1 and a half weeks minimum, we did 2!
Mostly easy roads but watch out for some wild drivers! Some gravel roads in the outskirts, and you’ll need to give the car a rinse down after powering through the red dirt around Prony!
The central roads go through some beautiful bush and the northern east coast is a beautiful coastal road. The locals are lovely and will always send a smile and a wave your way as you drive past. And stop by some of the many roadside stalls selling fresh fruit and some baked goods!
- Absolutely stunning! You head out on a small ferry out to the island and stay there for the day. Take a packed lunch, lots of water and don’t forget snorkelling gear!
- Snorkelling you can see turtles, small sharks, sea snakes and lots of beautiful tropical fish! When you’re not snorkelling relax on the beach with a good book.
- It is a small island with a large lighthouse in the center. The lighthouse is only open when the cruise ships come to the island which also means when there are a lot of people. If you are more into having the whole island nearly to yourself pick a day without the cruises and give the lighthouse a miss.
- The red dirt around Prony and the Réserve Naturelle des Chutes de la Madeleine feels extraterrestrial. Prony is a very historic area with an old abandoned penitentiary and several old buildings now covered with tree roots.
Plage de Poé
- A long beautiful beach where if you are lucky you can spot some turtles! The water is very shallow for a long way so you can walk in the warm water for a long time and see some tropical fish hanging around the coral very easily. It does make it a bit of a challenge to do some decent swimming though!
Hienghène – Kayaking
- Around this area there are some spectacular rock formations to kayak around. The lagoon is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site so to kayak there you need a guide which can be quite pricey. Hiring a kayak at the Babou Côté Océan Campsite and kayaking into the Léwé is just as spectacular!
Plateau de Dogney & Terre de Soleil Lodge
- Forest hike up to a large plateau and then down to river crossings and waterfalls. A beautiful hike no matter what the weather. Two hours to a full day depending on what you want to do.
Chapeau de Gendarme Hike
- Day hike just out of Noumea! Can range from a couple of hours to a whole day depending on the route you choose. A great bush walk with a View over the whole of noumea at the top! It costs 500xpf to go through private land, and you’ll need some decent shoes as some of the track can be a bit shady, but a great walk for all levels.
Baie des Tortues
- A beautiful secluded beach to relax with some unique rock formations and wild trees shaped by the wind. The Bonhomme de Bourail makes for a cool photo! Walk to it over the hill from the Plage de la Roche Percee or through a small tunnel piercing the cliff.
For this trip the two birds had an extra member, a little fantail named Bridget. The 3 of us rested our wings with Elric’s auntie and uncle for a large chunk of the time, and as they are local they had a lot of good tips about places to go!
We had several day trips around Noumea, one road-trip north, one trip south, one day off shore and an overnight excursion in the center of the island.
We headed here with Elrics family as it is a favourite beach of the locals. The water is warm for swimming but there is not much in the way of snorkelling. There is a small resort here where you can grab a drink by the water or check out the swimming pool and waterslides. We decided though to head up the hill on the right to see the view of the beach, surrounding hills and ocean as far as you can see. Up here there are the Canons de Nouville, remnants from WWI.
Chapeau de Gendarme
This was a beautiful hike with a view over the whole of Noumea. The hike cost us 500xpf each to go through private land, but it was worth it. The route we took was the shortest route taking us 2.5-3 hours return. It was sheltered in trees for most of the way up making the heat bearable!
Place des Cocotiers – town center
The town center is buzzing with people, especially in the morning for the market. Unfortunately there is a lot of graffititi around Noumea, but in some areas it gives it some character.
The market was a highlight for me. It has everything from fresh fruit and veggies, to meats and fish, to jams and honey, to soaps and jewellery. Anything you could want to eat or to take home as a souvenir. Here we had the best pizza I have ever tasted. Basically it looked like a square of bread with simple toppings, but the taste… So good…
Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons
These beaches are a lot more touristy than the other parts of Noumea and are the spot of most of the hotels and restaurants. The water is always filled with people kite-surfing, windsurfing, sailing and swimming. You can tell everyone here is really into water sports, and you would be!
