Why New Caledonia is the most overlooked beach destination in the world
By ROWENA RYAN, ESCAPE
IT’S just a two hour flight from Brisbane and has some of the most spectacular beaches and diving in the world. So why aren’t more people going?New Caledonia has been named by Flight Centre as one of the most overlooked beach destinations in the world ... but not for long. Bookings were up 178 per cent this year and Flight Centre says it’s time to bring this destination onto people’s radar.
Here are six reasons why you should .
SOUTH PACIFIC WITH A TOUCH OF FRANCE
While Paris is home to some of the world’s best restaurants, Noumea has made a name for itself as the haute cuisine hub of the South Pacific with over 150 restaurants catering to all tastes and budgets.
Chefs fuse traditional French food with fresh local Melanesian fare with seafood featuring on many menus. Freshly caught prawns, lobsters, oysters, marlin, mackerel, crab and mussels are found in bowls of moules marinieres with the market at Port Moselle in Noumea one of the best places to pick up fresh seafood.
Other delicacies include small mangrove oysters (huitres de paletuviers), New Caledonian prawns and vol-au-vent des fruits de mer, a pastry filled with seafood and cream sauce and on the Isle of Pines visitors can try the endemic Ille des Pins escargot (snails). You can also taste the French influence in the many local patisseries and chocolatiers or enjoy an afternoon of cheese and wine tasting.
WORLD’S BIGGEST LAGOON
New Caledonia is home to one of the largest nature preserves on Earth and is a highly regarded ecological hotspot, with the world’s largest enclosed lagoon, second largest reef and UNESCO World Heritage site in their backyard.
Covering more than 1.3 million square kilometres, Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail, or ‘the Natural Park of the Coral Sea’ is the second largest nature preserve on Earth. This marine park is larger than Alaska, twice the size of Texas, three times the size of Germany and much larger than many other protected areas on the planet.
Explore the crystal clear lagoon and beautiful bays via many of the easily accessible water activities: snorkelling, diving, windsurf, kayak, stand up paddleboard and jet ski, to name a few.
PROXIMITY TO AUSTRALIA
As Australia’s closest South Pacific neighbour, New Caledonia is an ideal destination for Aussie’s looking for an overseas holiday with a difference, without the distance.
The international airline of New Caledonia, Aircalin, operates 12 flights per week non-stop from Australia to Noumea. Flights take two hours from Brisbane, under three hours from Sydney and less than four hours from Melbourne.
• Loyalty Islands
Lifou: The largest of the three islands that make up the Loyalty Islands, with 10,000 residents, Lifou has immaculate beaches, precipitous volcanic cliffs, deep tropical forests, immense caves and a long history.
Ouvéa: Regarded as one of the most beautiful atolls in the South Pacific, only 35 kilometres long with a 25 kilometre white sand beach, it has a single beach front road bordered with coconut palms facing the lagoon.
Mare: Half the size of Lifou at 650 square kilometres, it has a wild beauty with deeply carved cliffs, basalt rocks, dark forests, long undisturbed beaches, numerous caves and pools with an array of fish and turtles.
• Ile Aux Canard (Duck Island): Just off the coast of Noumea, it is easily accessed by water taxi from Noumea’s most popular beach, Anse Vata bay. Great for snorkelling, relaxing on the beach or at the bar.
• Amédée Island: Home to a towering lighthouse built in the 1890s, it is a ‘must do’ on any visit to New Caledonia, offering glass bottom boat excursions to view New Caledonia’s incredible underwater world.
• Ile des Pins (Isle of Pines): A relaxing getaway only a short 20-minute flight from Noumea, this breathtaking island, known as the ‘Jewel of the Pacific’, has picture-perfect beaches and private bays just waiting to be discovered.
STUNNING WILDERNESS AREAS
Outside of the capital, New Caledonia’s landscape is a haven for naturalists, photographers, and adventurers. The Blue River Provincial Park, a short forty-five minute drive south of Noumea, has 9,000 hectares of untouched wilderness, unique red soil, endemic plant life, rivers, swimming sites, waterfalls and freshwater lakes. It also offers the opportunity to see New Caledonia’s rare national bird, the Cagou, in the wild.
For an alternative experience visit La Foa, one and a half hours north of Noumea, and enjoy a horseriding trek in the mountains and along the beautiful coastline.
Environmentalists must visit the recently designated RAMSAR site, Les Lacs du Grand Sud néo-calédonien, the country’s largest freshwater reserve. The area is rich in wetlands, rivers, lakes and flora and fauna and is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts providing the perfect spot for camping, hiking and kayaking.
Nowhere else in the South Pacific are there landscapes like this — crystal clear waters of the UNESCO World Heritage lagoon, isolated white sand beaches and a rugged interior. The North is known as the adventure playground of New Caledonia. Activities include, mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing, geocaching, fishing, hiking, horse trekking, quad bike tours, and even hunting for trophy Rusa deer.
The stunning Heart of Voh
Made famous by an iconic aerial shot by photographer Yann Arthus Bertrand, this breathtaking love-heart in the Northern Province of Grande Terre has been formed naturally over time by mangroves. Take a day tour to explore some of the North, with a guided hike or self-drive. Alternatively, you can take a helicopter flight over the top of Mount Katépei, enjoying spectacular views of the Heart of Voh, lagoon, reef and surrounding mountain range.
The blend of French and Pacific cultures is what makes New Caledonia so unique. Learn about the country’s indigenous population, the Kanak people, at Noumea’s Tjibaou Cultural Centre or the Museum of New Caledonia.
Experience Melanesian cooking at restaurant Perle d’Eram on Rue de Sébastopol in the heart of Noumea, where you can try the traditional Kanak dish — Bougna casserole.
Or try a homestay in a Kanak community offering a rare insight into Melanesian culture including fishing, bird watching and traditional storytelling.
Check out the local currency XPF at: www.wexchange.com.au/cart
Source:Extract from http://www.escape.com.au/world/new-zealand-pacific/why-new-caledonia-is-the-most-overlooked-beach-destination-in-the-world/news-story/2f20b96fe70769f9d7d9f6f6cec2ed1d