Many visitors to my article about New Caledonia travel tips are looking explicitly for New Caledonia shopping tips. That’s what inspired me to create this article to share our shopping experience during our trips to New Caledonia. You will find information about shopping in Noumea and outside Noumea, duty-free, supermarkets and the best souvenirs from New Caledonia (local products, crafts, and brands).
1. General New Caledonia shopping tips
The most important thing to remember in my New Caledonia shopping tips is to check the time before you go shopping.
Shops often close at lunchtime, so don’t go shopping in New Caledonia between 11.30 am and 2.30 pm. Some shops open on Saturdays, and most of them close on Sundays. Bigger supermarkets may not close at lunchtime, but they are often only open in the morning during the weekend.
Money, prices and bargaining
Bargaining is not well received when shopping in New Caledonia. Locals may consider it rude and offensive.
In New Caledonia, they use French Pacific Francs, tied to the Euro. They may accept Australian dollars or Euros in some shops (especially if you come from a big cruise boat). Make sure you check the transaction rate they apply as you may lose a lot in some shops. In Noumea, you can often pay by card. But smaller shops (at the market, for instance) may only accept cash. On the other islands, you always need to carry some cash and can rarely pay by card. ATMs are available, but you may need to make a detour to find one. Before you leave, talk to your bank to find out your weekly withdrawal limit.
Don’t expect to find competitive shopping opportunities in New Caledonia. New Caledonia is not a budget destination. Taxes on goods and services are high in the archipelago. You can avoid paying taxes in duty-free shops, but they rarely sell cheap products in these boutiques.
Buying alcohol in New Caledonia
You can buy alcohol at the supermarket. However, there are strict local restrictions, and you won’t be able to buy it at any time. It changes according to where you are, but it is often not possible to purchase alcohol in the afternoon on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday except in a specialised shop. They will ask to check your ID (passport for international visitors) when you buy alcohol at the supermarket.
Rules and restrictions when travelling
Before you start your shopping in New Caledonia, make sure you know the rules and restrictions on what you are allowed to bring back home. They are different according to each country and can impact for example your food, alcohol, and souvenir shopping in New Caledonia.
2. Shopping in Noumea (incl. duty-free shopping tips)
It first never occurred to me that luxury shopping could be one of the things to do in Noumea.
I read a few times in travel guides that Noumea shopping is reputed for bringing big-name brands to the South Pacific.
To be honest, I grew up near Paris and only went once to luxury boutiques for a university assignment, so I cannot give you tips for this kind of shopping. However, I won’t be surprised if it is possible to find French-inspired items in New Caledonia and the French fashion that comes with it. But as I am French, I was more interested in nature-based activities, the Kanak culture, and the New Caledonian items than in the French-inspired items (except food, I admit!).
If you stay near the Anse Vata or Baie des Citrons, you will find a few souvenir shops among the restaurants at the new Noumea shopping mall Mirage Plaza.
But the selection is limited. For more shopping choices, head to Noumea town centre. Near Place des Cocotiers, wander from Rue Sebastopol to Rue George Clemenceau, and you should find whatever you are looking for. Don’t spend too long looking for the Hermes boutique. I know many guides mention it but, as far as I know, it closed.
As a visitor, you may be interested in Noumea duty-free shopping options.
We always bought our French wine and food supplies at the usual supermarket without using the duty-free shops. We didn’t want to make a detour and waste time, and we don’t always find the specific wines we want at the airport. But taxes are high in New Caledonia, so if you are after expensive products or if you’re going to stock up on alcohol, it can make sense to head to a duty-free shop. In these shops, you can avoid paying taxes by presenting your passport and your flight (or cruise) tickets.
From my research, Marlene (42 rue de l’Alma) is the most famous and one of the largest stores for duty-free shopping in Noumea. You can purchase alcohol, bags, clothes, cosmetics, perfume, tobacco, and a few locally-made souvenirs. There is also a smaller Marlene boutique closer to the cruise piers and the Noumea Duty-Free Shop one block away. When you compare prices and want to pay in dollars, consider the conversion rate they use. It may vary from one shop to another. If you pay by card, double-check if the amount on the screen (and on your receipt) is shown in dollars or Pacific francs… just in case.