While we were there the PWA World Windsurfing Tour was on. It was great watching all the competitors with some Kiwis and Frenchies thrown into the mix too. Noumea definitely has the wind for it!
Parc Municipal du Ouen Toro
At the end of Anse Vata beach there is a small walk up to a war memorial and lookout. A really great place to watch the sunset on the horizon.
4 nights, 5 days
This route was a recommended by Elric’s auntie and uncle, taking us through some of their favourite spots. We picked up the cheapest rental we could find, filled it with tenting gear and hit the road!
Day 1: Noumea → Poé
First we headed up the West coast to the Plage de la Roche Percee. The spot of a cool rock formation called the Bonhomme de Bourail, and if you are here at the right time can spot turtles! We didn’t see turtles here but instead found a friendly snake or sea krait. These snakes are potentially deadly but barely ever are, you would have to be very very unlucky.
We then walked over the hill to Baie des Tortues for a picnic lunch. The trees are pretty wild over here, the waves are too, but the beach is great for chilling out in the sun. Just around the corner in the rocks you could see lots of coconut crabs, they can be pretty huge!
Then off to the Plage de Poé for the evening. As soon as we arrived we went for a snorkel around. The water is very shallow so it made for difficult swimming in some places, but there were several patches of coral surrounded by beautiful tropical fish which was very cool to see.
The campsite there is just by the beach so after setting up the tent headed to the beach for dinner, and wine of course. The sunset was stunning, here it is truly an island paradise. Time for bed, little did we know that this would be the night some baby turtles would hatch out of the sand.
Day 2: Poé → Hienghène
After waking for a sunrise on the beach we hit the road and headed off to the East coast. On the highway through the center of the island you cut through beautiful tropical forest, very different to the beach environments we had seen so far. I can imagine some great hikes in the hills here, need to watch the heat though! For us traveling in November the temperature here was in the low 30s, but this is only the beginning of summer. In the center of the island it is sheltered from the ocean winds so the temperatures can get pretty high. Just need to take lots of water..
We soon spotted the east coast, and driving into Hienghène we were met by limestone cliffs shooting out of the water. It gave the feeling of a very miniature Halong Bay. We set up at our campsite at Babou Cote Ocean Campground. There is also a dive school here and you are able to hire kayaks!
We drove up the east coast as far as Cascade de Colnette. On the way there is a small ferry you have to use to cross the river. This is free to use and is effectively a bridge. Don’t let google maps deceive you, you can cross here and you should!
Cascade de Colnette is a large waterfall with several fish-filled pools and swimming spots at the base. There are several waterfalls around this area you can check out. When we were there the track to Cascade de Tao was closed off due to a risk of flash flooding. This is one of the biggest and costs a small amount to walk through private land to get to it. But where went was a great spot too!
On the way back to camp we stopped for lunch at a small ‘snack’ (what small take-away food spots are called here) just behind a petrol station. We were just going to have a small stop for some lunch but it turns out we found a hidden gem! We sat at some little plastic tables on the beach and ate the biggest sandwiches I have ever seen before deciding to try out some snorkelling here. It was amazing. We swam out through the coral reef with tropical fish within reach everywhere you looked. But the most amazing part was the edge of the reef. Here the rocks suddenly dropped off, a cliff underwater, empty ocean for as far as the eye could see. It was like I was Nemo swimming out into the ocean for the first time. I was just waiting for the sharks to come into view, not going to lie I’m slightly disappointed they didn’t.
Day 3: Hienghène
Time to go kayaking! We headed out into the Léwé and were surrounded by the cliffs we saw driving in. We were the only people around, and the only sound was that of the water on our kayaks. As some wind started to come down the valley we headed back to camp via Koulnoué Village for some petanque and a bevvie 🥂 (pretty great place to spend my birthday :).
