New Caledonia is slowly becoming a tourist hot spot for those looking for a tropical island with a more sophisticated culture. Travelling around the island has become a lot cheaper (although still really expensive!). Time is of the essence as New Caledonia narrowly voted to remain as a French territory in the first referendum of three in November 2018. If the residents – split almost down the middle between the French and the indigenous Kanaks – vote for independence in two more referendums to follow in 2020 and 2022, the currently ‘French’ island will change forever.
Why pick this guide?
I’m a 21-year-old Australian guy from Perth with an addiction to travel. I love to combine travel with surfing or snowboarding but also happy to be hanging out with other backpackers and locals. I love to eat fresh healthy food and see things that make a place different to other places I’ve been.
This guide will take the stress out of organising a road trip in New Caledonia. This is one country that makes it tough for a traveller. It is difficult to book online and most things require a phone call so knowing the shortcuts to booking can be a lifesaver.
- Visiting uninhabited islands known as îlots in French.
- Swimming in waterfalls
- Watching turtles lay eggs at night
- Enjoying the hospitality of the local Kanak people
- Stunning drives through ever-changing scenery
Stop 1: Noumea
Noumea, the capital city of New Caledonia is the best place to start your trip. It is about a 40 minute drive from Tontouta International Airport and there’s a heap to do in Noumea. Learn about the culture of the Kanak people, peruse the morning market overflowing with fresh seafood and locally grown produce and shake a leg to some tunes in a cabana over crystal clear water in the evening.
Stop 2: Ténia islet
Ténia islet has definitely been the highlight of the trip for me. The tiny island (islet) of Ténia is a protected marine area which means the island is teaming with wildlife and the waters are teaming with thriving sea life. Bright bleached white sand meets mystically blue, turquoise water, warm and inviting.
Stop 3: La Foa
La Foa is well worth visiting. Staying in a traditional bungalow in the Oui Poin tribe was a highlight alongside Franks boat trip over to Konduyo islet and trying some local dishes.
Stop 4: Bourail
What makes Bourail so special is its beautiful beach surrounding La Roche Percée. Seeing turtles lay eggs was a definite highlight. Bourail is also well known for being the only place in New Caledonia where surfing is accessible by the beach. (All other surfing spots require a boat to get to the outer reef.) I was a bit unlucky when I was there as the conditions were not ideal.
Stop 5: Ponerihouen
What makes the east coast of New Caledonia so special including Ponerihouen and Poindimié is the local peoples warm greetings and kind personalities. People told us not to come to the east coast of New Caledonia because it was dangerous but our experience is that the Kanak people have been more than friendly and welcoming and we have felt safe. Locals never fail to wave and smile as we pass them on the road and those walking along the road are just as friendly. Kids run along the car laughing and shouting and we were gifted fruit when we struck up a conversation along the way.
Stop 6: Hienghène
Natural waterfalls, stunning rock formations and kayaking are three good reasons to visit Hienghène, not to mention it being a picturesque small town located on the edge of a river.
Stop 7: Poum
We had just enough time to briefly visit Poum before wrapping up our trip in New Caledonia. Poum is a town located on the far North West tip of the Grande Terre and it is truly rugged with mainly unsealed roads.