Duty-free shopping at Noumea Airport (La Tontouta)
If you don’t have time for duty-free shopping in Noumea before the end of your holidays, you will find a duty-free shop at Noumea international airport (Tontouta). It’s smaller than most duty-free shops we’ve seen at international airports, but it’s perfect for last-minute duty-free shopping.
You’ll find alcohol (including a good selection of wine, but unfortunately our favourite French wine wasn’t on the shelf), perfume, beauty products, lollies, tobacco but also souvenirs from local brands. The shop next door is full of souvenirs to bring back home and features some local brands too.
Where to go shopping in Noumea for food and everyday items
These are my personal recommendations from the places I tried in Noumea and have never disappointed me.
Bakery L’Atelier Gourmand
This bakery, located on Route de l’Anse Vata, three blocks away from the beach, has become a must-do stop for all my visits to Noumea. I don’t know if they make the best bread and pastries in the archipelago as I haven’t tried all the bakeries (yet!). But they make delicious ones for sure. I would always buy my breakfast there and keep some bread for my lunch sandwich.
The small supermarket next door
Although it is more expensive than bigger supermarkets, this small supermarket near the hotel area and next door to the Atelier Gourmand bakery is perfect from a convenience point of view. Plus, it is open Sundays. I suggest buying food to put in your baguette to make a delicious sandwich for lunch: try with paté and cornichon (pickles) or cheese. They also sell toiletries or anything else you may have forgotten at home.
Port Moselle Market
Port Moselle Market was not my favourite market in New Caledonia, but it was still a good place for shopping when we needed it. It is open every morning from 5 am (except on Mondays), and easy to reach by bus.
We went there to buy some fresh seafood to prepare our Christmas feast. Their tunas and mahi-mahi were beautiful. We also purchased some seafood shells we had never seen before. Unfortunately, we failed to cook them properly despite the advice from the vendor.
You will find all the local fresh fruits and veggies in the next room.
You can also buy souvenirs from Noumea at the Port Moselle Market, but it’s not my favourite place (see below my tips for buying souvenirs from New Caledonia).
Carrefour, Géant and Casino Supermarkets
Supermarkets are perfect for stocking up on French food, hence among my most exciting New Caledonia shopping experience. I love living in Australia, but I miss French food and finding all these French products in the middle of the Pacific between two beautiful dives is like a dream.
Casino Port De Plaisance (near the marina, not too far from the Baie des Citrons) is closer to the town centre than Carrefour. Prices are reasonable, and it is accessible without a car. There are two other similar options nearby: the Carrefour Market a bit further north after the Baie de l’Orphelinat and the Champion on the opposite side of the peninsula, Baie Sainte Marie.
If you are near Noumea domestic airport (Magenta), you will find another Carrefour Market and a Géant supermarket nearby. They make an excellent stop if you want to have snacks for your visits to the other New Caledonia islands.
If you are renting a car in Noumea, Carrefour Dumbea will offer you more choices at a better price.
My friends are curious or amused about what I buy when I go to a French supermarket. Here’s a quick peek at my shopping list: mint cordial, hundreds of delicious biscuits, cans of paté, cassoulet and choucroute, French wines, and Orangina. And – of course – cheese!
Decathlon for sports accessories
I used to go to Decathlon for all my sports needs in France, so I was super excited to find one in Noumea (they don’t have a shop in Brisbane). It is near the Carrefour Dumbea. If you don’t have your snorkel gear or forgot your swimming suits, that’s the best place to buy new ones. The prices are reasonable, and I like the quality of their items.
Alternatively, for swimming suits, you will find Billabong or Ripcurl in the Anse Vata, just near the hotels.
3. Shopping tips for outside Noumea
Outside Noumea, shopping can become more challenging, even for grocery shopping. There are small supermarkets, but they have limited stock and product range, and prices are higher than in Noumea. Going to the local market for food is an excellent option if you want to avoid going to a restaurant.
Visiting markets is an excellent way to buy local food and taste the local lifestyle. We did that a few times on the Loyalty Islands to get fresh fruits and homemade cakes for our breakfasts or snacks. We often had fun interactions with locals, learning more about their products and amusing them with my total ignorance. I love nature, but I grew up in the city, and it’s obvious I lack skills in agriculture! Sometimes, we had small cultural shocks, like when we had to wait for the women to finish their Bingo game before being served. I loved how they don’t let tourism disturb their usual activity, far away from the “client comes first” and “time is money” spirit!
I recommend buying your souvenirs outside Noumea if you have the opportunity. The objects will be more authentic and have a better story to tell.