Day 4: Hienghène → Noumea
We headed back to Noumea via the favourite Poé beach for dinner on the beach, some bevvies, and some sandcastle building.
And a farewell to my favourite campground cat Mario…
Day trip: Noumea → Réserve Naturelle des Chutes dée la Madeleine → Prony → Noumea
We headed out early for a full day in the south of Noumea. This area feels like you are on a different planet with its barren landscape and red dirt. In the summer the Lac de Yaté is dry and in it’s place miles of burnt land. It’s pretty unearthly. This lonely photographic tree was quite a find…
Near the Chutes de la Madeleine we cooled of in the river before having a wander around the reserve. It’s a pretty amazing spot in the middle of nowhere which has been well set up for visitors with information placards to learn about the landscape (if you speak french).
It was then off to Prony and the area surrounding an old abandoned penitentiary. Another great spot well set up for visitors but without lots of tourists. After an exhausting day in the heat the three of us passed out for a nap on the beach. I think its crazy how such an amazing spot is so quiet and empty of people. This day was definitely a highlight of the trip.
For this trip Bridget had flown back to the homeland. This trip was a surprise weekend Elric had planned for my birthday. And he clearly knows me pretty perfectly…
We woke up early to head off to the surprise location. I had no idea where or what was in store. Getting in the car we headed up north before turning into the center of the island, deeper into the forest we went just past a cute little town called Sarramea. Here we stopped of in a parking lot and I was told to change into hiking gear.
We set off into the bush up to Plateau de Dogny. After a decent hike uphill there was a large flat plateau, perfect for running. The path then dropped down into dense forest and we followed the river down to a waterfall. It was incredibly beautiful and because most of the hike was in the bush it didn’t matter in the slightest that it was a cloudy day.
I was then told we needed to turn back as we had somewhere else we needed to be. We hiked back, got in the car, and headed just past Farino. At the end of a long winding road we stopped at the Terre de Soleil Lodge. We were greeted by one of the owners who led us down a path to our own luxury cabin in the trees. It was insane. With the bed up on a mezzanine and a deluxe lounge leading to a private balcony and spa pool. Insane.
But it didn’t stop there. After a spa we headed up to the restaurant for dinner. First we had an aperitif with the other guests before taking our table for the meal. One of the owners is a chef and prepared the most amazing three course meal, and of course we got a nice bottle of wine to accompany it. It was a night of pure luxury.
In the morning after another spa we headed back up to the restaurant for a traditional French breakfast and took our takeaway lunch to eat on the beach. It was perfect. Cheers Elric, you are a pretty amazing guy.
Going off shore
There were a lot of islands we tossed up going to. With only time for one we chose Phare Amédée. This is an island you head to on a day trip rather than stay over night like several of the others. It is very small and well known for it’s iconic lighthouse and amazing snorkeling with turtles, small sharks, sea snakes and of course tropical fish. We chose it because of the snorkelling and affordability in comparison to other spots where the transport to and from is very expensive and you need to pay for accommodation. It was definitely a good choice.
We had the whole island nearly to ourselves with only around 10 others catching the same ferry as us. We saw so many turtles in the water and a friendly sea snake that liked to hang around us on the beach. Elric even spotted a shark! The non-dangerous kind. A seriously amazing spot.
On a previous trip to New Caledonia I went to Ile des Pins which is a lot bigger and unlike Phare Amédée is home to many locals. It was also a beautiful spot but can very touristy around the resorts and campgrounds. You need to get on a bike to get out of the tourist spots and speak french with the locals.
Not to forget: Sunhat, sunscreen, snorkling things, lots of water wherever you go
Don’t spend lots of your time in Noumea, although it is the home to half of New Caledonia’s population and there is lots to see there, the other spots around the island are worth a large chunk of your time. I think a lot of people miss out on what the country has to offer by not traveling around. Hire a car and get on the road, you wont regret it.