The various tribes of New Caledonia’s Kanak people have a long and proud history with rich heritage and traditions that visitors can explore through the various museums and cultural centers of the islands. There are also plenty of natural attractions, ranging from the giant kauri trees and rare birds of the Blue River provincial park to the opportunity to learn more about New Caledonia’s marine life at the aquarium.
Standing 184 feet high, the metal Amedee lighthouse has illuminated the sea for ships to pass safely through New Caledonia’s barrier reef since 1865. The lighthouse sits on a tiny island 14 miles from Nouméa and can be reached via one of two Mary D ferries. Visitors who climb the 247 cast iron spiral staircase will be rewarded with stunning panoramic views. The ferries depart from Moselle Bay at 8:30 a.m. and return at 4:30 p.m. (winter) or 5:00 p.m. (summer).
Address: Amedee Lighthouse, Amedee Island New Caledonia
Aquarium des Lagons Nouvelle Caledonie
This small but well maintained aquarium offers an excellent and educational introduction to the marine life of New Caledonia. Exhibition highlights include turtles, sea snakes and the mysterious nautilus. There are also giant clams and the self-lighting flashlight fish. The aquarium is open between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Address: 3 Route Aquarium, Anse Vata, Nouméa, Grand Terra, New Caledonia
Musée de Nouvelle-Calédonie
The Musée de Nouvelle-Calédonie began in 1853 and now houses over 5,200 objects. Around 2,000 of these form the significant Kanak culture collection, including examples of Kanak clothing, tools, weapons, musical instruments, bamboo engravings, watercraft, and huts. There is information available in English and a special section on the American presence in WWII. From time to time the museum runs special events such as cooking classes or craft workshops and is open everyday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except Tuesdays and public holidays.
Address: 45 Avenue du Marechal Foch, Nouméa, Grand Terre, New Caledonia
Website: http://www.museenouvellecaledonie.nc (in French)
Tjibaou Cultural Center
The Tjibaou Cultural Center is a state run institution established for the promotion of Kanak heritage, contemporary art, handicrafts, technology, and broadcasting. The center is housed in an impressive complex of modern buildings referencing traditional Kanak village structures, reminiscent of giant basket work. There are also village homes, including the conical Great House. Inside are exhibitions, art shows and cultural activities.
Address: Rue des Accords de Matignon, Tina, Grand Terre, New Caledonia
Blue River Provincial Park
Located just under an hour’s drive from Nouméa, the 47 acre Blue River Provincial Park (Parc Provincial de la Riviere Bleue) has giant kauri trees and is home to the largest population of cagou, New Caledonia’s national bird. The main feature of the park is a 24 square mile lake, which was created through deliberate flooding for a hydroelectric dam in the 1980s. The park, a combination of rainforest and rehabilitated mining land, has toilet and picnic facilities and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Address: Route de Yate, Yate, South Province, New Caledonia
Grotte de la Reine Hortense
The Grotte de la Reine Hortense is a famous cave on the Isle of Pines, where it is believed that Queen Hortense, the wife of a local tribal Chief, hid to escape a conflict in 1855. The cave is accessible via a short tropical bush walk by a creek and features stalactites, stalagmites and a small Catholic shrine. Visitors are advised to bring a flashlight for the best views.
Address: Ile des Pins, New Caledonia
Parc Zoologique et Forestier
The Parc Zoologique et Forestier zoo is a collection of local and exotic plants and animals housed in a 36 acre forest and park. The newly completed (2009) Valley Endemic showcases New Caledonian native birds including the cagou, notou pigeon, parakeets, New Caledonian raven and the only native mammal, a bat. The reptile collection includes geckos, Loyalty Island boas, Australian water dragons, and South American iguanas. There are baboons, peacocks, monkeys, turtles and a petting zoo with donkeys, goats and deer. The zoo is open from 10:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday.
Address: Raymond Road Teyssandier of Laubarède – Montravel, Nouméa, New Caledonia