New Caledonia Holiday
New Caledonia, a French territory, is an irresistable, gleaming jewel in the heart of the South Pacific.
The island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific Ocean is a paradise of gleaming beaches, crystal clear seas and picturesque mountains.
Located in Oceania, between Australia and Fiji, New Caledonia is surrounded by a breathtaking lagoon and offers travellers sandy beaches, a unique indigenous culture and fascinating flora and fauna.
Controlled by France, New Caledonia has a tiny population of just under 300,000 people and covers an area slightly smaller than the US state of New Jersey. It is slowly becoming a destination for tourists, but remains relatively untouched.
The island, the third largest island in the Pacific Region after Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, was first settled around 50,000 years ago and later by migrants from southeast Asia. Discovered by both French and British immigrants during the early 1800s, New Caledonia became a French territory in 1853.
Used as a penal colony for decades during the 19th century, New Caledonia pressed for independence from France during the 1980s and 1990s. It was eventually granted the Noumea Accord, which will see governing responsibility for the island pass from France over 15 to 20 years and independence referenda held in the future.
With 2,254km of coastline, there are plenty of palm-lined beaches to choose from around the island, many of which consist of fine, white sand. Surrounded by a 1,600 km long coral reef and the largest lagoon in the world, New Caledonia is an ideal destination for snorkelers and divers.
New Caledonia has several lively resorts, which provide opportunities for dancing, eating, drinking and gambling, while quieter locations are also dotted around the island and in the mountains.
Nature lovers will delight in the myriad species of plants, birds, fish and land animals that make their homes in and around New Caledonia and it is possible to arrange guided hikes in the stunning interior mountains and rainforests. Tourists should head for Parc de la Riviere Bleue in particular, home to the flightless cagou, the island's official bird.
New Caledonia offers sports lovers a dizzying array of active pursuits, including fly fishing, sailing, whale watching, tennis, climbing, tree walking, horse riding, golf and parachuting.
Key sites of interest include the dramatic black limestone cliffs at Hienghene, populated by flying foxes, the fishing town of Noumea, with a charming harbour and colonial architecture, and the indigenous Kanak villages. Shoppers will enjoy visiting the local markets and browsing for handicrafts in the island's pleasant towns.
Food in New Caledonia has both a South Pacific and French flavour, with some excellent places to eat, many offering breathtaking views. Accommodation ranges from luxurious hotels to more basic, traditional options.
A number of major airlines fly to New Caledonia regularly, including Air France, Qantas and Air New Zealand. Flights from Australia are easy to arrange and all international carriers land at Tontouta International Airport. Alternatively, a number of cruise ships travel in and out of the port of Noumea and several travel companies offer package deals to the island.