New Caledonia—or Kanaky, as the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants call it—is unique. In Nouméa, the capital, the fine French restaurants, designer boutiques, and cosmopolitan crowds all proclaim that this is the Paris of the Pacific. Yet over on the east coast of the main island and on all of the outliers, the Kanaks (from kanaka, the Hawaiian word for "human") and la coutume (native custom) have survived a century and a half of pervasive colonial domination.
Though many tourists visit Nouméa, surprisingly few cross the Chaîne Centrale to Grande Terre's exotic east coast, or travel by sea or air to the charming outer islands. This is something you simply must do to see the real New Caledonia.
|NEW CALEDONIA AT A GLANCE|
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The possibilities are limitless, and it's a lot easier to travel around New Caledonia than it is to tour rural Vanuatu or Solomon Islands. Wherever you go, you'll be received with warmth and interest, especially when people hear you speaking English.
This enigmatic French colony just north of the tropic of Capricorn, midway between Fiji and Australia, is quite unlike any of its neighbors and will surprise you in every respect.
New Caledonia lies between Vanuatu and Queensland, Australia, northwest of New Zealand. The name is often misspelled New Caladonia.
New Caledonia occupies the same time zone as Vanuatu, an hour before New Zealand and an hour after Queensland.
Noumea has excellent museums, restaurants, and shopping areas. It's a great adventure to drive around Grande Terre but you'll find the finest beaches on the outer islands.
The national airline, Aircalin, arrives from all neighboring countries. You can also come on Air New Zealand, Air Vanuatu, and Qantas.
The 245,580 inhabitants are a mix of Melanesians, Europeans, and Polynesians. All are French citizens.
Hienghène, Grande Terre:
spectacular coastline, scene of Kanak martyrdom
Kanuméra/Kuto, Isle of Pines:
lovely beaches, hiking, penal colony remains
largest uplifted atoll in the world
25 km of unbroken white sand beach, monument to the Ouvéa Massacre
Tjibaou Cultural Center, Nouméa:
museum, art gallery, library, botanical garden