A colony since 1853, New Caledonia is a French special collectivity encompassed by the tropical warmth of the Coral Sea. The mix of laid-back island ambiance and French sophistication is set against a backdrop of marvelous year-round weather and natural beauty. The colonial architecture, street-side cafés, luxury boutiques and palm-lined beaches of Noumea evoke images of the French Riviera. Located on the main island of Grande Terre, the capital is also home to museums, an aquarium and small zoo as well as the Tjibaou Cultural Center that highlights the contributions of the native Kanak islanders. The blend of European and Melanesian cultures create a unique and flavorful cuisine. Climb the spiral cast iron staircase of the 184-foot-tall Amedee Lighthouse for a breathtaking panoramic vista. Known as the Paris of the Pacific, the city has numerous live music venues and clubs that come alive after the magnificent South Pacific sun slips below the horizon.
The trendy shops and restaurants of the capital give way to the verdant plains, lush rainforests and wild rivers as well as green valleys, mountain waterfalls and beaches of the spectacular countryside. Separated from the nearest mainland by more than 600 miles, New Caledonia has a rich and diverse endemic biodiversity. The nature trails that crisscross Grande Terre and the nearby Loyalty Islands that comprise New Caledonia provide awe-inspiring views of the country’s spectacular flora and fauna. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the coral reef surrounding this emerald oasis is an amazing undersea experience for snorkelers and divers. The country’s white sandy beaches are ideal for sunbathing and a variety of water sports, such as kite and windsurfing. Once one of the only places in the South Pacific with trees tall enough for replacement ship masts, the Ile des Pins has wonderful beaches and tropical vegetation along with the Grotte de la Reine Hortense and the remains of a colonial penal colony. The grotto, containing a small shrine, is where legend claims that Queen Hortense took refuge during a conflict in 1855. These attractions are a few of the stunning leisure and cultural activities awaiting visitors to New Caledonia.