4. The best New Caledonia souvenirs shopping tips
When I purchase souvenirs from a trip, I always look for items that could have a positive impact. It means I think about how my purchase benefits the local economy. I also evaluate the possible negative impacts on the environment. Of course, it is not always transparent, and there are tourist traps. But if it is written “made in Indonesia” for a craft item I want to buy as a souvenir from New Caledonia, I will skip it and find something better!
You also have to be careful with the regulation of the countries where you are travelling next. You may not be able to bring back whatever you like, so make research before to avoid disappointment with the customs. I recommend always declaring it to prevent issues. We never had problems bringing back souvenirs from New Caledonia to Australia or France.
When you are at a stall selling authentic souvenirs, don’t hesitate to ask questions about the objects. You may learn a few things and hear great stories that will improve your souvenir shopping experience!
I have listed a few ideas for New Caledonia souvenirs to inspire you. Tell me in the comments what you brought back from your trip!
Local crafts that make great souvenirs from New Caledonia
Kanaks make wonderful wooden sculptures that are excellent souvenirs from New Caledonia.
We were initially worried about bringing back to Australia wooden articles. But it is not a problem as long as it is for personal use and the wood has no insect or other contamination. The Australian government website states: “Imported articles need to be clean, free of bark, insects, soil or other contaminants (look for holes and sawdust as this may indicate that your article contains insect pests).” Visit the Australian Government website or the website of the government of the country you are visiting next for more information.
When you visit the Loyalty Islands or the Isle of Pines, the best way to find sculptures is to look for a sign on the side of the road or to ask people around. We met Emile, a sculptor and fisherman from the Tawaine tribe in Mare, by word of mouth. He showed us some pieces of his beautiful work on the Santal or Gaiac woods. He was proud to prepare one for the French Prime Minister, visiting New Caledonia a couple of weeks later.
In the south of Ouvea, a few kilometres before the Mouli bridge in the Lekiny tribe, we followed a sign to Tribal-Cut. Unfortunately, the local sculptor Marjorie Tiaou was not there as she was attending an exhibition in Noumea.
She is a famous Kanak artist whose work was even featured in the ONU in Switzerland. You cannot miss her work when you visit Ouvea: she did the aerodrome sculptures. If you stay at a hotel in Ouvea (Beaupre* or Paradis d’Ouvea*), you will see some of her sculptures there. We had a pleasant exchange with her partner, Max, who sculpts Opinels he imports from France. You will find many original, authentic souvenirs at Tribal-Cut related to the Kanak art and the icons of New Caledonia.
My favourite sculptures were the Tikis (statues) or spires (traditionally placed on the roof of the Kanak houses) from actual size to a keyring. As an ocean lover, I also loved the sculptures of turtles, sharks and rays. They even sold jewellery.
Jewellery is another excellent local craft souvenir idea when visiting New Caledonia. They usually make necklaces, earrings and bracelets with shells. But New Caledonia is also reputed for real pearls if you have a bigger budget.
You will also find beautiful woven objects in New Caledonia, from decorative ornaments to plates, hats, and bags. Local people use them a lot. We never came across a person selling them. But I remember our host in Ouvea put visitors in contact with a woman from his tribe so they could make an order.
I love the colourful clothes people wear on the islands. So I wanted to bring a “mission dress” home as a New Caledonia souvenir. I was a bit disappointed not to be able to find one that fitted me. I opted for a beautiful top with a Melanesian design from the Lyne Creations stall at the Port Moselle Market (near the bar). A few of her tops are available in the duty-free shop at the international airport, but they didn’t look as good as the one I got in town. There’s also a shop in the city (rue Jacques Iékawé).
In Noumea, you can visit the Handicraft Market (rue James Cook). You can see artisans at work and purchase their products. If you are near Baie de la Moselle (not far from the famous Port Moselle market), have a look at the Atelier des Femmes. It is a boutique of local crafts located Quai Jule Ferry.
Local products that make great souvenirs from New Caledonia
If you visit Lifou or another Loyalty Island, you will most probably visit a vanilla plantation. And you will notice many delicious dishes in New Caledonia have a vanilla flavour. So we found bringing back a few vanilla sticks made great New Caledonia souvenirs.
