Equal parts French style and simple Pacific Ocean culture, Noumea is a tourist beacon in a very big ocean. As the cosmopolitan capital of New Caledonia, Noumea is proud of both its Melanesian and its French ancestry. Its definition of a good time is haggling for imported Asian bargains in the morning, followed by an afternoon of credit card maxing at a flash Parisian boutique. And although Noumea depends heavily on local fishing to stay afloat, the escargot on offer at Ilot Maitre doesn’t exactly hurt the economy.
The City of Noumea Museum provides a good insight into the workings of Grande Terre, the largest of the islands that comprise New Caledonia. Noumea’s best snorkelling is found off the Rocher a la Voile and French arrogance isn’t the only reason the markets at Rue Clemenceau are said to be the best in the country…
Noumea’s Top 10
10. Ouen Toro Park There’s an old military base at the top, but just below you can look out over the entire island chain.
5. Noumea Market Resting on the water, this market provides the best samples of local produce and arts and crafts.
9. Museum of New Caledonia Holds impressive collection of Melanesian art and artefacts, but is best known for its large collection of native boats.
4. Aquarium des Lagons Nouvelle Caledonie Familiarise yourself with the fish you’ll get a closer look at when snorkelling.
8. Place des Cocotiers The heart of the city is marked by this stunningly ornamental fountain.
3. Anse Vata Beach Perfect for snorkelling and windsurfing, but you’ll be competing for the waves with many other visitors.
7. Le Ponton A barricaded area where you can swim with local sea life without having to worry about losing a leg to a roving shark.
2. Amedee Lighthouse Island Constructed in France then reassembled in New Caledonia, it is a steel reminder of the country’s former colonial masters.
6. Ilot Maitre A peaceful white sand isle where you can avoid fellow tourists if you go midweek.
1. Tjibaou Cultural Centre Comprising 10 stunning houses, this futuristic centre contains all manner of cultural items, from indigenous artefacts to local music.
- Maritime History Museum – A little museum that contains many maritime artefacts, as well as changing international exhibits.
- City of Noumea Museum – Contains a miniature model of the city during World War II.
- Cathedrale St Joseph – Contains colourful stained-glass windows with many elaborately carved panels.
- La Fontaine Celeste – A working fountain that dates back to 1892.
- Amender Lighthouse – Built in France, this was dismantled and shipped to the island, where it was later re-erected.
Noumea Arts & Culture
- Museum of New Caledonia – Contains many Melanesian and Kanak cultural items, such as spears, boats and other weapons.
- Tjibaou Cultural Centre – Large wooden roundhouse that contains many Oceanic and Melanesian art works.
- Government House – A colonial-style villa this is the residence of the French high Commissioner.
- Mwa Ka – A 12m totem pole with eight carvings that represent the customary regions of the island.
- Aquarium des Lagons – Aquarium with an excellent collection of local Nautilus and a lot of information about marine life around Noumea.
- Waterfront Market – This Noumea market is open every morning and offers a range of food and other products.
- Noumea Market – Near Port Moselle, this is housed in blue-roofed buildings, where you can wander through many stalls offering handicrafts and fresh produce.
- Librairie Caledo Livres – A bookstore that specializes in books on the Pacific and New Caledonia.
- Casino Johnston – A supermarket that accepts a range of currencies include Euros and New Zealand, Australian and US dollars.
- Marine Corail – Offers a range of snorkelling gear with many different brands and at all price points.
Gay & Lesbian Noumea
- Escapade Island Resort – A four-star, gay-friendly hotel that is situated in a marine reserve.
- Le Nouvata hotel – A three-star, gay-friendly hotel that contains a boutique, restaurant, bar and swimming pool.
- Malecon Café – A gay-friendly cocktail bar located in the Baie des Citrons.
- MvLounge – A Noumea nightclub and lounge that offers dancing and drinks.
- Nouville Kuendu Beach – A gay-friendly beach that is 10 minutes from the city centre.
- Michel Corbasson Zoological and forest Park – A small zoo, as well as many forest walks that can all be explored.
- Ouen Toro Park – A park on a large hill that contains many walking paths.
- Le Petit train – Explore Noumea by taking the train to the many attractions.
- Promenade Pierre Vernier – Walk, run, jog or cycle along this promenade lined with palm trees.
- Ile Aux Canards – Spend the day at Duck Island, snorkelling, swimming and exploring the island.
- Snorkel through the coral that can be found in Baie des Citrons and Rocher a la Voile.
- Wind surf in the afternoon at Anse Vata, where the breeze is perfect for wind and kite surfing.
- Women can join in playing the regular matches held on Saturday afternoons and Sundays at the local Noumea cricket pitch.
- Enjoy a swim at Lemons Bay, Baie des Citrons or at the Ouen Toro Swimming Pool.
- Go jet skiing in the world’s largest lagoon with LocaJet located at Baie de la Moselle.
Celebrating the beginning of the annual sweet potato harvest, the Festival of the Yam rings in March with celebratory dancing and overindulging.
If you thought those massive chocolate eggs were as good as Easter got, check out the Giant Omelette Festival in April. Dating back to Napoleon’s era, over 7,000 eggs will be used!
Celebrate the greasy and the green at April/May’s Avocado Festival, with events organised by local tribes.
The tropical islands come to life with the beat of Latin America at the Noumea Salsa and Latin Dance Festival. Held in May, you can learn the moves or just stand by and watch.
The world-class yachting event Sail Noumea sees the islands of New Caledonia as waypoints on a cruising rally in June.
When To Go
Winter (June to August) sees pleasant daytime average temperatures of around 23ºC (73ºF).
November to April is ideal for those wishing to enjoy the spoils of the warm water.
September to December are the nicest times to visit (due to the low humidity but warm temperatures), but everyone else has the same idea.
The famous ‘Little Train’ runs several times a day around Noumea. You can hop on and off at will.
Eight bus routes service the city, but the drivers only speak French.
The Noumea Explorer bus runs on an hourly loop linking all the main tourist sites.
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