van, as it only takes 8 people on board. The service was exceleent, clean, kind and fast – it takes only 45 minutes to Noumea and it left me right in front of my hostel, helping out with my monster/at that stage/ backpack and good bye message: Merci Madamme.. Gosh, what an amazing island & people I though.

TAXI: I guess if you are traveling in a group, you can take a taxi to Nouema, which will cost around $50-$70 for all. 

PRIVATE TRANSPORT: This is a very affordable option if you want to book a Private transport to the airport.

Renting a car in New Caledonia.

Renting a car in New Caledonia is the most valuable way of exploring the island. Despite the fact you will be able to reach some of the places outside of Noumea by bus, the routes are limited and you will not be able to discover some really breathtaking spots. I really recommend it, especially with such good quality road infrastructure.

Renting a car is pleasant and easy in New Caledonia, Tontouta airport is probably the best spot to collect and drop off your car, which also saves you a hassle of booking a transportation from/to the airport, which is located 50 kilometres from Noumea north direction.

I booked my car on Rentalcars.com with Point Rouge (SuperB rated) – the service was truly amazing, both ladies are quick and extremely helpful. I always add full coverage to my rentals and despite the island is said to be safe, some small/thieft accidents happen. However they have a very good policy on tiny scratches and they will not charge each renter for those things. There is 150km mileage limit per day/however if you exceed there is a quite fair charge/or they might even skip it if it’s below 100kilometres. 

Check and get best car rentals deals:

Meet the Noumea city.

Nouema is very clean, significant port city.

Tourist information: Very useful, they will provide you with all information regarding tours, ferries to nearby islands, maps, etc.

In low season there is only 1 ferry per week operating to Isle of Pines.

Shops: There are many supermarkets, souvenir shops in the city.

Noumea on Sunday is a ghost town! Everything is closed, so make sure you have a place to eat 😉

Public transport in Noumea.

As mentioned above Noumea has quite good public transport Tanéo – Tel +687 76 06 08. Dumbéa, Païta and Mont-Dore (great hiking area, only 30 minutes from Noumea) can be taken on this network. 

A single ticket cost 300 francs. Can be bough in the terminal, bus or ticket machine. 

Bus P4 goes from Noumea centre to the Airport.

You can also check all bus routes on: Kedia.nc.

If you plan to make several trips it is better to get a Pass – I think only available in bus terminal – Place de la Moselle (I bought all my tickets there). 

Full travel guide for New Caledonia – home to world’s largest lagoon.

GO Snorkeling in New Caledonian barrier reef.

Snorkeling in New Caledonia is a MUST! New Caledonia along with some of the reachest marine biodiversity has officially created world’s largest protected area.

The island is surrounded by some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. For that reason one of the most popular activities in New Caledonia is snorkeling in the coral reefs of one of the nearby islands. You can rent equipment from local operators or take a tour, where you will have an experienced guide to show you the best spots. Luckily there are plenty of options to choose from even in low season. 

Full travel guide for New Caledonia – home to world’s largest lagoon.

Snorkeling in Pacific Paradise Islands.

Exceptional Isle of Pines.

Isle of Pines (Pine Island) is one of the most spectacular Pacific islands. There are two ways to get there:

  • by FERRY: which takes 2.5 hours and costs around 60-70 USD.
  • by PLANE: the quickest way and equally cheap if you book in advance is taking direct 30-minutes flight from Noumea, for skyscanner.com for best rates.

Two amazing accommodation options on the island:

Amazing Amedee Island (the Lighthouse island).

NOTE: Amedee Island offers best snorkeling and diving experience out of all islands. 

The island tour was spectacular! There is everything on the island you dreamed about when it comes to marine life: sea snakes, mantas, turtles and most colourful fishes are awaiting to meet you just few metres from the shore!

Things to know before you go: there is no accommodation on the island. There is only one bar, which closes at 1pm, so bring food, snacks and water with before boarding the boat or book a tour with lunch and drinks. 

This is one of the best tour options to Amedee Island with hotel pick up and drop off, including welcome drinks and lunch buffet: Amedee Lighthouse full-day excursion.

