Hiking in New Caledonia
When New Caledonia comes to mind for travellers, it's mostly for the French chic of its bustling capital, Noumea, with its beaches, boutiques, and pavement cafés. But beyond the city limits, New Caledonia offers an exciting world of discovery for nature lovers and walkers. In fact, the Grande Terre (mainland) offers some of the best hiking in the South Pacific, with long, marked trails heading into mountain areas where native plants and birds flourish, and old mining and forest tracks which provide a real wilderness experience.
You'll find numerous adventures to enjoy from beginners' bushwalks and treetop climbing to guided tours along ancient Melanesian trails. Explore the rugged red landscapes of the Yaté district, learn about the local Kanak culture and history with the mountain tribes, meet the cowboys of the Caldoche or discover New Caledonia's native plants on a nature walk. We’ve put together some parks and hiking hot spots to help get you started:
Michel Corbasson Zoological and Forest Park (Parc Forestier)
Just a few minutes from the City Centre at Montravel, in the heights of Nouméa, this is a great spot for family walkers, with beautiful views over the lagoon and along the southern coast of the Mainland. The park is home to many endemic birds, including New Caledonia's national bird, the kagu (cagou). To get there, catch the petit train (little train) from Anse-Vata at the Palm Beach Shopping Arcade. The park is located at Montravel and is open daily from 10.15 am to 5.45 pm, except Mondays.
Dumbéa gorges and Mount Koghi
Just north of Nouméa, the Dumbéa gorges are a favourite spot for nature lovers with hiking, swimming and canoeing. Mont Koghi (1061m) is birdwatcher's paradise, with walking trails and a spectacular view of Nouméa and the Dumbéa plain. Khogi Parc Aventure can organise treewalking, adventure trails, and water abseiling. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nature lovers will fall for Mont-Dore, with its freshwater springs and forests. Just 25km south of Noumea, Mont-Dore (770m) has some great walking tracks and there are stunning views to be enjoyed. Guided walks and mountain bike trips lead through the valleys. Mount Dore is known as the Golden Mountain due to its golden hue at sunset.
La Riviere Bleue Provincial Park (Blue River Provincial Park), Yaté District
In the far south of the southern province, this beautiful park is a bushwalker's paradise, extending over 9000 hectares of wild country rich in native plants and animals. There are lovely picnic and river swimming spots, and good walking tracks. The park's giant Kauri stands 40m high and is almost a 1000 years old, and you'll also get to admire New Caledonia's rare national bird, the kagu (cagou), in the wild. Stop in at the park's information centre (La Maison du Parc) for details about the forest and walks. However, visits can only be made by reservation with the Southern Province Tourist Office in Noumea at 14 rue Jean Jaurès, phone (687) 28 75 80. Book a minimum of 24 hours before you plan to visit.
Réserve Botanique de la Madeleine (Madeleine Falls Botanic Reserve)
South-east of Noumea off the Yaté Road, at the heart of the Plaine des Lacs, this reserve is ideal for walkers. A signposted botanical path tells you about the plants of the New Caledonian bush – there are 168 plant species in total here. Stop for a picnic and a cooling swim at the impressive Madeleine Falls, the scenic highlight of the reserve.
Located in the northern province, Mount Panié is the highest point in New Caledonia (1629 m), covering nearly 5000 hectares. Magnificent waterfalls tumble down the mountain, sometimes spilling into creeks that are perfect for a cooling swim. Guided walking tours can be arranged and you'll see native plants such as mountain araucarias and giant kaoris (big palm trees), along with some 90 species of butterfly. Tours can also include stops at local tribes, where you can experience kanak culture and local traditions. New Caledonia's highest peak takes most of the day to climb, and has a hut for hikers to stay overnight. On a clear day, the summit offers superb views over the reef and hinterland.
The Grande Randonnée N°1 (The Grand Hiking Track), also known as the Transprovinciale Sud, crosses through the rugged Yaté district, allowing hikers to cross the Parc de la Rivière Bleue on foot.
Auckland to Nouméa there are four flights a week (direct – 2.5 hours), departing Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (AirCalin and Qantas).