The ultimate travel guide for visiting Nouméa, New Caledonia - Globe Guide

The ultimate travel guide for visiting Nouméa, New Caledonia

The sun-soaked, cosmopolitan city of Nouméa, New Caledonia is like a little slice of France in the South Pacific, complete with trendy shops, wine bars and oh-so-many beaches.

New Caledonia is home to the world’s largest lagoon, idyllic islands and even overwater bungalows, making it a popular getaway from nearby Australia and New Zealand. Chances are you’ll also come across some vacationers from as far away as Europe–this is a French territory, after all.

Noumea, New Caledonia

Its capital Noumea (noo-me-ah) is home to half of the independent nation’s 240,000 person population, who enjoy a high standard of living, beautiful clean streets, a lively waterfront promenade and great weather year round.

People are very friendly here, and make the most of their spectacular surroundings with early morning runs, sporty swims in the lagoon, boating and kiting to take advantage of the consistent trade winds.

Nouméa is a wonderful base to spend at least a few days before heading off to explore more of the country, or using it as a base for day tripping. From where to find the best beaches to tips for getting around, here’s everything you need to know about visiting Noumea, New Caledonia.

DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort
DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort

How to get to Noumea, New Caledonia

The main ways to get to New Caledonia are by boat or plane–this is an island territory, after all.

Many visitors arrive by cruise ship, and there are also direct flights into La Tontouta International Airport (NOU) from Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Fiji and Vanuatu that only take two to three hours. However, you should avoid Air Vanuatu at all costs as they’re notorious for frequent flight cancellations and refusing to accommodate or refund passengers accordingly.

Aircalin is the national airline and is absolutely fantastic to fly with thanks to the lovely staff and updated, spacious planes. If you’re already planning to visit Fiji or New Zealand, New Caledonia is a lovely, easy add-on.

The country is best for longer term, independent travellers: while many tourists visit Noumea for a day during a cruise, to properly explore the country you’ll need at least 7-10 days.

My recommendation would be to spend a couple days in the capital, rent a car and road trip around the mainland, then fly over to one of the outlying islands like Isle of Pines or Ouvea to see more of the best things to do in New Caledonia.

DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort

Is Noumea safe?

Absolutely! The city is extremely clean, safe and developed, pedestrian crossings are well-marked, the people are friendly and there’s a very low crime rate. I travelled solo (and pregnant!) here for a few days and felt completely comfortable the entire time.

Best things to do in Noumea, New Caledonia

The actual city centre in Nouméa is mostly made up of administrative buildings, which is why most visitors stay along the waterfront areas and spend their time there instead. 

Fortunately, most of the main attractions are found here so it’s quite easy to see the top activities in Nouméa in just a day or two. 

Galerie La Promenade

The La Promenade complex is at the base of the Hilton hotel on Promenade Roger Laroque, right across from Anse Vata Bay in the main tourist area. This is where you’ll find all the best boutiques selling colourful beach wear, jewellery, cosmetics and souvenirs, along with a handful of restaurants and cafes. 

Aquarium of the Lagoons

Those visiting Noumea with kids will want to drop into the aquarium, which houses 33 tanks and exhibits about the coral reef, eels, clownfish and other marine life found in New Caledonia’s UNESCO World Heritage Site lagoon.

There’s also a large turtle tank, and a healthcare centre for rehabilitating injured marine life. Book this tour with GetYourGuide or with Viator, which includes admission as well as a hop on/hop off bus tour ticket that visits seven other spots around Nouméa.

City tours

While the highlights of Noumea are walkable, there are a few other landmarks a little ways out best seen on an organized tour. 

Book this half day excursion to check out the Tjibaou Cultural Center which highlights Indegenous art and culture, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and the Ouen Toro lookout for panoramic views of the New Caledonia lagoon, Mont Dore, Anse Vata bay, Promenade Pierre Vernier and the surrounding dry forest.

Noumea City Market

Experience the New Caledonian flavours at the lively Noumea City Market, located beside the Port Moselle marina.

Stalls with souvenirs and clothing lead up to the entrance where there are five small halls, and a great place to grab a snack or some local produce.

Duck Island and Ilot Maitre

Looking for a beach break? Head over to Duck Island or Ilot Maitre, which are just a few minutes’ boat ride from the harbour but can feel a world away.

Kiters in Anse Vata Bay near Duck Island

Both are popular with kiters thanks to the consistent winds, and have sandy white beaches and great snorkelling. To get to Duck Island you can hop on one of the boats that departs across the street from the aquarium, while Ilot Maitre is a bit more exclusive and accessed only by guests staying at the DoubleTree resort or those who have booked a day pass (which can be done at a ticket office found along the promenade).

For about $70 per person, the ticket includes boat transfers from Noumea’s main harbour, lunch and a designated seating area. There’s also a company that rents out jet skis, paddle boards, kayaks and offers boat tours. 

Ilot Maitre

Sunset bars

Noumea is famous for its spectacular sunsets, and every night people gather along the promenade or grab a seat at one of the restaurants overlooking the water to soak up the scene.

Some of the best bars in Noumea for watching the sunset are Bodega, MV Lounge Nouméa or Le Roof which juts right out into the water.

Le Roof

Best Noumea beaches

Every beach in Noumea is open to the public, and there are three main bays in the tourist area along Promenade Roger Laroque:

Anse Vata Bay

This beach is in the heart of the action across from the restaurants and shops in the La Promenade complex, and is a popular place to watch the sunset.

