It is highly unusual to find a tropical island with a French flair, but that is exactly what you will find in New Caledonia. This small archipelago in the Pacific Ocean is a special territory of France. New Caledonia is little known as a travel destination outside of Australia and New Zealand, but its beauty and culture should not be missed.
For thousands of years, the islands of New Caledonia were inhabited by Melanesian and Polynesian peoples. The islands get their name from the explorer James Cook, who spotted them and thought they reminded of his native Scotland. Caledonia was the ancient Latin name for Scotland.
France took over New Caledonia in 1853 and used it as a penal colony for a while. France’s long time control of the archipelago has infused its culture with a French essence. Lately, efforts have been made to being separating New Caledonia from the French government. French is the official language of New Caledonia. Twenty-eight different native Kanak languages are also widespread.
The main island is Grande Terre. It is the largest and is covered with rugged mountains. It has the world’s largest coral lagoon, which is surrounded by the second longest barrier coral reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Locals call the island “Le Caillou,” which means the rock. Nouméa, the capital city of New Caledonia, is here. Many of the best hotels in New Caledonia are located in or near Nouméa. Staying in a hotel there provides access to the stunning white sandy beaches and brilliant turquoise waters of the area as well as the cosmopolitan restaurants and shops in the city.
The island to the southeast is called the Isle of Pines for its lovely pine forests. The island is nicknamed “the closest island to Paradise” for its wonderful beauty. The island has many resorts right on the beach, especially clustered around Kuto Bay.
The Loyalty Islands to the east are named Maré, Lifou, and Ouvea. Each of them only has one or two options for accommodations, so it’s easy to make a decision.
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