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Port Review: Noumea, New Caledonia

By:
Joanna Hall
 

It lies off the coast of Queensland in Australia, and Noumea combines the atmosphere of a French colonial outpost town with all the trappings of the South Pacific. 

Overview 

Locals carry baguettes past swaying palm trees in the tropical heat and groups of men partake in a game of boules at sunset on a white sand beach. The capital of New Caledonia, Noumea, is situated on Grand Terre, which is the country’s main island. Facing the lagoon, the Caledonian capital embraces all that the Pacific has to offer visitors. It’s a city to wander, especially on the waterfront, the bay attracting the first European settlers in 1853. Noumea is also lined with inviting beaches and islands, and its a place where you can enjoy the great outdoor all year long; from walking and snorkeling, to windsurfing, playing golf, swimming. Three spots you can’t miss: Alma Street, Sebastopol Street and the Promenade.  

The Facts 

Language: French & Kanak dialects.

Currency: French Pacific Franc.

Docking/anchoring: Ships dock at the dedicated cruise terminal right in the heart of the city.

Transport: Limited taxis are usually outside the cruise terminal and there’s also the Yellow Tchou Tchou Train which operates when ships are in port and takes in Noumea’s most interesting attractions.

Don’t Miss 

Anse Vata Beach and Baie des Citrons (Lemon Bay Beach) are two of the most popular areas for both local people and for visitors. Anse Vata is a lovely white sand beach which is flanked by classic French promenades and beach front restaurants which has a touch of the French Riviera about it. Baie des Citrons is a sheltered beach and is perfect for families who want to take their kids swimming. 

The Tjibaou Cultural Centre is the place to find out how influential the Melanesian Kanak culture has been on the development of New Caledonia. It’s also one of the Pacific’s most distinctive architectural landmarks, created by acclaimed Italian architect Renzo Piano.

Best Photo Op 

The Ouen Toro Lookout provides a great view of Noumea and its bays and beaches, across the lagoon to the small marine reserve islands with their fringing coral reefs.

Shopping 

There are some okay souvenir shops in the cruise terminal and in the nearby Coconut Square ranging from kitschy T-shirts to original artwork by local people. The streets of Noumea are laid out in a grid system and are home to a variety of shops and it’s easy to  navigate your way around to find something that suits your taste. Remember though that local retailers follow siesta from about midday to 2pm. If you want to buy duty free products, you’ll need to take your passport with you.

Food and Drink

If you love French cuisine, then you’ll have a great time in Noumea. Local boulangerie, or bakeries, are dotted throughout the downtown area if you want to try a real croissant along with some good restaurants which serve typically French cuisine with local produce. Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons also have a concentration of good restaurants, but remember that prices are relatively high.  

Pick of the Excursions

New Caledonia’s Barrier Reef is the second largest, behind the Great Barrier Reef, and also has the world’s largest lagoon and a sailing tour is a great way to take in the sheer scale and beauty of the area. Within the lagoon are the islands of Amedee, Escapade and Canard, and tours often visit one of these for swimming and snorkelling with a bit of lunch thrown in.

Most cruise ships offer a city highlights tour which is a good way to take in all the main sights in around 3-4 hours. The bus tours usually visit Anse Vata, the Church of La Conception built in 1874, the FOL Lookout which give you great views of Noumea, the rolling hills around the city and the harbour itself, the Ouen Toro Lookout, with morning or afternoon tea at one of the hotels.  

 

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