I recently returned from an amazing holiday in New Caledonia. It’s only a 2.5 hour flight from Sydney and I was quite surprised by how few Aussies were there. Perhaps one of the reasons is that it can be quite expensive, however I have shared cheaper accommodation and eating options to suit all budgets.
We left a cold and rainy Sydney to be greeted by a warm and sunny Noumea. I’m sure I was infuriating on Instagram! What New Caledonia lacked in cuisine (I found the food incredibly overpriced and of average standard) it made up for with pristine waters, untouched beaches and friendly locals.
Buffet breakfast on the Hilton’s balcony
Where to stay
Anse Vata is located in the south of the big island (Grand Terre) and is home to the majority of Noumea’s luxury hotels and resorts. If you’re on a budget, head further up the coast along the western edge of Grand Terre to Baie de Citrons, where there are more budget-friendly accommodation options.
If you’re only staying in Noumea for one night before heading out to the islands, I recommend you stay in downtown Noumea. It’s not the nicest area, but it is closer to the boat port and airport.
Budget: Hotel Beaurivage – 7 Promenade Roger Laroque, Baie Des Citrons
If you’re on a tight budget, Hotel Beaurivage is a simple and clean 2 star hotel centrally located on the Baie De Citrons. This is the area to be in if you’re after a bit more nightlife too – there are a lot of beachfront bars and restaurants and a lot more young people compared to Anse Vata.
The view of the Hilton’s grounds and Anse Vata beach in the distance
Mid-Range: Hilton Noumea La Promenade Residences – 109 Promenade Roger Laroque, Anse Vata
I stayed at the Hilton for 7 nights and was very happy with my stay. My friend and I booked a 2 bedroom apartment and were upgraded to a 3 bedroom for free. It was amazing!
Apart from having a great central location in Anse Vata, the Hilton apartments are all self contained, meaning they come with fully equipped kitchens. As food is so expensive in New Caledonia, we saved a lot of money by going to the grocery store and buying supplies for homemade breakfasts. The Hilton buffet breakfast costs around AUD$40 every morning (!!) and to be honest it’s fairly average by international standards.
Luxury: Chateau Royal Beach Resort and Spa – 140 Promenade Roger Laroque, BP
This is regarded as the best resort in Noumea and was unfortunately booked out completely by a conference when we were there. It’s pretty pricey (around $380/night) but if you are after a luxurious holiday, this is your best option.
A perfect beach day at Anse Vata
When to go
The rainy season in New Caledonia runs from January to March. We arrived early April and had near-perfect weather, however it rained the week before AND after. Talk about lucky!
The hottest period is from September to March whilst the cool season runs from April to August. I would say the best time to go is between September and December, when the weather is warm and the rains haven’t come yet.
What to do
Watch the sunset over Baie de Citrons beach
Unlike Anse Vata, Baie de Citrons faces west and is perfect for watching the sun set across the water. Go for a dusk swim or enjoy the sunset over a few cocktails at one of the bars lining the beach.
Snorkelling, swimming and diving
The pristine waters surrounding New Caledonia are perfect for exploring however you like – whether it be swimming, snorkelling or diving. I’ve never seen such an amazing array of tropical fish, coral and marine life so close to the coast. If you have your own snorkelling gear I highly suggest you bring it with you, as it’s quite expensive to hire (around AUD$10/hour).
Visit the islands
I will do a more in depth guide on the islands of New Caledonia in my next post, but visiting the islands should be a priority when you’re in Noumea. We managed to squeeze in 2 trips to Ile aux Canards (Duck Island), and a trip each to Ilot Maitre, Isle of Pines and Amedee Island.
Don’t forget to relax when you’re in Noumea, there is definitely a temptation to see and experience as much as possible, but downtime is important! Flop by the hotel pool with a good book, get a massage or stroll along the beach.
If you have time, jump on the Hop On Hop Off bus for a tour of downtown Noumea including the museum, local markets and culture centre.
Where to eat
I’m going to be honest, the food isn’t great in New Caledonia. As nearly everything has to be imported, food is overpriced and of average quality. Don’t expect the same standard of food that you receive in Australia.
Malongo – Complexe la promenade, Anse Vata
Great little cafe for an affordable breakfast or brunch. They also have decent coffee here, which is a rare find in New Caledonia!
Stone Grill – 113 Promenade Roger Laroque, Anse Vata
I loved this place so much we went two nights in a row! For around AUD$30 you got a steak of your choice, sauce and 2 sides (I usually went fries for the proper steak frites experience plus greens). The steak is served raw on a piping hot slab of stone and you cook it to yourself at the table. Fun and delicious!
Rimba Juice Cafe – 117 Avenue Roger Laroque, Anse Vata
A simple and cheap cafe, this place is perfect for a quick lunch. I had a croque monsieur and fresh juice, both hit the spot.
Snack Ulysee – 145 Route de l’Anse Vata, Anse Vata
Noumea is dotted with snack restaurants that mainly serves burgers and fries. It’s nothing flash, but for a cheap and cheerful meal I highly recommend Snack Ulysee.
Au P’tit Cafe – 8 av des freres Carcopino, Noumea
This French restaurant serves up a limited (only 4 choices), but authentic menu with super friendly service. Some of the staff only speak limited English, so brush up on your French!
Chez Toto – 13 rue Auguste Brun, Latin Quartier
A quaint French bistro located in the downtown area serving up classic French cuisine. It’s small, so I highly suggest booking.
Malecon Cafe – Promenade Roger Laroque, Baie des citrons
This beachfront bar serves up surprisingly good food. In typical NC-style it’s the usual suspects – baguettes, burgers and croque monsieurs but everything is washed down with a tasty cocktail and a beach view.
Creperie Le Rocher – 55 Promenade Roger Laroque, Baie des citrons
You can’t go to a French-speaking country and not eat crepes. They do a great range of savoury and sweet crepes here that are fresh and relatively cheap.
L’Atelier Gourmand – 141 Route de l’Anse Vata, Anse Vata
Go here for fresh baguettes, chocolate croissants (hello, breakfast) and a huge array of delicious pastries.
Getting from the airport
It was a complete nightmare getting from the airport to our hotel and it took over 4 hours(!!) I highly suggest you pre-book the airport shuttle before you arrive to avoid this problem. Taxis are rare and expensive.
French is the native language of New Caledonia and spoken throughout. Most people speak at least some English, however it is nice to make an effort and learn your hellos (bonjour) goodbyes (au revoir/bonsoir) and thank yous (merci).
Find a local grocery store
Eating in New Caledonia can be a very expensive affair (I know, I’ve mentioned it like 3 times). If you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen in your accommodation, stock up on eggs, yoghurt and milk to make your own food. If you don’t, you can still buy a delicious array of meats, cheeses and bread that will keep fine. Also note that some of the islands don’t have places to eat, so it’s best to pack snacks or a sandwich.
Stayed tuned for part 2 of my New Caledonia travel guide, focusing on the stunning tropical islands!
Have you been to New Caledonia before? Do you want to go?