New Caledonia for Families
by Astral Sligo
Travelling with a family generally means sticking to a budget, but it doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the finer experiences of a tropical escape. With a little bit of creative nipping and tucking a New Caledonia holiday will be an affordable and unforgettable experience for the whole family.
Mix French European chic and South Pacific paradise and you have New Caledonia. Surrounded by the largest lagoon in the world, (a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site), a New Caledonian holiday is cheaper than a family trip to France – and you get tropical islands thrown in!
Before you leave:
Start teaching the children a few words of French before the flight – use the flight time (two-and-a-half hours from Sydney or Auckland) to go over flash-cards of numbers, greetings and key items such as bread, eggs (this will come in handy later) and cheese.
It’s a great time to learn, and
they’ll enjoy that little bit more independence by picking French phrases up during the time away and it will help them to engage in the local language and culture.
While you’re there:
you could enroll the older children and yourself in the French school
Dining in New Caledonia really is a picnic!
It truly is a joy to travel in a country where food is given such a centre stage. As well as the French cuisine influence, New Caledonian food is as varied as its ethnic groups. Even the less-adventurous eaters will be tempted to try the traditional New Caledonian meal called bougna: chicken, yams and sweet potato wrapped up in banana leaves and steamed in an earth oven warms by stones.
But the best way to feed the family is to create a picnic and make every day a different picnic destination. The tap water is very high quality, so bottle it up and take it with you on your picnic.
Grab a baguette – or deux – from one of the many boulangeries or from the supermarket where you’ll be tempted to spend hours at the cheese section, but don’t forget to pick up enough tropical fruit (try papaya, passionfruit, green coconuts) for all and some pâté for the adults.
There are street stalls and daily and weekly markets where local producers and fishermen/women ply their wares: fresh fish, meat, vegetables, fresh-water prawns, cheeses, home-cooked dishes, coffees, teas, vanilla beans (the bugs that Australian and New Zealand horticultural border security don't like aren't attracted to vanilla pods, so they are the perfect budget-friendly momentoes), flowers, flowery clothing and handmade jewellery.
If you do eat at a restaurant, crêperie or café, remember that there is strictly no tipping, which certainly helps the budget.
Time alone is precious, so if you manage to get some time away from the kids, make a long, cool and well-deserved drink or intimate dinner
poolside or next to the lagoon your focus.
Keep the kids busy
Ultimately, the children will want to spend as much time as possible at the many beautiful beaches; splashing in the warm waters and burying each other in the white sands won’t cost you a franc, but when they do start to look for something different, New Caledonia has many family-friendly attractions.
If you want the family to see New Caledonia’s natural and cultural wealth, the Nature and Culture Pass gives you entry to six of Noumea’s most interesting tourist sites: the Noumea, New Caledonian and Maritime History Museums, the Parc Forestier, the Tjibaou Cultural Centre and the Aquarium.
New Caledonia has the world’s second largest coral reef and a trip to visit the stunning aquarium
is a must. Get acquainted with the real-life inspirations for characters from Finding Nemo
. Clown fish, starfish and turtles abound in the large tanks as well sea snakes and sting rays. The Aquarium uses running sea water and natural sunlight, so the exhibits are not only beautiful fish but also the numerous invertebrates that form a living community (including naturally fluorescent corals). Be sure not to miss:
the fish and shark feeding at 1pm, daily.
Playgrounds with plenty of shade, and glades fringed with coconut trees can be found dotted around the islands. Don’t be shy – join in a game of petanque to meet with the locals and improve your French.
Le petit train will not only capture the fascination of the younger members of the family, but is also one of the cheapest means of Noumea-based transportation. This handy miniature train completes a circuit from Anse Vata beach to the city centre, dropping passengers at some of the main sights around town.
The train also heads to Parc Zoologique Forestier where restless legs can stretch and run around and eager eyes can get a glimpse of New Caledonia’s flightless national symbol bird (the cagou), the horned parakeet, monkeys, lizards and fruit bats. The forest park offers fantastic spaces to roam, with views over the lagoon and the island's southern coast, English-language signage helps with species identification.
Dance plays an important role in the Kanak cultural tradition of New Caledonia
with many lullabies and nursery rhymes reappearing in songs performed by kaneka bands.
On Thursday evenings, head to the square in the centre of Noumea, Placede Cocotiers, where traditional dancing will entertain the whole family and stalls selling ice-cream and face-painting will keep end-of the-evening tantrums at bay.
Most New Caledonian hotels
have a babysitter service, a good family accommodation option is the two-bedroom apartments with fully-equipped kitchens at the Casa del Sole
Turn the dream into reality: order your free Jasons New Caledonia Visitors Map now.
All images courtesy of New Caldedonia Tourism.