If you are seeking for a private tour, there isn’t a better option than top rated Amedee Island and Outer Reef Half-Day Private Water Taxi Tour from Noumea.

Signal Island.

Signal island is almost equally popular as Amedee island. If you are looking for affordable snorkeling experience this is probably the best tour availabale (similar price as in the harbour): Water Taxi Signal Island Turtle Tour (~55USD).

In the port city/near Tourist Information area, there are usually tour operators in the morning, offering different attractions and island tours. Some are cheaper, some are more expensive than booking online but they have: Golfing experiences, fishing, snorkeling, island hooping, many options to choose from. 

I booked all my tours online and find the prices similar to what was offered in the harbour under white tents. 

Full travel guide for New Caledonia – home to world’s largest lagoon.

Where to stay in Noumea - the capital of New Caledonia.

Noumea is a significant port and biggest city of the island. In general New Caledonia is not the cheapest destination when it comes to accommodation and there are not that many options to choose from. Here are few options I recommend to stay in:

Cheap: Auberge Jeunesse Noumea – backpackers hostel I stayed few nights there – fabulous with great location and price for only ~ 22USD/per night.

Nouvata – great hotel option for reasonable price.

Mid-range – definitely 4.5 stars Hilton Noumea La Promenade Residences for luxurious and tranquil experience.

Exotic – If you want to treat yourself with luxury choose DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort – the place is exceptional.

Or have a look at some other accommodation options on agoda.com.

Full travel guide for New Caledonia – home to world’s largest lagoon.

What to see in Noumea.

Noumea on Sundays is a ghost town. You will find difficult to find something opened even around harbour area. 

There are few sites worth visiting in Noumea. If you want to explore the city you might go on a Guided City Orientation Tour of Noumea or very popular Anse Vata Tchou Tchou Yellow or Green Train, which rides around some of Noumea’s idyllic natural landmarks and exciting inner-city neighborhoods.

If you prefer a mixture of gastronomy, culture and art The “French Touch” Tour is an interesting option.

Visiting the Tjibaou Cultural Center.

The Tjibaou Cultural Center is a great place to learn about the history and traditions of the island – I honestly loved the whole exhibition. I’m very interested in people, the local culture and history of every place I visit on earth. The museum is a beautiful display, exhibitions, performances and events that showcase the traditional Kanak culture.

However – it was very dissapointing to see the whole museum is ONLY in French.. That doesn’t show much appreciation for foreign visitors, not having English descriptions of the displays. How they want to introduce the Kanak culture to other people if the museum is only in French? Especially having all neighbouring countries with English language as leading one. 

Entrance fee is 1000F and you can get there by a local bus, which parks in front of the museum entrance.

Full travel guide for New Caledonia – home to world’s largest lagoon.

Explore the traditional Kanak culture.

Kanak people are the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia. In the past they have faced challenges such as colonization, cultural assimilation, and marginalization. The impact of European colonization, particularly by the French, has had significant effects on Kanak society, including land dispossession, loss of traditional practices, and social inequality.

The island seemed very French to me, the footprint of local people & culture isn’t too visible, despite its originality and uniqness. I found Kayak people very beautiful, friendly and everyone greets you on the street. 

Exploring the Blue River Provincial Park.

The Blue River Provincial Park is probably one of the most beautiful sites outside of Noumea. It is a stunning natural park with some of the most beautiful landscapes in New Caledonia, where you will find an amazing lush rainforests, waterfalls, and stunning blue rivers that are perfect for swimming and kayaking. It is a great place to spend a day exploring the island’s natural beauty. However the only way to get there is by car.

'Bonhomme de Bourail' Rock.

Bonhomme de Bourail is an incredible rock formation located on the main beach near Bourail town. There is a camping nearby and plenty spaces to park your car. The beach is wild and empty with impressive rock formations.

Full travel guide for New Caledonia – home to world’s largest lagoon.
Full travel guide for New Caledonia – home to world’s largest lagoon.

Best time to visit New Caledonia.

Best time to visit New Caledonia is during dry season from June to September. Summer temperatures rise to over 30°C. 

From November to April you will also experience hot season with temperatures around 26-28°C but frequent rainfall. 

October would be a very popular touristic month. 

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Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!
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