Noumea, New Caledonia cruises

Your guide to Noumea, New Caledonia

A vision of intense azure sea and gleaming green trees, Noumea is every bit the topical oasis you’d expect. Exotic parklands, filled with colorful fauna and wild birds, the softest sand peppering picture-perfect beaches, and elevated viewpoints from which to admire the sweeping panoramas. Add to this a dose of European architecture, upmarket shopping, a restaurant-lined promenade, and a smattering of museums, and it’s easy to see why New Caledonia’s capital often draws comparisons with the chic resorts of Southern France.

Top landmarks and sights in Noumea

Expansive outdoor spaces and cosmopolitan French influences make Noumea a fascinating city to explore. Whether gazing out to sea from the crest of Ouen Toro hill or topping up your tan on Baie de Citrons beach, you’re sure to succumb to the island’s many charms.

Ouen Toro hill

Noumea is nothing short of a natural paradise and nowhere is its beauty better appreciated than from the lookout point on Ouen Toro hill. At 132 meters high (just a fraction above the Great Pyramid of Giza) its peak reveals spectacular 360-degree views that stretch all the way to the Amédée lighthouse some 12 miles away. A popular launch pad for paragliders, the hill also features an impressive 60 hectares of natural walking trails with routes that cater to all ability levels.  

Baie de Citrons beach

Another of Noumea’s most famous sights can be found back at ground level in the form of the Baie de Citrons beach. BD to locals, this golden stretch of sand - a mere 10-minutes from the city center - is the perfect place to soak up the South Pacific sunshine. Encircled by a promenade laden with shops, bars, and restaurants, BD is beloved by Noumea natives who flock here to swim in the calm shallows or seek shade under the Banyan trees.

St Joseph’s Roman Catholic cathedral

Noumea also boasts a rich array of archaeological treasures, of which Saint Joseph’s Roman Catholic cathedral is among the most iconic. Consecrated in 1890, and arranged in the shape of a cross, the cathedral’s interior features fonts made from Giant clams, while its striking exterior is flanked by two 25-meter towers. Lime-rendered walls and pointed arches made from Kaori (a native island conifer) are other notable features of St Joseph’s architectural style.  

Things to do in Noumea

Whether shopping for colorful crafts, immersing yourself in history, or getting acquainted with curious wildlife, a port call in Noumea is richly rewarding.

Lagoons aquarium

One of Noumea’s most popular attractions, Lagoons Aquarium was founded by a marine biologist and his wife in the 1950s. Extensively renovated in 2007, the aquarium offers visitors an intimate glimpse below the surface of Noumea’s waters. Inside, you’ll find tanks filled with aquatic plants and marine life including fish, turtles, and phosphorescent corals. Exhibits are organized into different ‘habitats’ to mimic - as closely as possible - the true-life conditions in which each species thrives. If you get a kick out of seeing colorful fish close-up, a visit here is sure to put you in your element.

Port Moselle Market

Situated beside the Marina it takes its name from, Port Moselle Market is an ideal place to ingratiate yourself into everyday Noumea culture. Easily identified by its distinctive blue tiles, the market occupies five hexagonal pavilions, housing everything from fresh foods to local handicrafts. A beacon of bright colors and irresistible aromas, it’s a great place to pick up a traditional souvenir (or discover the extraordinary array of produce cultivated across Noumea and its neighbors). If your visit makes you peckish, an on-site café bar (situated close to the entrance) specializes in continental classics like croissants and croque-madames, as authentic as any you’d find in France.

Michel Corbasson zoological and forest park

It’s not often you’ll encounter a 34-hectare park in the center of a city, but that’s exactly the case with Noumea’s Michel Corbasson zoological and forest park. A thriving botanic space, filled with over 100 species of endemic bird - horned parakeets and the Caledonian crow among them - this tropical oasis provides a tranquil retreat in which to lose yourself in nature. Exotic plants such as palms and cacti have been given a home here alongside native New Caledonian fauna. You may even be lucky enough to spot a flying fox, lizard, or a curious monkey as you explore the designated paths leading you through this beautifully cultivated ecosystem.   

