New Caledonia is a French territory about a thousand kilometers east of Australia, comprising of the main island Grande Terre and groups of smaller islands: the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago and the Isle of Pines. These islands are surrounded by a massive barrier reef and this is still one of the most pristine areas on the planet. New Caledonia is a French colony and it is an interesting mixture of native, Asian and French culture. Surprisingly, this is also one of the most family-friendly regions in the world, which makes it great for vacationing with kids. Here are some of the things you can do if you’re travelling to New Caledonia with kids.
Since you will most likely land in Noumea first, the capital of New Caledonia, you can start by exploring the city – and all it has to offer – and then later you can go on and explore the other islands, far away beaches, climb mountains and find other kinds of amusement.
1. Visit the aquarium
A great way to introduce your kids to marine life is to take them to Noumea’s amazing aquarium. It is abundant with turtles, star fish, clown fish, sting rays, sea snakes as well as with the giants of the sea like sharks, whales and dolphins. What is special about this aquarium is that it uses running seawater and natural sunlight so the experience is as authentic as it can get, and you can enjoy the natural colors and fluorescent corals. If your kids are brave enough to watch shark feedings, they will have a chance to see it here.
2. Take a ride on the petit train
If you want to go sightseeing and visit the most important places in the city, the best way is to take a ride on the yellow Tchou Tchou Train. You will get great views of the city’s remarkable colonial architecture, stunning beaches and city parks. Since this is also the cheapest means of transportation around the city, you can always stop for some French pastries and tropical fruit snacks and hop back on the train.
3. Check out the zoo
The train can also take you to Noumea’s small zoo Parc Zoologique Forestier where there is a lot of shade, and you can spend a relaxing afternoon strolling around and looking at many different species of birds typical only for Australia. You can see the national symbol of New Caledonia – the cagou, a flightless bird. The park offers beautiful views over the lagoon and it’s fairly cheap.
4. Hang out in the city centre in the evening
There is usually a lot of entertainment at the main city square in the evenings, especially on Thursdays. A special kind of New Caledonian music – called Kanaka – involves a lot of dance and many nursery rhymes and lullabies that your kids will find interesting. Here, you can also enjoy face-painting and ice-cream which is more than enough for a fun evening out.
For things to do and places to go off of the main island, you should look up the cruise deals where you will certainly find some amazing New Caledonia packages that spell adventure for the entire family. Here are some of our favorites.
5. Get near an active volcano
If you have kids who are over seven, and you think they can handle a visit to an active volcano, you have a chance to see one from up close. There are daily trips to Mount Yasur on the Tanna Island where a true fire spitting volcano is located. This is the most active, but also the most accessible volcano in the world and you can get views of blazing magma and shooting lava from an aircraft, or get quite close to it on the ground. There are daytime and night-time tours available and this is truly a once in a lifetime experience.
6. Post mail underwater
The is a small island called the Hideaway Island just off the coast of Vanuatu, that has a very special place worth a visit. It is, believe it or not, an underwater post office where you can actually go and mail your waterproof postcards from. You will need to snorkel your way there, of course. This place is the closest we got to the world of SpongeBob SquarePants, but it’s a good start. Your kids will adore it. Other than that, there are beautiful beaches on this small island and you can spend the day there swimming, diving and snorkeling.
7. Bathe under the waterfalls
Just 15 minutes out of Port Villa, there are beautiful waterfalls called Mele Cascades. Surrounded by the lush tropical rainforest, there are natural cascading waterfalls you can stand or sit under, as well as amazing rock pools you can swim in. Simply enjoying the scenery is a breathtaking experience as it all looks like a true tropical paradise from movies. Seasonal tropical fruits and drinks served in the Mele Cascades Riverside Garden can only add to this magical experience.
8. Meet the Aborigines
There are many tribal people living in New Caledonia and it is fairly easy to get in touch with them and visit. For example, in Moague on the Loyalty Islands, you can book a tribal accommodation in the form of simple round huts right on the sandy beaches. They are basic, but clean and they offer a unique experience and a chance to explore the local customs and food. Also, this helps you get some kind of an idea of what life was like here before Europeans came. Port Orly and Santo are also good options for similar experiences.
9. Don’t miss the Duck Island
The Duck Island is a tiny island that can be reached by a five-minute taxi boat ride from Noumea’s Anse Vata beach. You can snorkel, swim, sunbathe, have a picnic and watch kite surfers, so it is perfect for relaxing. There is even an underwater snorkeling path marked out by a series of numbered buoys. This underwater path allows everyone to experience the marine world firsthand without the diving experience – only snorkeling equipment is needed.
10. Snorkel with manta rays
Even if you or your kids don’t have the experience in snorkeling and diving, there are many places in New Caledonia you can quickly learn to do so. It is completely worth it, since you will have the opportunity to snorkel with manta rays. There is a place called Touho’s seabeds, some 350 km from Noumea, where you can get the best of exploring the barrier reef. There you will be able to see the giant Manta rays, and even have the chance to swim and snorkel with them, or observe them from close proximity.
New Caledonia is a breathtaking place and we are sure that, wherever you choose to go, your kids will most likely remember it for the rest of their lives. Your South Pacific adventure is calling: ready, set, go!