New Caledonia: Jaw-dropping must-see destinations and heritage sites in the great south

New Caledonia: Jaw-dropping must-see destinations and heritage sites in the great south
PHOTO: New Caledonia & Aircalin

From the gorgeous lagoons to lush greenery and rugged terrains - the Great South of New Caledonia is a hidden gem in the heart of the Pacific. Promising a travel itinerary packed with enchanting landscapes, rich heritage and a touch of adventure that will leave you awe-inspired and rejuvenated, go on a journey to remember within the tropical haven of New Caledonia! Take its flag carrier Aircalin to this exotic land for must-see destinations and heritage sites. 

With lots of awe-spiring destinations waiting to be explored - Experience the magic of the idyllic New Caledonia with Aircalin, offering the comforts of a full-service airline and the warm welcome of the Pacific. Plan your trip here.

A panoramic escape at Mount-Dore

The Great South is a hiker's paradise, and one place you simply cannot miss are the scenic hiking trails that cross through Mount-Dore. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the 800-metre-high summit (about four hours to-and-fro) for panoramic views that stretch beyond the horizon, capturing both the azure coastline and the lush inland forests.

Climb at dawn for that picture-perfect Instagram moment, or reach the top just before the sunset to see the city lights of Noumea flicker to life. If you're a fan of flora and fauna, this natural wonder sees vibrant native species that'll cross your path on the way to the summit.

The Tranquil Isle of Ouen 

Part of the Mont-Dore municipality, the Isle of Ouen is perched south of the Woodin Canal, about half-way between Noumea and Ile des Pins. First discovered by a sandalwood tradesman in the 19th century, the island is home to a population of one hundred people, mainly from the Ouara tribe.

In this tranquil haven, the pace of life is slow - allowing you to unwind on unspoiled beaches and dipping your toes into the turquoise waters of the Pacific. You might also catch the sight of some turtles or spot humpback whales by yacht or motor boat.

Beyond exploring the island with local guides, participate in traditional activities like fishing at low tide, as well as weaving workshops and more.

Bird's eye view of The Whales at Cap N'Dua

The cliffside views at Cap N'Dua are out of this world. Found on the tip of the Grand Sud, the biodiverse rich spot is strategically situated between land and sea.

Encompassing 830 hectares, it now thrives as an independent natural reserve, presenting visitors with diverse landscapes like captivating bays, dramatic cliffs, and extensive arid scrubland that are accessible via hiking paths and bike trails.

Augmenting its allure for nature enthusiasts, it offers a prime vantage point to witness the annual migration of humpback whales to the New Caledonian waters for mating season between July and late September. 

Kayak through a drowned forest at Blue River Park

Just an hour's drive away from the capital city of Noumea, the Blue River Park (Parc de la Riviere Bleue) is an absolute paradise. Amongst its 9,000 hectares worth of kaleidoscopic wonders are lush forests where rare plant species bloom and a vibrant wildlife sanctuary including the cagou bird.

As you journey through the reserve on the likes of trails, bikes and kayaks, check out the eerie spectacle of bleached logs in the Drowned Forest. Other pit stops worth making include the former mining camp, Palmetum, the High Blue River's waterfalls and the Maison du Parc.

Nonetheless, the highlight here is the river itself, with a mesmerising blue hue and crystalline waters.

The Majestic Isle of Pines

Dubbed the "Jewel of the Pacific", Isle of Pines is located southwest of Grande Terre in New Caledonia. As if plucked straight from a postcard, the island is an ethereal beauty with white shores, turquoise lagoons for snorkelling, and soaring Araucaria pine trees.

Don't miss the Oro natural pool, an enclosed lagoon encircled by pines and coral reefs and relaxing at Kanumera and Kuto Bay. History buffs would enjoy a hike to the Queen Hortense's Cave, named after a local royal that allegedly hid in the caves for several months during an intertribal conflict.

Savour the famed local snails known as "bulimes" or "Escargots de l'Ile des Pins" for a holistic experience! For hassle-free and direct flights from Noumea to isle of Pines, opt for Aircalin, the preferred choice of both local and tourists alike. 

Explore ancient living relics at La Madeleine Waterfall

Near the Blue River Provincial Park lies Plaine des Lacs and the enchanting La Madeleine Waterfall.

The charming setting that makes for a leisurely stroll encompasses two kilometres of the New Caledonian Maquis shrubland, home to 168 plant species with an impressive 95 per cent being exclusive to the region.

This includes species of primitive conifers originating between 245 and 65 million years ago, as well as the Nesogalaxias fishes, a remarkably thriving fossil from Gondwana, the supercontinent that emerged roughly 600 million years ago.

Between the cascading water, the stunning flora and the melodies of native birds, the experience is definitely an invigorating one. 

Explore the rustic charms of Prony Village

Travellers with a yen for cultural and heritage sites can head to the Prony village. Now abandoned, the once thriving town has meticulously been restored by enthusiasts at the Association du Village de Prony.

Showcasing three historical eras in the nation's history - the penal colony, the wood industry, and the early mining days - some relics still found on grounds include what used to be Camp Sebert and its gunpowder store, the sled used for transporting wood and the officers' barracks.

An escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life, the remains of Prony village are now recognised as historic monuments by the Southern Province, and guided visits make for the perfect opportunity to delve into its intriguing history. 

The secluded oasis called Casy Islet

A little further out from Prony Bay, accessible by taxi-boat, Casy Islet offers a beautiful natural setting for a weekend expedition. A hub of New Caledonia's biodiversity, the islet boasts over 80 per cent of native plants, including exquisite orchid species.

Composed mainly of peridotites - a geological material linked to the region's substantial nickel resources - Casy Islet is splendid for leisurely strolls. The secluded oasis makes for any snorkeler's dream, featuring turquoise waters and vibrant coral gardens, as well as unspoiled beaches to relax on.

Serene green tourism at Yate Dam & Lake

Dedicated to green tourism, the Yate Dam and its vast reservoir is renowned for its expansive landscapes, pristine surrounding wilderness, and distinctive red soil.

At an elevation of 160 metres above sea level, the dam overlooks the Yate Lake and serves as a 68 MW power station, contributing around 20 to 30 per cent of the total electricity consumption in New Caledonia.

For folks with a passion for sports, the dam also marks the starting point of the annual "Gigawatt" race, an iconic event featuring 10km to 30km races. For picturesque memories, cross the dam towards Yate and keep a lookout for a sign post leading you to a prime vantage point to capture a stunning shot of the idyllic lake.

For folks interested in eco-conscious travel, Aircalin offers an innovative fleet and reduced environmental footprint too, find out more here. 

Family picnics and bike riding at Netcha Trails

Known for their stunning viewpoints, Les Boucles de Netcha or the Netcha Trails are a network of trails that wind through captivating landscapes. Whether you're on foot or a mountain bike, the 150km trails cater to everyone with nine varying routes and distinct difficulty levels for a thrilling journey.

Families looking for a relaxed expedition can opt for the two green routes (Creek Run and Pines Run), whilst those seeking adrenaline rush can go for the two black routes (the Carenage River run, and the extensive Plain of Lakes run) reserved for experienced mountain bikers. The trails also make for stellar picnic spots with first row seats to gorgeous vistas.

Offering the comforts of a full-service airline and the warm welcome of the Pacific. Plan your trip with Aircalin, here

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This article was first published in City Nomads.

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