World War II museum

A must-visit for anyone with an interest in WWII history, this fascinating museum (housed within a typically New Caledonian half-moon shaped building) charts the surprisingly positive impact that visiting US troops had on Noumea during the second world war. Playing out across a series of film clips, photos, and military memorabilia, including two restored jeeps, the museum’s exhibits paint a picture of an island that had its horizons unexpectedly expanded at a time when the rest of the world was deep in conflict.

Eating and drinking near Noumea

From locally caught fish to quintessentially Parisian produce, dining out in Noumea is a gastronomic delight, where the signature tastes of New Caledonia and France fuse together.

The city has a reputation for culinary excellence, with a wave of experimental chefs offering dishes that marry traditional island ingredients with contemporary cooking techniques. You’ll find five-star hotels offering high-end dining experiences and bistros specializing in classic French cuisine.

The seafood here is second-to-none, with the island’s famous blue prawn a must-try delicacy. Coconut crab, crayfish, and lobster are also abundant on Noumea menus, brought in by the local fishermen just hours before they’re brought to the table.

For a truly authentic taste of New Caledonia, try Bougna; a native stew that blends meat or fish with vegetables such as sweet potato and yam. This signature dish, enjoyed in Noumea for generations, is wrapped in banana leaf, simmered in coconut milk, and then slowly cooked on fiery hot stones until it reaches melt-in-your-mouth perfection.

Shopping in Noumea

Noumea’s noticeably French influence extends to its shopping, with an upscale blend of independent and luxury boutiques that wouldn’t look out of place in Paris.

If you’re a fan of shopping on a cruise, the island more than delivers. You’ll find big brand labels rubbing shoulders with smaller Noumea names – offering an enticing proposition that should satisfy anyone seeking a spot of retail therapy.

Alba Street, Sebastopol Street, and the beachfront promenade that runs alongside Baie de Citrons are three of the top places to make for if the desire to shop strikes whilst ashore.

You can also find more traditional crafts and keepsakes at the Port Moselle Market beside the marina, distinguishable by its blue tiled roof and hexagonal shape.  

Getting around: Noumea transport

Central Noumea is easily explored on foot, but busses and a tourist train are available if you prefer to get from A-B without having to walk – something that may be preferable if you’re not used to the humidity. You can also rent mopeds or bicycles, just bear in mind that parts of Noumea can be very hilly. Roads are, however, well maintained.

Bus tickets can be purchased at the terminal or on the bus itself. If you plan on making multiple journeys, an unlimited day pass is probably a more economical option than paying for a single fare.

The tourist trains follow several routes throughout the city that take in the main sights and attractions. This can be a very convenient way to cover a lot of ground in port and maximize the time you have to explore.

Taxis and a coach service are also available should you wish to travel further afield.

Noumea port facilities

Cruise ships calling in Noumea usually dock at the Gare Maritime Terminal, just a short distance from the city center.

An overland tourist train is available to take you from the terminal to the city and back again.

A few souvenir shops are located within the terminal building, but a much wider selection of shops is available once in Noumea, so you may wish to hold-off from making any purchases until you’ve had a chance to explore.

 

Top tips for Noumea

Currency

The local currency in Noumea is the French Pacific Franc but credit cards and debit cards are widely accepted in restaurants, boutiques, and museums. Just be mindful that your card provider or your bank may impose a charge for using your card abroad.

Tipping

Tipping isn’t common practice for locals in New Caledonia, although there’s nothing wrong with rounding-up your bill to include a tip when dining in (or even leaving a little more if you’ve experienced especially good service), particularly in higher-end establishments.

You should also be aware that battering or haggling in markets (or anywhere else) should be strictly avoided in Noumea, as this is not an accepted part of New Caledonian culture.

Weather

As you might expect of an island in the South Pacific, Noumea’s weather is warm, sunny, and mostly rain-free. The city is at its hottest in December, January, and February, when temperatures tend to peak at around 26 degrees Celsius (approximately 79 degrees Fahrenheit).

The coolest temperatures are generally recorded in June, July, August, and September (around 20 degrees C or 68 Fahrenheit), which is still pretty warm and mild by most people’s standards.

The driest months to visit are April, May, and September, but year-round sunshine is almost always guaranteed. That said, sea breezes are quite common off the coast of New Caledonia so temperatures in Noumea can sometimes feel cooler than advertised, which isn’t always a bad thing!