Nouméa, the capital city of New Caledonia is on the ocean. Several bays extend along the city, providing magnificent beaches and points of view. Besides its natural features, Nouméa also has very attractive cultural offerings for tourists who choose to visit there.
Gorgeous bays and splendid islets.
Facing the lagoon, the Caledonian capital is the picture of the Pacific: a city to wander about in and live well, especially on the waterfront. The bay attracted the first Europeans to settle here starting in 1853 and has still kept all its appeal, as testified by the very beautiful beach on the Baie des Citrons and Anse Vata. Both offer an ideal setting for a day of exploration or of lounging.
Our idea of seeing what the area has to offer is by renting bicycles and riding out to these beaches. The bike rental shop is right inside the terminal and so getting bikes is easy and convenient. Although the bikes and helmets are not anywhere new, they look like they will be ok for our 4 hour rental.
The route we are taking has a combination of bike lanes, sidewalk or roadways to get us around the parts of the island we want. Our first stop though is the Port Moselle Market with its 5 pavilions. Three of the five pavilions are set aside for fresh produce, mostly locally grown. Piles of pineapples, bananas, dragon fruit, passion fruit and other exotics jostle yams, taros, sweet potatoes, plantain bananas and others, depending on the season. And there are plenty of delicious specialties to tempt you: honey, preserves, fruit or vegetable pickles, pastries, spices and more.
The ocean produce pavilion, near the wharf overlooking the fishing boats provides glittering displays of succulent lagoon and deep sea fish and shellfish, caught and landed that very morning… stalls overflowing with mangrove crabs, huge blue prawns, octopus, lobsters, golden-lined spinefoot fish (picots), bluespine unicornfish (dawas), red mullet and mahi-mahi.
And finally, had we had time, we could have browsed the many stalls selling hand-crafted items, sarongs, jewellery…but no retail therapy today. Instead, we picked up a baguette (this is a French colony island after all), sausage and fresh cheese for our planned picnic lunch.
Our first goal was to reach Baie des Citrons (Lemon Bay). Orientated north–south and less than 30 minutes from the city centre by bike, trendy Baie des Citrons attracts locals and visitors alike. The beach is great for swimming, while the strip of restaurants, bars and nightclubs along the main road could easily divert us from our bike ride with promises of cold beer and fresh seafood. The Beach was dotted with locals and tourists alike although, it is not the nicest beach we have seen.
Continuing along the bike route we come to the next beach – Anse Vata. Orientated east–west, this popular beach is a hotspot for visitors to Noumea, with hotels, restaurants, shopping and other attractions. On a breezy day at Anse Vata, such as we had, we could watch the colourful kite- and windsurfers skimming up and down the bay.
As we round the tip of the island, we finally find a spot shady enough for our picnic. The baguette, cheese and sausage were excellent as we sat along water’s edge and soaked up the atmosphere.
The ride home should have been easy and straight forward but when we got to the street I thought we should turn at, the street sign said something else. Unsure, I asked a local lady for the street we were looking for and she pointed further down the path we were on. No problem, we rode for another 20 minutes or so until the next intersection and turned at it. Turns out, it is the wrong street and we had to stop for directions at a Vietnamese grocery store…no English! Thankfully a customer came in that could speak some English (the primary language is French) and he pointed us in the right direction but we were a couple of miles off course and the way back was certainly more difficult. The road less travelled, as it were.
New adventures, even when you don’t expect them! We did get the bikes back within the 4 hours we had rented them for. We still had time before we sailed so we walked up to the Place des Cocotiers, the heart of the city. The square slopes gently from east to west and at the top is a band rotunda, a famous landmark dating back to the late 1800s. Place des Cocotiers is the main square complete with botanical garden, its palms and large spreading trees doting the landscape.
That was our day in Noumea, New Caledonia. Thanks for following along! Next stop is Eosa, Lifou, New Caledonia.