Lifou, New Caledonia cruises
Lifou, New Caledonia port guide
The largest and most populated of the Loyalty Islands, Lifou is the definition of paradise – the kind of place you dream of discovering on a South Pacific cruise.
Encircled by shallow transparent waters, Lifou’s landscape is intoxicating; a blend of powder-white sands and lime green jungle, so perfect it’s possible you’ll want to pinch yourself.
Admire the panoramic views from Notre Dames de Lordes. Be captivated by the bustle of Wharfside markets. Swim with colourful fish at Jinek Bay Marine Reserve and visit a vanilla plantation to see where this sweet elixir hails from.
Top landmarks and sights in Lifou
When it comes to famous sights and landmarks on Lifou, it’s all about Mother Nature. Here’s just a handful of the best places on the island where you can appreciate her work in all its glory.
There’s no shortage of beauty to behold in Lifou, but when it comes to the island’s best beaches, locals will tell you that nothing beats Luengoni. Boasting sand as soft as icing sugar (and just as white) a visit to this coastal gem is top of many Lifou cruisers’ wish lists. Soak up the South Pacific sun. Paddle in the turquoise tinted water, or perch in the leafy shade for a moment of quiet contemplation.
Located on Lifou’s northern coast, these magnificent cliffs are a geological wonder, composed entirely from compressed coral stone that has formed over millions of years. Named to honour the indigenous Jokin tribe whose land they stand on, the cliffs contain the burial chambers of tribe elders carved into their base, while ascending to the top (a height of 60 metres) offers uninhibited views of Lifou’s luscious coastline.
Notre Dame de Lourdes
A sole white beacon, shining among acres of vibrant green vegetation, the chapel of Notre Dame de Lourdes gazes out across the ever-sparkling ocean from its secluded hilltop hideaway. Built to consecrate the arrival of Catholic missionaries to New Caledonia in 1898, walking to this sweet and humbly designed building will require a little effort, but you’ll find the views greeting you on arrival more than worthy of the climb.
Things to do in Lifou
From bustling local markets that offer a taste of Lifou life, to snorkelling among the friendly fish that inhabit the island’s tropical waters, there’s never a dull moment in this part of New Caledonia.
Arriving by cruise ship puts you in perfect stead to explore Lifou’s open-air Wharfside markets. Operated by island locals, a visit here is the perfect insight into Lifou’s cuisine and culture. You’ll find stalls laden with native arts and crafts produced on the island as well as street food vendors selling traditional Lifou snacks and delicacies. On the days cruise ships anchor, there’s also organised dance performances to welcome you to the island.
If exploring below Lifou’s glasslike water appeals (and why wouldn’t it in this part of the world?) then make a beeline for Jinek Bay Marine Reserve. With colourful corals and an array of tropical fish, just below the surface, Jinek Bay is widely considered to be one of the best places for snorkelling in all the South Pacific. To ensure as little disruption to the ecosystem as possible, visitor numbers are strictly limited, with only 200 people permitted to enter the marine reserve each day (100 in the morning and 100 in the afternoon). If this experience is high on your Lifou wish list we strongly recommend making your way there as soon as possible after arriving in port.
Of course, the Loyalty Islands are also famous for their vanilla production, and you’ll find plantations accepting visitors across the archipelago, including several on Lifou. Known as ‘brown gold’, Lifou’s vanilla industry started life in the mid-19th century and continues to be one of the region’s main exports. Visiting a plantation allows you to learn about the pollination and harvesting process, as well as giving you a deeper understanding of this sweet ingredient’s origins.
Eating and drinking near Lifou cruise port
Like the general vibe on Lifou, dining out on the island is a laidback affair; a mix of street food and casual eateries, serving mainly local dishes and island specialities. Restaurants here might look a little less polished than you’re used to back home but don’t let that put you off, it’s just how life is in this tiny speck in the ocean.
If you’re looking for an authentic dining experience while in Lifou, look no further than New Caledonia’s national dish, Bougna. A starchy stew made with meat, sweet potatoes, yams, and taros; the ingredients are slowly simmered in creamy coconut milk for a truly tropical infusion.
Locally caught fish is also widely represented on Lifou, as well as shellfish including mussels, clams, lobster, and the region’s famous blue prawns - a local delicacy that’s found throughout New Caledonia and exported overseas.
Another culinary staple to try while in Lifou is deer. Native to the Loyalty Islands, this rich gamey meat features on many Lifou menus, most commonly chargrilled over open flame or tenderised to melt-in-the-mouth perfection in stews. Being an overseas French territory, influences from Europe have also notably infiltrated New Caledonia’s cuisine. To this extent, you’ll now find the likes of pizzas, fries, salads, and burgers, offered alongside more traditional island staples.
Shopping in Lifou
Shops in Lifou mainly cater to local needs, with tourism on the island geared towards making the most of the great outdoors, over souvenir shopping. If you are hoping to bring back a small keepsake to commemorate your time on the island, the Wharfside markets near the tender drop-off point are a good place to find natively produced crafts. Alternatively, ONO Factory, one of the island’s only gift shops, offers decorative items such as traditional wooden carvings, alongside handmade jewellery, colourful artworks, natural honey, and a small assortment of beauty items.
Getting around: Lifou transport
Public transport in Lifou is limited, so the best way to travel around the island is by organised shore experience or private tour. These can be booked in My Cunard up to one year in advance of your voyage, or in person while on board your ship (subject to availability).
You’ll also find local tour operators just a short walk from the beach where the tender takes you to shore. Just bear in mind that you’ll need to be back at the tender collection point in plenty of time to re-join your ship before it departs for its next destination.
Lifou port facilities
On a port call to Lifou your ship will anchor offshore and transport you to shore by tender. Once ashore, you’ll find a golden sand beach, either side of the tender drop-off point, as well as a market selling local foods and crafts, a café, public toilets, and a place to hire beach equipment.
Lifou quick tips
Lifou’s local currency is the CFP franc, although credit cards as well as Australian and US dollars are also widely accepted.
Lifou is warmest between December to March, when average highs peak at around 29 degrees Celsius (84 Fahrenheit). It’s also one of the rainiest seasons, with high humidity and short showers a possibility. The island is typically windy year-round, and rarely gets cooler than 13 degrees Celsius (55 Fahrenheit) in winter. A sturdy pair of walking shoes, plenty of bottled water, and a lightweight waterproof jacket are recommended if visiting Lifou during peak summer season.