Visit of Noumea, the main city of New-Caledonia. Many things to see despite its relatively small size: Museums, an aquarium, magnificent baies but also the departure point to discover the rest of the territory, by plane, boat, bus or car. Here back to France, where we can access all our favorite products (but twice or three times the price…)
First part of our trip, focus to the “capital” Noumea. It is almost the only big city, where most of the French metropolitan live and concentrating most of the jobs in the island. It looks like a small French provincial city at first glance, but we realize quickly its specificity, thousands of kilometers away from France. In other words, it is a bit back to the French way of life, a good and surprising feeling for us, having been living in Australia for a few years now! France with cultural aspect and medical services is only three hours from Sydney 🙂
Cost of living
Obviously the negative part is the cost of living, quite high as everything cost more or less double to how much it is in France. Most expensive budget was the “restaurant” part, expensive but we wanted to enjoy the French food after several years/months of Australian food! We could also rent a car to drive around as several interesting parts of this small but vast city are easier to reach by car than common transport…Noumea looks like a very enjoyable city to live in, with a compact city center and two beautiful touristic centres, Lemon Bay and Anse Vata with their beaches and local pubs/restaurants…
French way of life in the Pacific Ocean!
The Museum of New-Caledonia seems unmissable according to us and consists of gathering many Kanak statue, archives, stories to tell you the kanak culture and its history on “le caillou” (the stone in English, the name given to New-Caledonia by its inhabitants). Unfortunately we couldn’t see the Jean-Marie Tjiabou cultural center (on behalf on one of the most involved kanak on the independence of New-Caledonia, now past away) but it seems to be a lovely place, nested on the top of a hill from which we can admire whole Noumea city. This center is told to be the best place to learn about this Melanesian culture, however the one we visited, the Museum of New-Caledonia is also very complete, including as well other vestiges from other Pacific islands: Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Wallis…
Finally, the aquarium of lagoons will please children and adults and represents the perfect visit for a rainy day. If you wish, you can also be the next volunteer to take care of the aquarium, a good and rewarding experience! I think the most interesting part is the one focusing on nautilus according to me. An archaic animal who forgot to change and progress, but don’t forget to assist the feeding of turtles outside, very funny 🙂
And lastly, walking around city center. Very quiet at night time, as people prefer meet friends at home or Lemon Bay, it is very lively the day. The city council, many tourist agencies, all the shops can be found around the famous place des cocotiers, with the music kiosque for popular concerts, sports celebration or other special events.
Small islands near Noumea
The îlot Canard (duck island even if not duck out there!) and îlot Maitre are fantastic and are undoubtedly the main event of every visit in Noumea. Indeed, very easy to get to from Anse Vata (kayak to Ilot Canard or speedboat to both islands), the snorkeling is excellent over there and there is as well an underwater pathway to discover and help you identify the main species of fishes and coral which live there. It is to be underlined that some parties are also organized from time to time, an excellent to drink and eat under the stars of the Pacific sky! Stay tune!
Take your snorkeling gear!
You may see some puffins, small terrestrial birds, symbol of New-Caledonia in the ilot Maitre
Thus, a very nice visit of this French city lost in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Even if relationships between kanaks, the indigenous people, caldoche, descendents of French prisoners and colons of the XIXth century and metros (recently arrived from France) are tense sometimes, Noumea is a pleasant city to live in, thanks to a beautiful natural environment.
Where did we sleep?
- The Pacifique Hotel: Right in the middle of Anse Vata, the Pacific Hotel belongs to the complex of hotel “Le Nouvata”. Benefiting from an ideal location, facing the ilot canard, we found a promotion online to get an advantageous tarif for a simple but comfortable room overlooking the bay. Check online for good deals! Then, a good hotel to be recommended, as Lemon Bay and the aquarium are also very near by, as bus stations to go to the city center.
- L’Auberge de jeunesse: One of the most economic place to sleep in Noumea. The “auberge de jeunesse” (backpacker in French) offers extremely simple rooms (maybe too much, looks like a prison!) but very clean. Staff is not very friendly and the hike to get there, on top of the hill, can be a challenge as well. But cheap prices and the view overlooking the bay and the city center are the best advantages of this economic hostel with a backpacker atmosphere.