Buro city guide: Nouméa
When Australians imagine where they can fly in just three or four short hours, only a few places spring to mind. East Coasters are known to hit Fiji or the tropical climes of the NT, while those residing in WA's Wild West have unequivocally made Bali their spiritual second home. Because here's the thing about living on one giant island continent - you're not surrounded by much else except a whole bunch of other, smaller islands. Even though we've become used to the specific set of maladies that inform international travel (extreme jet lag, multiple layovers, and - oh yes, sitting for hours on end on an Airbus A380 as you cross several time zones) - that's not to say we want to endure this on the regular.
Of course, if you're a Francophile, international flights pose a challenge. While Paris is a luxury always worth the long-haul, outside of stylists, editors, influencers and James Packer, who really has the time to fly to Europe more than once a year? But if you're looking for a place to practise your French and nibble on baguette smothered in foie gras... may we suggest New Caledonia? Blessed with sun and sand for miles, the South Pacific island is bursting with hotspots and is less than three hours flight from Sydney.
Read on to find out where to eat, sleep and explore.
Pick a spot overlooking the water - you won't be disappointed.
1. Le Méridien Nouméa Resort & Spa
With its beachside vantage overlooking Anse Vata Bay, this recently renovated hotel is situated on a tranquil part of the island. With direct beach access and a poolside café, an afternoon spent in the hotel's lush tropical gardens affords you sun, sand and windsurfers galore . It's also host to four restaurants - the casual Le Fare Restaurant and Bar, seafood-specialty Le Sextant Restaurant, fine dining L'Hippocampe and the Japanese-leaning Le Shogun.
BP1915, 98846 Nouméa Cedex, Nouméa, 98846, New Caledonia, lemeridiennoumea.com
2. The Hilton Nouméa La Promenade Residences
Another well located accommodation option that sits close to Anse Vata Beach, Hilton's range of self-catered studios and apartments are a great option if you're looking for something less resort-like. With fully equipped kitchens in each residence, plus luxuries like a pool, fitness centre, restaurant and private balcony - it's a clever option for foodies who love to cook the local cuisine.
109 Promenade Roger Laroque, Noumea, 98807, New Caledonia, 3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-caledonia-french
3. L'Escapade Island Resort
Looking for dreamy, overwater bungalows in a small-sized resort? L'Escapade offer 69 rooms and three different overwater bungalows. Accessible only by boat, it's a secluded paradise set up for turtle watching, snorkelling and serious blissing out.
Îlot Maître, Nouméa, 98847, glphotels.nc/escapade-ilot-maitre-en.html
The French are known for their gastronomical prowess and in Nouméa you'll find a blend of French and tropical island flavours.
For serious French dining, head to one of Le Méridien Nouméa Resort & Spa's resident restaurants. Specialising in French classics and seasonal produce, you'll also find a hefty wine and champagne list and an ambient atmosphere. Perfect for date night.
BP1915, 98846 Nouméa Cedex, Nouméa
A cheerful restaurant located in Val Plaisance where you can sit outdoors and enjoy the temperate weather, expect to dine on a fusion of French and Asian cuisine. We sampled venison, duck, scallops and beef tartare, and finished it off with profiteroles smothered in rich chocolate sauce. Warning: the menu is in French, so bring your translation skills (or download them).
20 rue Gabriel Laroque, Nouméa
3. Creperie Le Rocher
It looks basic from the outside, but the views of Baie des Citrons are incredible... and so are the crepes. Choose from a head-spinning array of savoury options and save room for dessert. I finished my meal off with the flambé banana crepe and it was trés bien.
55 Promenade Roger Laroque, Nouméa.
4. Le Roof
Aa the name suggests, this restaurant sits above water in a bungalow (with a lively bar attached) and a viewing platform to watch the marine life below. As we debated whether we were surrounded by small reef sharks (incorrect, FYI), the seafood was the highlight of the menu. Expect large portions.
134 Promenade Roger Laroque, Nouméa
5. Les 3 Chefs
This restaurant-in-a-hotel boasts impressive views of Saint Marie Bay and a trio of chefs who have a flair for simple, fresh seafood and French classics. They also offer cooking classes, and we cooked local New Caledonian blue prawns and crème crulee. Oh, don;t be shy to sample some of the local rum, infused with varous ingredients. It's a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon.
33 Rue de la Riviera, Ouémo, Nouméa
A bar and snacks lounge located in a stunning colonial building, you can really only order wine and charcuterie, but it's a worth a visit for the interiors alone. The house is painstakingly laid out with the most incredible collection of Art Deco pieces you've ever seen, lovingly collected by its French owner for decades. With plans to open up a fine dining restaurant - and hopefully score New Caledonia's first-ever Michelin starred restaurant - L'Amirauté could be a sleeping giant.
15, Avenue des frères Carcopino, Noumea
1. Tjibaou Cultural Centre
Part museum, auditorium, research and creation centre, Tjibaou is dedicated to the education of traditional Kanak culture. You can explore traditional Kanak tribal huts and view the cultural exhibition on display in the centre. A New Caledonian landmark in itself, Tjibaou was designed by Renzo Piano - the Italian architect who designed Paris' Centre Georges Pompidou.
Rue des Accords de Matignon, adck.nc
2. Duck Island
Just a short boat ride from Anse Vata Beach, Duck Island is the ideal afternoon trip. The tiny island has just one bar/café and is surrounded by sunloungers (which you can hire), as well as some great spots to snorkel. Perfect if you're short on time but want to explore.
1. Chez Alexandre
A delightful providore filled with imported French goods like tinned foie gras, confit duck in a jar and lots of international spirits and French wine, not to mention some darn cute sugar cubes fashioned into hearts and roses.
8 rue Glasser, Nouméa
2. Chez Tonton Jules
A must for sweet tooths, Chez Tonton Jules is one of New Cal's most recognised chocolate shops. Stock up on gifts to take home - like advent calendars, tea in tins and sweets.
7 bis, Rue du Général Mangin, Nouméa and 27 Promenade Roger Laroque, Nouméa.
3. Nouméa morning market
The place to head for picnic supplies or just to browse the local market stalls next to Port Moselle, you can buy freshly caught fish, fruit and veg, pastries, cheese and other delicious morsels. Beware: the goods at the markets aren't as cheap as you'd expect and the stall holders are less willing to bargain than those in Asia and Indonesia.
Rue Georges Clemenceau, Nouméa
- Aircalin operates 12 flights per week non-stop from Australia to Noumea. Flights times are just over two hours from Brisbane, less than three hours from Sydney and under four hours from Melbourne. Visit aircalin.com.
- If you're keen to explore the red soil and rugged terrain of New Caledonia's Great South region, Toutazimut tours are the people to call. We'd highly recommend a trip to a traditional Goro Tribe. Thanks to Toutazimut, we met tribe members and sampled bougna (a traditional Kanak feast made from taro, yam, sweet potato, banana, coconut and either poultry or seafood). The bougna is wrapped in banana leaves, then buried and cooked in the ground for several hours. It's delicious.
- For general tourism information, visit newcaledonia.travel/au.
Buro 24/7 Australia travelled to Nouméa as a guest of New Caledonia Tourism
Buro 24/7 Selection
Buro 24/7 Selection