With its UNESCO World Heritage-listed lagoon, extensive plains, majestic mountains and well-preserved traditions, New Caledonia is a unique destination in the heart of the Pacific. Its picture-postcard scenery, land and sea adventures and Kanak culture make this island a place where dreams become reality at your doorstep!
A FRENCH ARCHIPELAGO IN THE HEART OF THE PACIFIC
A group of islands between Australia and New Zealand
As the closest pacific island to Australia, New Caledonia appears on the world map as a tiny dot of land east of Australia and north of New Zealand. This little piece of France in the heart of the Pacific is surrounded by the neighbouring islands of Fiji and Vanuatu. Zoom in slightly and you can make out the archipelago's contours and turquoise lagoon. Once you’re there, you’ll find it is much larger than you thought with stunning scenery, a mild climate and wide range of activities. Whether you’re looking for a short break, an indulgent holiday or something in between, this well-kept secret is the destination of a lifetime!
Is New Caledonia a country?
Although the archipelago might be located on the other side of the world, New Caledonia is not a country and is still technically part of France. Along with New Caledonia, there are a variety of other different French overseas territories located around the world, including French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna. However, the archipelago does enjoy quite a large amount of autonomy as a result of the Nouméa Accord, which was developed in 1998. Similar to how Australia and New Zealand share a queen with the United Kingdom, New Caledonia shares a president with France.
How to get there
New Caledonia is Australia’s closest neighbour, with direct flights from Australia’s east coast. It will take you 2 hours from Brisbane, 2.5 hours from Sydney and 3 hours from Auckland to arrive in La Tontouta Airport. Aircalin, the national airline of New Caledonia, Qantas and Air New Zealand depart regularly from Sydney, Brisbane, and Auckland. . In winter, New Caledonia is just 1 hour ahead of Australian East Coast and 1 hour behind New Zealand. In summer there is no time difference with Australian East Coast and 2 hours behind New Zealand. To find out which airlines fly to New Caledonia, how much the tickets cost, whether you bring your vegemite to New Caledonia and more, we recommend you visit our “Plan your trip” and “Bookings” pages.
NEW CALEDONIA, A HIDDEN GEM
A vast archipelago waiting to be explored
New Caledonia’s main island, Grande Terre, is almost 400 km long and 50 km wide The archipelago encompasses more than 140 different islands, the best known of which are the stunning Isle of Pines to the south and Loyalty Islands to the east: Ouvéa, Lifou, Tiga and Maré. The total surface area is 18,500 km², including the adjacent islands. The archipelago’s size and diversity make it an attractive tourist destination. More than half of the population lives in the capital and surrounding suburbs of Greater Nouméa, while the rest of the territory is home to 32 communes or villages of less than 7,000 inhabitants. For travellers, this translates into idyllic deserted beaches, a wide variety of flora and fauna in great condition, smooth roads and a special relationship with the local inhabitants!
“Did you know... Lifou, the largest of the Loyalty Islands, is larger than Martinique? That gives you an idea of the size of the archipelago!”
Infinite landscapes to discover
Travelling through New Caledonia is like having multiple holidays in the same destination!
Grande Terre is cut in two by a medium-altitude mountain range that crosses the island from north to south. Vast plains border the lagoon on the West Coast, while numerous rainforests and dry forests lie at the edge of the central mountain range. On the East Coast, the lush tropical vegetation seems to plunge straight into the ocean. Further south we find the urban region of Nouméa and the red earth of the Great South. When you look beyond the picture-postcard sandy beaches and turquoise lagoon found all around the archipelago’s islands, the diverse landscapes offer a multitude of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed all year round.
Pristine islands + turquoise lagoon = obligatory swimming!
Welcome to the largest enclosed lagoon in the world! All around Grande Terre you’ll find the New Caledonian Barrier Reef, which is the second largest in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef. With a total length of 1,600 km, it defines the 24,000 km² lagoon. Did you know... six areas of the lagoon (i.e. 15,000 km²) are classed as UNESCO World Heritage sites? They are west of Grande Terre near the towns of Bourail, Poé and La Foa, and the north-east coastal area near the Isle of Pines and the atolls of Ouvéa. The exceptional biodiversity of New Caledonia’s lagoon is evidence of its good health. Although it is world-renowned for its excellent scuba diving, New Caledonia's seabed can also be explored using a simple mask and snorkel.
Routes around New Caledonia
You can explore the New Caledonian archipelago by car, bus, plane, boat or bike. Your adventure will almost always begin at La Tontouta International Airport, 45 minutes from the capital Nouméa. The domestic airport is located in Nouméa city centre and serves the Loyalty Islands, the Isle of Pines and a number of destinations on Grande Terre. You can also travel to the islands by boat. If you’re further inland, it’s best to hire a car to reach all the places of interest. The roads are in good condition, so why not? Don’t forget to take your interests, budget and limitations into account when planning how far you want to go and bear in mind how isolated some natural sites are. To plan your stay, visit our “How to get around” page. You can also use the Kédia planning tool to make organising your holiday a breeze!
“Self-drive tours are a great way to make the most of your stay. And if you don’t fancy getting behind the wheel, many operators offer chauffeur-driven guided tours!”