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New Caledonia Travel Guide

Île Nou (Nouville)

This former island, jutting west of Nouméa, has been connected to the city by a land-reclamation project that used waste from the nickel smelter. English seaman James Paddon had a trading post here as early as 1845. After 1864, Île Nou became notorious when the French converted it into a penal colony called Nouville housing more than 3,000 prisoners at a time. Camp Est Prison on Île Nou is still a major jail housing some 380 inmates, 80 percent of them Kanaks. Just west of the prison, on the right beyond the high school, is the seat of the territory's Customary Senate.

The green-line bus will take you directly to the chapel, workshops, and buildings of the original 19th-century Nouville prison, until recently occupied by a mental health facility, and now part of the Université de la Nouvelle Calédonie. A school teaching French as a foreign language occupies the former prison chapel (1882). There are quiet beaches to the west of the university, and you can walk the dirt road right around the end of Île Nou in about an hour.

An evocative sight is Fort Tereka (1878), perched on a hilltop at the far west end of Île Nou. This spot offers one of the finest scenic viewpoints in the South Pacific, with the central chain of Grande Terre in full view. Four big 138-mm cannon mounted on wheels were set up here in 1894-1896 to defend the harbor. Two more, placed opposite to create a crossfire, are now in front of the war memorial on Place Bir Hakeim. From the university, it's a 20-minute walk west to the Kuendu Beach Resort, with the fort access road on the right, just before the descent to the resort. There are shortcuts to come back, and a swim at Kuendu Beach would certainly be in order. This is where Nouméa's European residents come on weekends to get away from the tourists at Anse Vata.

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