The best experience is to visit a plantation, learn about the delicate technique of cultivating vanilla and buy directly from the producer. But it is not always possible. Alternatively, you can sometimes find sticks at the market. Otherwise, you may have better luck at the Maison de la Vanille on Lifou (Hnathalo tribe). If you didn’t manage to buy vanilla while on the smaller islands, you can buy it in Noumea. Most gift shops and supermarkets should sell it. You can also find some at the airport. To avoid potential issues with customs, we chose to buy sticks sold in commercial packaging.
You can also purchase local honey as a New Caledonia souvenir. Bees are not native to New Caledonia but were brought in the late 1800s. With a favourable climate and the bees loving the niaouli flowers, apiculture has become a local activity in New Caledonia. There are more than 700 honey producers in the archipelago, mainly between Dumbea and Bourail on the main island.
New Caledonia has its own salt pans, so you can bring back home as a souvenir some local salt with an original local touch, like pink peppercorn (baies roses in French), which is only produced in six countries in the world.
You can find a range of local essential oils produced in New Caledonia. The Niaouli essential oil is one of the most typical from the region. It can help with almost everything: analgesic, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, bactericidal, balsamic, cicatrisant, decongestant, expectorant, febrifuge, insecticide, stimulant, vermifuge and vulnerary substance.
With so many great tropical fruits, jams make a delicious souvenir from New Caledonia. Just make sure it is commercially labelled to avoid potential issues at customs.
A souvenir from Noumea: fabric with Melanesian patterns
If you are going to visit a tribe and planning to do the “coutume“, you may want to go and buy fabric in a shop in Noumea. When you do the “coutume” in New Caledonia, you offer a small gift to your host as an act of respect. If you forgot to buy fabric in Noumea, the small convenience stores on the islands often have a few. You rarely have to do the coutume as a tourist, but our hosts appreciated it. I believe it helped to create a connexion and engage in a conversation.
And if you end up not using them for the coutume, fabrics make a great souvenir to bring home. They have beautiful Melanesian patterns. For example, my mother made a tablecloth, and I wish I were talented enough to create cushion covers with mine! The number of different styles and colours available is impressive.
You can find many fabric stores in Noumea Chinatown, between Rue de la Somme and Rue de Verdun.
The most famous local brands for New Caledonia souvenirs
If you are not looking for traditional souvenirs but still want to make the right choice, you can pick products made in New Caledonia. They sometimes have their own shop in Noumea or you can find some of them at the X-plora shop at Tontouta Airport (before passing security) or in the duty-free zone.
Tricot Rayé is a clothing and accessory brand created in New Caledonia in the early 90s. It is in reference to the banded sea snake that wanders on the reefs and beaches around the archipelago. They have a shop in the touristy Baie des Citrons. You will also find a good selection of items at the international airport.
Kasspaslatete is another clothing and accessory brand from New Caledonia that actively minimises environmental impacts and maximises their positive economic impacts. You can find their products at the Anse Vata (look for Nouméa board shop) and at the Port Moselle market in the weekend.
Kéanou is another brand from Noumea that was launched in 2014. They don’t have their own shop. But many souvenir shops in New Caledonia sell Keanou products, including the souvenir shop at the airport. I particularly like their small keyring purses series that feature the icons of New Caledonia.
Botanik offers natural cosmetics and perfumes “made in New Caledonia”. They have a shop in the town centre of Noumea (Rue du General Mangin). Pharmacies sometimes sell Botanik products too. Pacifico Nature is another New Caledonia brand offering cosmetics made from local products.
Manta beer is made in New Caledonia. The beautiful Polynesian tattoo logo on the cans transforms it into a nice present from New Caledonia. But be careful with the limited amount of alcohol you can bring in your luggage. They also produce the Number One beer locally, but the packaging is very standard.
Shopping for souvenirs from Noumea at the Port Moselle Market
Port Moselle Market is often presented as the best place to buy souvenirs from Noumea.
Port Moselle Market was a bit disappointing, to be honest. Did we go on a bad day?
The stalls outside didn’t sell artisanal crafts. They mainly featured clothes and accessories that didn’t seem to be made locally. Inside, I found the crafts offer very limited. But Port Moselle Market is convenient to find souvenirs from Noumea. And you can combine it with an excellent experience to taste some local fresh food.
Did you go shopping in New Caledonia? Share your experience in the comments below!
Please don’t hesitate to share your own New Caledonia shopping tips or duty-free shopping experiences.
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