New Caledonia is a dazzling tropical destination with an impressive barrier reef, white sand beaches, lush tropical forests, and ocean adventures. It’s a perfect destination for the over 50’s. You can relax at a beautiful beach or enjoy activities for culture, adventure, or nature lovers. Read on for this Over 50’s Guide to New Caledonia: Handy Tips…
- 1. Getting to New Caledonia
- 2. Recommended Trip Ideas
- 3. Watch this short Doco on New Caledonia
- 4. What to Bring with You
- 5. Important Travel Preparation
- 6. Weather – When’s the Best Time to Visit?
- 7. Tips for Nouméa – France in the Pacific
- 8. Boat Trips from Nouméa
- 9. Unique Places to Stay in New Caledonia
- 10. Things to Do & Adventure
- 11. The Loyalty Islands and L’Île-des-Pins Beaches
- 12. Budget Tips
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1. Getting to New Caledonia
New Caledonia is only 2 hours from Brisbane! As well as Australia, you can also fly directly from Japan, New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, and Vanuatu.
The following airlines fly to Nouméa
- Air New Zealand
- Air France
- Air Vanuatu
You’ll fly into Tontouta International Airport which is nowhere near Nouméa! It’s 45 km northwest of the city. So either arrange transport with your hotel or resort or jump in a taxi.
You can book the Arc en Ciel Service airport shuttle service and explorer. Here’s their website: http://www.lanavette.nc/
Local Money: If you don’t have any CFP Francs when you arrive use the money exchange counter at the airport so you’re not stranded.
2. Recommended Trip Ideas
Because the airport is a distance from Noumea most people usually end up staying at least one night in Noumea or near the airport. See: 5+ Unique Places to Stay in New Caledonia
Your options for travel include exploring the main island of Grand-Terre and flying or boating out to one of the Loyalty Islands, these are Lifou, Maré, Lifou, Tiga, and Ouvéa.
There is also the beautiful Island of Pines. In French this is called L’Île-des-Pins. This island lies southeast of the main island.
A. Nouméa L’Île-des-Pins
Stay one or two nights in Nouméa and ferry or fly out to the L’Île-des-Pins. Nicknamed ‘the closest island to paradise!’ Ride on a traditional canoe with the Kuniés, and visit the natural swimming pool of Oro Bay.
B. Nouméa and Lifou
A close second is Lifou Island with the most incredible white sand Luengoni Beach. Perhaps the best beach in New Caledonia! See Notre Dame de Lourdes, visit the villages and their vanilla cultivation, and go diving or snorkelling.
Personally, I’d regret not seeing at least one of the Loyalty Islands or the Isle of Pines.
C. Noumea, Amédée, Drive around the Main Island – Grand-Terre
Stay a few nights in Nouméa, take a water taxi to the islands close by (e.g. Amédée), hire a car, and drive around the main island, Grand-Terre. Make stops at Poe, Bourail, Hienghene, and the Far North. Roads aren’t fantastic so travel times are slower than you may be used to, but what an adventure!
Book a holiday at Oure Tera Beach Resort on a stunning beach on L’Île-des-Pins. Pop your dates in and see the best price for a dream escape.
3. Watch this short Doco on New Caledonia
4. What to Bring with You
- Insect repellent, long pants, and long-sleeved tops for dawn and dusk when the mozzies are out. Dengue fever is found in this part of the world
- Sunscreen with high SPF
- Snorkelling gear so you don’t have to rely on hiring
- Mosquito net – depending on the type of accommodation you’re staying in
- Hand wipes
- Probiotics (help to strengthen your stomach for travel)
- Hiking shoes and reef (aqua) shoes
- Jandals/Thongs/Flip Flops
- Swimsuits, towel
- Light cotton clothing
- First aid kit
- Fun & Affordable Nouméa New Caledonia Accommodation – Self Catering
- 5 Unique Places to Stay in New Caledonia – This Will Help You Decide!
- Over 50’s Guide to New Caledonia: Handy Tips
- 5 Authentic Places to Stay on your Dream New Caledonia Holiday
5. Important Travel Preparation
- Buy travel insurance and make sure you keep a copy of your passport, visa and important documents online or in a safe place in case of loss.
- Talk to your doctor or local medical centre for any possible immunization needs.
6. Weather – When’s the Best Time to Visit?
- New Caledonia has two seasons: Hot and rainy, cool and dry.
- The best time to go is from April to November. These are the cooler months and the best months for hiking. You’ll find clear diving conditions during these months. Budget-wise more tourists visit then so prices tend to rise.
- The hottest time to visit is January to March. This is also cyclone season. While the tropics may experience a cooling rain for an hour or so each day during these months, fewer visitors mean lower prices, making them a more budget-friendly time to travel.
7. Tips for Nouméa – France in the Pacific
In Nouméa stay close to the beaches of L’Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons (Lemon Bay). On Sundays and Mondays when the rest of Nouméa closes down, this area stays open, so you’ll always find beach activities, cafes, restaurants, and shopping.
New Caledonia costs more than other Pacific Island destinations. So, in terms of budget, I recommend you stay in Noumea accommodation with a kitchen.
Please read Affordable Nouméa New Caledonia Accommodation – Self-Catering. Make sure you include breakfast with your booking so you can start the day with a hearty ‘free’ meal.
Another food money-saver is to visit Nouméa’s supermarkets for cheeses and tropical fruits and the local boulangeries for warm croissants and chunky baguettes. Then enjoy a picnic on your balcony or at the beach!
Visit the incredible Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre (discount for those over 65) and the Aquarium (discount for those over 60) Both are open on Sunday and Monday.
Tip: The local buses are very comfortable, cheap, and easy to catch around Noumea.
