The largest city in New Caledonia (an overseas territory of France in the Pacific), Nouméa is a refreshing blend of Pacific island tinged with the elegance and joie de vivre of France. Best of all, this beautiful island full of colonial mansions is still mostly undiscovered by the major tourist population, so crowds are no problem! With museums, aquariums, turquoise waters lapping at white beaches, and plenty of wind surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving, Nouméa has all the historical charm of any of the major European cities with the tranquility of Pacific island life. Aircalin is your ticket to this French island full of possibility!
If you’re looking to relax and do some serious people-watching, then Place des Cocotiers is the perfect spot to do it. The most popular square in Nouméa, Place des Cocotiers has beautiful gardens and scenery for those wanting to take a deep breath and just absorb the rhythm of the island. The band rotunda is a historical landmark, dating all the way back to the 1800s. Near the rotunda is a giant chessboard for those who want to stretch their minds, and an area lush with palm trees. Concerts and street markets are held regularly, and vendors sell local crafts, produce, and other local delicacies.
The Musée de la Ville de Nouméa is a museum housed in what was once the town bank, from 1880 to 1975. The building holds the same colonial charm as many of the others you’ll see on the island, with fragrant plants and palms framing the entrance. Renovated in 1995, the museum has three levels, including levels dedicated to the First and Second World Wars and the history and settlement of New Caledonia. The Musée de la Ville de Nouméa also holds temporary exhibitions that changes from time to time.
Near the marina at Port Moselle, the Nouméa Market is a lively and colorful market held every morning from 5 AM to 10:30 AM (except on the third Monday of each month) in a group of blue-roofed buildings. Vendors offer fresh produce, arts and crafts, bread, olives, flowers, cakes, meat, and a large seafood market. Set aside from the other stalls, the seafood market offers fresh crabs, squid, lobsters, prawns, fish, and many other varieties. On the weekend you can catch local musicians playing ukeleles or other string instruments entertaining shoppers.
If you’d rather explore the gorgeous waters of the Pacific up close and personal, then Nouméa has plenty of opportunities for you! Nouméa is home to one of the largest lagoons in the world, so naturally activities like kite and wind-surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving would become popular pastimes. If you’re a beginner and want some practice in a calmer area, then make your way over to Baie des Citrons. Nouméa is a premier snorkeling location, with large tracks of amazing coral and the colorful fish that live there. Just a water taxi ride away from Baie des Citrons is Ile aux Canards, a marine park with a snorkeling track that showcases amazing coral, although visibility is poor in inclement weather.
If you’d like to see fish and other marine animals without getting wet, then you’ll want to check out the Aquarium des Lagons, which features local species of marine life in environments similar to their natural habitats. The aquarium is famous for its collection of nautilus and it’s dedication to educating and conserving the local marine life of New Caledonia. The aquarium is separated into different ecosystems, from the Lagoon to the Ocean. Some of the species of fish you’ll encounter here include: groupers, trevally, sharks, starfish, clams, sea anemones, pilotfish, and many, many more.
One of the most popular attractions in the city is the Tjibaou Cultural Center, which celebrates the culture of the local Kanak people, and the leader of their independence movement, Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who was assassinated in 1989. Opening in 1998, the building was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, and built to honor Tjibau’s vision of a cultural center that blended the native language and culture of the Kanak people. Exhibits in the center include photographs, paintings, and sculptures made by local Kanak artists, as well as other cultures native to the Pacific. The Cultural Center also has a multimedia library, shop, theatre, and a cafe to explore.
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