When looking for destinations to spend our family reunion trip over our Christmas break, many ideas came into our minds, but New Caledonia quickly stepped up as the best destination for many reasons.
It is Australia’s closest neighbour
If you live on Australia’s East Coast, New Caledonia is the closest foreign country you can easily fly to. It is less than 2,000 km from Sydney and even closer to Brisbane!
My office closes during the festive season. As much as I wanted to spend time with my mother who came all the way from France to visit my brother and I down under, I also wanted to use my compulsory leave to explore somewhere new. We did not want to add another long flight for my mother.
Less than 2 hours after taking off from Brisbane, we landed in Noumea.
It is a dream destination with a nice mix of Culture, History and Nature
New Caledonia is the world’s biggest lagoon. That’s enough to make many of us fall in love at first sight before even landing there when we discover from the plane all the nuances of blue the sea can get. All islands – including the main one with Noumea – are surrounded by a coral reef barrier that measures about 1,600 kilometres long!
Still, the beauty of New Caledonia is not only about the lagoons with their majestic corals and active marine life. They have a great variety of settings and activities for such a small land. The immaculate beaches are the perfect start for chilling or a great adventure. And to take a break from the beach, the mountains or forests are never too far away.
New Caledonia’s charm also comes from its culture. The local population is welcoming, and we had many opportunities to learn a lot from them. Their History, different for each island, is fascinating.
Although we all can adapt and be flexible, we were three couples with different paces. Hence, having different options and activities available at the same place to suit our various holiday styles was important. Whether you want to relax, to be active or to discover a new culture, New Caledonia has it all!
They speak French
French is the official language of New Caledonia. Ok, I realise this reason will not convince most of you to book a flight. But it was important for us as my mother can only speak French. New Caledonia was a great opportunity for them to be able to interact freely with local people.
Kanaks, people of the New Caledonian tribes, speak their tribe language. French is their second fluent language. Hence, any other foreign language is their third language, so most of them will have basic English. They’d learn it at school as French students do, but you’ve probably heard the French reputation towards English…
It is perfect for Australians who are looking for some cultural challenges next door. Visiting a country where you have to make efforts to communicate with people who don’t know your language is always a bigger travel shock and often a fun experience. Unfortunately, not speaking French could become a barrier for some off-the-beaten-track activities.
When visiting the Pacific Islands, English speakers usually choose the cheaper and more English adapted destinations like Vanuatu and Fiji. I know New Caledonia attracts many Japanese tourists so it is suited to the International tourist market. I haven’t visited the other islands in the Pacific to be able to compare.
It is a little bit France, but just for what’s needed…
New Caledonia is a collectivity of France. Our aim was not to go to France at all but, in addition to the language, the French influence had some advantages for us… I am thinking mostly about the food here. As an expat, I miss French food. Although it is more expensive in New Caledonia than in France because of taxes on imported products, we could find every single thing we could dream of from a French supermarket. So cliche but true, we had a feast with bread, cheese, saucisson and paté and could even bring some back in Australia to deal with the holiday blues.
It is easy to disconnect to share high-quality time
As much as I like sharing my trips online, I love turning technology off when I am travelling. Not everyone in my family shares this opinion, though.
Too often, I find that sharing moments online with “everyone” takes away the charm of the actual live moment. I can recall some family reunions where people were focusing more on a screen (phone, TV…) rather than on seeking a dialogue with people around the table. We opted to stay with locals in a very simple setting. There, we did not have the option to connect to the Internet or to watch TV. The only evening entertainment was chatting and exploring the place at night. It was perfect to spend high-quality time together and with our hosts.
Still, we could connect and be reached when needed as New Caledonia has good network coverage if you have a local sim card, and most hotels offer Wi-Fi access. A great balance to please everyone!
Have you been to New Caledonia? Or do you want to go? Why? Please leave a comment below!
Where is New Caledonia?
New Caledonia is a group of islands in the Pacific just next to Vanuatu, to the East of Australia and the North of New Zealand.
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