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Nouméa is the capital city of the French overseas province of New Caledonia and a hidden gem in the middle of the South Pacific. When leaving from Australia or New Zealand for your Nouméa cruise, you’ll discover the history of the peninsula, including the rich past of its indigenous Kanak population and later French colonialism on the island.
Take day trips to the nearby islands via boat or water taxi, like the resort isle Îlot Maître, where white bungalows sit on the edge of impossibly blue waters. Or climb to the massive stairwell of the Amédée Lighthouse for views of Nouméa in the near distance. Kids will love the Aquarium of the Lagoons, plus the city has a variety of museums and parks to keep you occupied during your trip.
Nouméa is also a foodie’s paradise, home to gourmet, French-inspired bistros and restaurants as well as traditional Kanak dishes like bougna, where chicken or fish and vegetables are wrapped in fresh banana leaves and slow cooked for several hours. Despite its relative anonymity as a tourism destination, Nouméa strikes a delicate balance as both casual and upscale.
The bright stone of the Roman-Catholic St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Nouméa contrasts with the multicolored buildings of the town. Take a tour of the church’s 28 stained glass windows, where you’ll learn about the role European missionaries played in the history of the town during the 19th century.
Head south from the cruise terminal on a short car ride to the Aquarium of the Lagoons. Here you’ll learn all about the tropical species you might see while snorkeling or swimming in the waters of Nouméa’s beaches. Children will love seeing the tropical fish at this small aquarium, and there’s even a turtle pond. The aquarium is open from Tuesday to Sunday.
Educate yourself on the history and significance of the city at this museum, starting with French colonization into the present day. You can also opt for a short audio tour through the museum to learn about how the city came to be throughout three floors of exhibits.
Take a walk through the heart of the city in the square called Place des Cocotiers. There are often street markets here as well as cultural events and concerts. Don’t miss the botanical garden while you’re here.
Grab equipment from Aloha Windsurfing, then get out on the water at Anse Vata, which is only about 10 minutes from the center of Nouméa. There’s shopping, restaurants, and cafes along the beach, so you can swim, windsurf, or sunbathe at this uncrowded beach before grabbing a bite and exploring the rest of the beachfront.
You’ll have to venture a bit from the city center to get to this gem on the northeast side of the Tina peninsula, about a 15-20 minute drive from Coconut Palm Square. This cultural center is dedicated to the indigenous Kanak people of Nouméa and their history. The design of Italian architect Renzo Piano is a modern and daring take on the traditional Kanak hut. The center is divided into seven of these pavilions, creating an unforgettable view of these structures from the sea.
On your cruise to Nouméa, New Caledonia, take a day trip to the romantic resort Îlot Maître, just a 15-minute boat ride from Anse Vata. If you have extra time, you can even rent one of the bungalows overlooking the water. On a sunny day, Îlot Maître is ideal for spending a relaxing afternoon snorkeling and picnicking.
The remote Amédée Lighthouse, built by the French in the 1860s, is just a 40-minute boat ride from Nouméa. Take the cast-iron spiral staircase to the top, where you’ll stop and catch your breath at the incredible views. The lighthouse is located on a fishing reserve, so you’ll encounter protected species when you snorkel the island’s waters.
Address: Rue Auguste Brun, Noumea, New Caledonia
Just a stone’s throw from Coconut Square is Chez Toto, a French bistro serving up classically French dishes like duck with currant sauce, escargot, veal, foie gras, and more. Note that they’re closed on Sundays, and reservations are helpful.
Address: Le Meridien Nouméa | Pointe Magnin, Nouméa, Grand Terre 98800, New Caledonia
For upscale dining and a high-end evening out, L'Hippocampe checks all the boxes for atmosphere, creative plating, and fun twists on French food. Foie gras, prawns, and ravioli are typical mains here.
La Table des Gourmets
Address: 91 Rue Maurice Herzog, Nouméa, Grand Terre 98800, New Caledonia
The intimate La Table des Gourmets offers a cozy French cuisine experience in Nouméa, where you’ll have the chance to try adventurous dinner menu staples like cassoulet, blue marlin carpaccio, duck thigh, tuna tartare, and more.
La Perle D'eram
Address: 58 Bis Rue Sebastopol, Nouméa, Grand Terre 98803, New Caledonia
Head here for traditional Caledonian and Kanak food, including bougna, as well as pork, octopus dishes, and shrimp cooked in coconut. It’s highly recommended to experience authentic cuisine of the region. Located in the Latin Quarter, La Perle D’eram is a short walk from the cruise terminal. There’s even a live band on some nights.
This capital city’s culture wouldn’t be possible without the diverse communities who call the city home, including its Polynesian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Melanesian, Kanak, and European influences. Europeans didn’t have contact with the area until 1851, when British and French traders both sought control of the area. Like the neighboring island of Lifou, Nouméa served as a penal colony for a while and later was a military base for the United States during World War II.
Today, a large majority of the population there speaks French. Though it’s popular with local travelers, costly airfare makes it difficult to bolster a strong tourism economy. Cruising has become a way for people all over the world to interact with Nouméa like never before. On your Nouméa cruise, interactions with the locals will help better your understanding of the history of this peninsula.
When your Nouméa cruise ship docks, your first glimpse of the city will be a commercial and warehouse district that doesn’t quite represent what you should expect from Nouméa. However, on your way out you can stop by a tourist information desk at the cruise terminal. After a few minutes’ walk, you’ll reach the center of town and stumble onto the cobblestone streets and palm trees of Coconut Palm Square, a small city park.
Luckily, you can see much of the sights in Nouméa on foot, particularly in the downtown area. There’s a shuttle for tourists which will drop you off at the town’s best-known sights. Taxis are available, but you typically have to call them or hail them from the street once you’ve left the pier. You can also rent a car or bicycle to get around Nouméa and the surrounding areas. Hop on a water taxi to get to Nouméa’s smaller islets and enjoy stunning water views.
Nouméa isn’t famous for its shopping, but there are impressive local markets along Rue Clemenceau where local vendors and farmers sell their wares and produce each morning. French clothing boutiques are mainly what you’ll find in terms of shopping in town. If you’re serious about shopping during your cruise to Nouméa, New Caledonia, head to shopping centers Galerie du Palm Beach and La Promenade in nearby Anse Vata.
The CFP franc is the recognized currency when you’re on a cruise to Nouméa, New Caledonia. Australian and US dollars are sometimes used, but some vendors will not accept USD. Tipping isn’t a common part of the culture in New Caledonia. You can, however, leave a tip for a tour guide if they went above and beyond for you during your time in Nouméa.