Free Things to Do in Nouméa
- Cathedrale St Joseph de Noumea
- Port Moselle Market – Tuesday to Sunday from 5 a.m. to midday. Go early.
- Beaches: Plage de l’Anse Vata, Plage de la Baie des Citrons (Lemon Bay).
8. Boat Trips from Nouméa
The New Caledonian Barrier Reef is the longest in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The reef surrounds Nouméa so don’t miss a day trip by water taxi to one of the small islands near the city:
- Île aux Canards (Duck Island)
- Nature reserve Îlot Maître – you’ll find the stunning bungalows of DoubleTree by Hilton Nouméa Ilot Maitre Resort
- Amédée Islet and Lighthouse
- Signal Island
- Larégnère Island.
Choose a boat trip that includes lots of activities so you get more for your money. For example, the Amédée Lighthouse Day trip includes island entry, buffet lunch, glass bottom boat tour, cocktail and wine, island dance performance, sun loungers on the beach and demonstrations. So you’re getting an action-packed day at one price!
9. Unique Places to Stay in New Caledonia
These luxurious Hilton bungalows are perched on stilts over the crystal-clear waters of the lagoon. They offer stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding islands. Book DoubleTree by Hilton Nouméa Ilot Maitre Resort
These sustainable lodges are located in the heart of nature and offer a way to experience the beauty of New Caledonia’s wilderness. Read about the Ka Waboana Treehouse Lodge on the northeast coast of Grande-Terre at Tripadvisor.
A gîte is like an Airbnb – you can hire the whole house, apartment or cottage or it may be a small guest house with individual rooms. You’ll find gîtes all over New Caledonia. Prices vary widely from low-key to luxury.
The guest house gîtes are homely and friendly places to stay where you get to meet the locals. Gîte et meublés du Tour du monde is very popular and not far from Nouméa.
These stylish hotels offer a touch of luxury and are located in prime locations, such as on the beach or in the city centre. You can read about Boutique Hotel Le Lagon here. A popular self-catering hotel in the heart of Nouméa.
These budget-friendly options are a great way to experience the outdoors and meet other travellers. You’ll need a tent unless there are cabins. Travellers enjoy staying at the Nekwata Surf Camp on the west coast of Grand-Terre.
Tribal Kanak Huts
These traditional huts are made of bamboo and thatch and offer a unique opportunity to experience the culture of the Kanak people.
Tribal Lodging is called ‘Accueil en Tribu’ which translates to ‘home in a tribe’. Many of the local tribes have opened their doors to travellers so now you can experience an authentic Melanesian Kanak homestay.
This website has a list of Accueil en Tribu villages for you to book your stay (which may only be a phone number): https://www.iles-loyaute.com/en/
Quick Tip: This is more like backpacking. You may find a mattress on the floor of a community centre or a bed with en-suite in a traditional thatched hut.
Take care to respect their customs, for example:
- La Coutume – when you visit tribal land it is customary to give the chief a small gift, e.g. food, textile.
- Swimsuits are for the beach only, not the village.
- If you are visiting a village, dress appropriately.
- It’s polite to greet people as you pass.
10. Things to Do & Adventure
- Mountain bike trails. See maps and information here https://www.province-sud.nc/page-votre-province/boucles-tina. Right-click to translate to English.
- Hiking on the islands and on Grand-Terre, e.g. Blue River Provincial Park, Sarraméa, Le Mont-Dore.
- Kite Surfing is very popular in New Caledonia. Learn here: https://kitesurfnoumea.nc/en/kite-wake-school/
- Golf, Horseriding, Fishing.
- Birdwatching at Farino Giant Tree Ferns Park, Blue River Provincial Park, and Ouvea Island with Isabelle Jollit. Her website: https://caledoniabirds.com/
- Watersports: Kayaking, Diving, Snorkelling.
- Visit a local tribe.
- Visit Vanilla Plantations and see indigenous carvings by local Kanak artists on the Loyalty Islands.
- Go caving on Lifou Island.
- Time your trip to experience one of New Caledonia’s many festivals, e.g. the Vanilla Festival in October and the Octopus Festival in June!
- Take to the air in a small hire plane to experience the vistas from above! Try Air Alizé and Air Loyauté.
- Experience whale watching from July to September.
11. The Loyalty Islands and L’Île-des-Pins Beaches
L’Île-des-Pins – Isle of Pines
Beaches: Kuto Bay, Kanumera Bay, Upi Bay. Visit: Piscine Naturelle.
Beach: Yejele Beach.
Beach: Fayaoue Beach.
Beaches: Plage de Luengoni, Easo Beach, Baie de Jinek – snorkelling.
30kms north of Maré is Tiga which currently doesn’t have a place to stay.
Accommodation on the islands includes Tribal Homestays, Camping, Gîtes, Beach Hotels, and small Resorts.
There’s plenty to do on the islands (including major relaxing!) – boat trips, diving, snorkelling, caving, visiting local artisans, and hiking. You can arrange activities with your island host.
The ferry to the Loyalty Islands is: https://www.betico.nc/fr/tarifs-et-rotations/plannings-et-horaires. Sometimes the Catamaran ferry is out of service so check on this.
You can fly to the islands with Air Calin. You may need a night in Noumea to make your connection to the islands. If you’re pushed for time smaller planes are available to hire to take you to the islands: Noumea Magenta airport: Air Alizé and Air Loyauté.
12. Budget Tips
Here are ways to save money while getting the most out of your trip.
- Stay in self-catering accommodation and shop at the local supermarket and bakery.
- For economical accommodation stay at a Gîte or a Tribal Lodging.
- Catch the public bus in Noumea.
Now It’s Your Turn!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Over 50’s Guide to New Caledonia. Let me know if you have any questions, thoughts or comments below. Happy Travels! Alisa
Pics by: Quentin Fahrner on Unsplash