Football, meat pies, Kangaroos and Holden cars was an Australian blast from the past but the Holden cars certainly aren’t as abundant as they were in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Not so for the French version of the Aussie icon the Peugeots, Renaults and Citroens. When you see a proliferation of these vehicles you know you are in France!! Well not always, perhaps in New Caledonia.
New Caledonia certainly exudes everything French from the language, currency, baguettes, wine, champagne, canard farming, the vehicles and even the odd rendition of La Marseillaise.
New Caledonia Tourism and the hotels, transport operators and airlines are currently on a mission to entice Australian and New Zealand holiday makers to the island. To kick start this initiative they conducted a north and south tour for Australian and New Zealand media, retail and wholesale agents to experience for themselves some of the wonders of the islands. This is the forerunner of a program to expand visitation and in the sights for next year is a group from Japan.
Situated about 1770 km east of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean, New Caledonia is made up of the main island La Grand Terre, about 400 kilometres long, and the Loyalty Islands – Lifou, Maré, Tiga and Ouvéa. There is also the Isles of Pines which lies immediately to the south of the main island. Noumea, the capital city is located near the southern tip of Grand Terre.
You can drive the island heading up the north eastern coastline through the lush mountains and valleys to the tip and then return via the more pastoral western side of the island back to Noumea. Some of the popular water activities on the coast include wind surfing (they’ve hosted the world championships here), kite surfing (New Caledonia is on the world tour too), canoeing, snorkelling, scuba diving, sailing, surf the reef or paddle an outrigger into the lagoon and just watch the whales pass through.
Discovered by Captain James Cook, New Caledonia is a developing country with growing autonomy. It relies heavily on the Tourism and Mining industries. Nearly 45 percent of the population are Melanesians with the rest mainly of French or European heritage. Most of the inhabitants speak good English, however there are literally more than 30 dialects used by the Melanesian – Polynesian people. The indigenous inhabitants or Kanaks were introduced to these Pacific Islands by the British colonies and today command a high degree of respect for their traditions from Europeans and visitors.
New Caledonia has a population of about 300,000 and consists of 18.5 thousand square Ks. It was annexed to France in 1853 and became an overseas territory of France in 1956. The year round climate is good but best between October and February.
While Paris is home to some of the world’s best restaurants, Noumea is definitely the haute cuisine hub of the Pacific with over 150 restaurants catering to all tastes and budgets. Thanks to the luxuriant nature of traditional French food and the freshness of the local Melanesian fare, Noumea’s innovative chefs fuse contemporary tastes to perfection, marrying these unique cuisines in a seamless fusion of flavours.
Being an island in the Pacific, it will come as no surprise that seafood features on many restaurant menus with freshly-caught prawns of every denomination, lobsters, oysters, marlin, mackerel, crab and mussels for delectable bowls of moules marinières.
The market at Port Moselle in Noumea is one of the best places to pick up fresh seafood, caught only a few hours earlier by the local fishermen. It takes a while but the local delicacy is the Bougna, which is the traditional Melanesian dish cooked in the ground with local vegetables and either, chicken, prawns or lobster – Ahh magnifique.
The National carrier, Aircalin has released a special airfare “Escape Winter Sale” to New Caledonia.
On sale Monday 22nd JUN – 13th JUL 2015
Travel Period: 22nd JUN 15 – 24th MAR 2016 (selected surcharge travel periods apply)
Price from: Sydney-Noumea-Sydney $549 including all taxes
Aircalin flies 12 times a week from Australia to Noumea, departing from Sydney (less than three hours) Brisbane (two hours and Melbourne (four hours)
Written by John Savage