When you don't want to lie on the beach...
Reputation: typical South Pacific island with lots of beach.
Why you should go: a little French haven in the middle of the Pacific with world-class architecture.
A quick note about accessibility in Noumea: Noumea's buildings are generally suitable for people who use mobility devices, and the streets are flat and well-maintained so it's easy to get around.
Everything’s free unless stated.
Admire the culture...and architecture
The South Pacific may seem like a remote place to find world-leading architecture but it's in Noumea that you'll find the Centre Culturel Jean-Marie Tjibaou*, pictured above, by superstar architect Renzo Piano (think Paris's Centre George Pompidou and London's Shard).
This stunning cultural centre has permanent and temporary displays highlighting the traditions and cultures of the peoples of New Caledonia. Or you can simply admire the architecture or spend time in the lovely tropical gardens.
To get to the Centre jump on bus 2 from the middle of town or hop in a taxi and ask for Tjibaou (pronounced: che-bow). An entry fee applies.
*The website is mostly in French.
Check out the marine life without getting wet
The Aquarium des Lagons will delight just about everyone with its large enclosures of local fish and marine life. Highlights include the colourful fish, fluorescent coral, turtles and, of course, sharks.
To get to the aquarium, get bus 7 from the middle of town or grab a taxi. An entry fee applies.
Relax in the leafy centre of town
Take a break from the heat in Place des Cocotiers, a lovely green spot right in the middle of town. The grass, park benches and palm trees provide the perfect place to relax. As a bonus, there's free wifi.
Enjoy the French vibe
As a French dependency, Noumea has a strong French feel. The official language is French, much of the architecture is French-colonial and, just like France, the shops are shut on Sundays.
Best of all are the French bakeries. Our favourite is Boulangerie Marais on Rue Eugene Porcheron. If you can't decide - and you won't be able to - many of the tastiest things come as petit four so you can try all the lovely things without popping.
If you go to the beach just once...
Noemea has lovely beaches so if you'd like to lounge on the beach for at least a little while, pop across the road from the aquarium to Plage de l'Anse Vata, a strip of white sandy beach, palm trees and blue, blue water.
Where to stay
Our contributors visited Noumea as part of a cruise out of Auckland so unfortunately can't recommend a hotel. See below for more info.
Visiting on a cruise ship
Noumea is now a standard destination on many Pacific cruises departing from Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. Most ships only stop for a day and it's absolutely possible to do everything covered on this page in that time. You'll want to make an early start so try to disembark as soon as the ship docks.
Here's how we did it:
- Explore the town centre including Place des Cocotiers first. It's easy to do on foot from the ship as ships dock very close to town. Don't forget to stop at Boulangerie Marais!
- Head to the taxi stand in the middle of town and grab a taxi to the Centre Culturel Jean-Marie Tjibaou. Simply ask the driver for Tjibaou (pronounced 'Chew-bow').
- Explore the Centre and gardens, and grab lunch at the cafe.
- Ask the front desk to order you a taxi. Take the taxi back to town or across town to the Aquarium des Lagons. If you're taking a bus (which we did), the bus stop is right next to the taxi stand and buses are clearly marked.
- Mooch around the Aquarium.
- Afterwards, you may want to sink your feet into the sand at the beach across the road. Then jump on the bus back to town.
And you've done it! You don't need to rush but you will need to be reasonably organised.
A few things we wish the cruise line had told us:
- All shops are closed on Sundays.
- Most attractions are closed on Mondays.
- Generally, you can't flag down a taxi. You'll need to wait at the main taxi stand in town but you won't have to wait for long.
- Unlike most Pacific island destinations, you can't use Australian money in Noumea.
- French is the official language, so dust off your high school French!
- And the large building marked 'Casino' across from the dock is a grocery shop. Sorry.
To make sure that this page loads quickly we've popped the photos on a separate page.
Contributors: Ann-Marie Nansett, Michael Nansett
Updated: 30 April 2016