New Caledonia is a little slice of France in the Pacific. The capital city of Nouméa has the atmosphere of the French Riviera but also captures the essence of the Pacific. By day, you can explore vibrant neighborhoods, interesting museums and beautiful bays. At night, you can party with the locals in paradise at premier concert venues, restaurants and bars. Cosmopolitan yet casual, the capital is the perfect destination for travelers looking for a variety of experiences.
The Place des Cocotiers is the heart of the city. Locals and travelers alike love to stroll along the famous bandstand, passing gardens bursting with colorful life and charming street scenes. Flame trees provide plenty of shade, and the area is an ideal place to enjoy a quick lunch or just relax as you watch the world go by.
The downtown district is also home to New Caledonia’s Chinatown. Bustling shops sell herbs, handicrafts and tasty treats reminiscent of Asia, and the tightly-packed blocks offer a surprising yet refreshing change of scenery.
Not far from Chinatown are the old districts of the Vallée des Colons and the Vallée du Tir. The streets there exude a distinctly colonial ambiance due to the ironwork decorations, old wooden houses and gardens abloom with bougainvillea and hibiscus.
Nouméa sits on a bay-lined stretch of peninsula. The Baie des Citrons and L’Anse Vata are the busiest and most beautiful, and both are a paradise for windsurfers and kitesurfers. Cyclists and joggers often take in the scenery as they work up a sweat in the sun, and the beaches are often flooded with families playing, swimming and relaxing on the sand.
There are a handful of museums to explore in Nouméa. The Museum of New Caledonia is home to one of the world’s finest collections of Kanak art in addition to an incredible collection of artifacts from around the Pacific. The City Museum gives a great introduction to Nouméa’s history, and the Museum of Maritime History brings the age of exploration to life through well-curated exhibits.
One of the most magical places in the city is the Aquarium of the Lagoons. There, visitors can discover living fossils, sharks, phosphorescent corals, wrasses and more.
The Tjibaou Cultural Center is also worth a visit. Local architect Renzo Piano designed the building to become an icon of openness and reconciliation, and the unique space highlights Melanesian culture.
The eternal summer nights of Nouméa allow visitors to enjoy outdoor bars and nightclubs year-round. Once the sun sets, gather on the beach to sip cocktails under a blanket of stars, or head to the two casinos that glimmer on the shores. In the clubs, you can dance to the sounds of various musical worlds, including reggae, disco, French hits and zouk music.
If an evening of culture is more your style, you will find plenty to enjoy in Nouméa. The city is home to two theaters that offer both classical and contemporary works, and the music conservatory often welcomes internationally renowned musicians.
Gourmets will delight in the city, and the many restaurants, cafes and wineries make Nouméa the perfect destination for lovers of fine food, coffee and wine. Favorite local dishes include coconut crabs, oysters, lobsters, bougnas, Caledonian deer, mud crabs and a range of organic vegetables harvested from around the island.