Looking out at Anse Vata Bay
Watching sunset from the promenade

Keep in mind that when it’s this windy, the beach isn’t ideal for lounging around and suntanning so it’s better to head to one of the more sheltered bays. Windsports gear and paddleboards can be rented by outfitters here, located near the aquarium.

On the weekends you’ll likely see beach volleyball games, and when the wind picks up hundreds of kiteboarders and wingfoilers head out onto the water as far out as Duck Island and Ilot Maitre.

Kiters in Anse Vata Bay around Duck Island

Baie des Citrons

Lemon Bay is more of a local favourite, especially for those looking to get in a morning swim. A 750 metre long barrier of nets have been put up to keep the sharks out (yup, we’re talking about the South Pacific, folks!), which also makes this a wonderful spot for snorkeling right in the city and there are often lifeguards on duty.

It takes about 20 minutes to walk here from La Promenade, and there are more shops and restaurants across the street.

Baie des Citrons
Baie des Citrons

Chateau Royal and Le Meridien Beaches

Named after the resorts situated along the waterfront, this golden stretch of sand is ideal for those looking to relax and soak up the sun. There’s a long dock that kids love to jump off of, you’ll often find families making sandcastles, and there’s also a kiting area near the point and a kids park just up the hill nearby.

Some parts can be a bit rocky, so water shoes are a good idea if you’re planning to take a stroll.

Organized tours in Nouméa

There aren’t many day trip options through Viator or GetYourGuide since tour operators here are small businesses and only operate on certain days or specifically for cruise ship passengers. Pre-planning is key, and in this case it’s definitely helpful to rent a car to do some day trips.

If dates align, this excursion out to the Amédée Lighthouse is one of the top-rated tours in Noumea. It starts with a boat tour over to the island, then guests get to enjoy a glass-bottomed boat tour, head up the famous lighthouse, enjoy welcome drinks and lunch buffet, lounge on the beach, then finish off the day with a traditional dance performance.

On select days there’s also a tourist train and hop on/off bus to see the city sights, and a half-day excursion out to Signal Island to swim in the New Caledonia lagoon which is frequented by turtles where you can see colourful coral and reef fish.


A turtle in the New Caledonia lagoon
A turtle in the New Caledonia lagoon

What to do in Noumea from a cruise ship

The majority of visitors arrive in Noumea via a cruise ship from places like Australia or New Zealand, and only get to visit for the day. The whole vibe of the city changes when the mega ships are in port, as the population suddenly swells to thousands of people and there are a lot more activities happening and shops open.

The good news for cruisers is that most of the Noumea activities and tours are set up specifically for boat passengers (which makes it tricky for independent travellers as tours are only offered on select days, and not usually through major booking sites).

Your boat will likely have plenty of tours to pick from, which use the double-decker buses and tourist trains to shuttle people around.

If you just want to get an overview of the city, save your money and do a self-guided tour along the main waterfront instead. It’s flat, very walkable and most of the main attractions and beaches are here.

Best places to stay in Nouméa

It’s best to base yourself along the Anse Vata Bay area, which has the best variety of shopping, cafes and restaurants all within walking distance.

Hôtel Hilton Noumea La Promenade Residences: This is an absolutely fantastic option for accommodation in Noumea, especially for families or those doing a longer-term stay. Every room has a kitchen, laundry and gorgeous ocean views, and range in size from studios to three bedroom apartments with huge balconies.

Hôtel Hilton Noumea La Promenade Residences
Hôtel Hilton Noumea La Promenade Residences

There’s also a gym, restaurant, an outdoor pool and free parking, and the Hilton has the absolute best location in Noumea with Anse Vata Beach and the La Promenade complex literally out the back door. Check prices and reserve through Expedia or on

Hôtel Hilton Noumea La Promenade Residences

DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort: Ever wanted to stay in an overwater bungalow? This is your chance!

This luxe resort is located on Ilot Maître, a protected reserve and small tropical islet just a 10-15 minute boat ride from Noumea’s marina.

READ MORE: Where to find overwater bungalows in New Caledonia—yes, they exist!

Overwater bungalows in New Caledonia at by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort

There are about two dozen overwater bungalows which sleep up to four people, as well as garden bungalows surrounded by foliage for privacy, beach bungalows situated along the waterfront, and a two bedroom beach villa which is great for groups and families as it sleeps up to six people and the adjoining villa can also be booked for even more space.

Guests can enjoy the four bars and restaurants, pool, spa, beach volleyball and fitness centre, and snorkel gear rentals are included for resort guests to swim with the giant turtles often seen in the lagoon. Check prices and reserve through Expedia or on

The swimming pool at DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort
The swimming pool at DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort
DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort
DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort

Le Méridien Noumea Resort & Spa: Another popular pick for hotels in Noumea, Le Méridien is a higher-end option which is as close to the ‘resort vibe’ as you get right in town. It’s perched on the tip of the island near a popular kiteboarding spot at the end of Promenade Roger Laroque, about a 10-15 minute walk from Anse Vata Beach.

The beachfront property boasts modern, spacious rooms, multiple bars and restaurants, a happening pool area, gym and spa. Check prices and reserve through Expedia or on

Promenade Roger Laroque

Getting around in Nouméa, New Caledonia

A great thing about Noumea travel is you don’t need a car to see the highlights of the city since most are within easy walking distance of the Anse Vata Bay area.

That said, there are public buses that go along the waterfront, which is a good option if you’re loaded down with beach gear and want to get to one of the other bays or marina.

Promenade Roger Laroque
Promenade Roger Laroque

Unless you manage to book an island tour, a car is required for day tripping outside the city, and there are car rentals available for pickup at the airport or in town: I personally use and recommend booking with Discover Cars which shows all the different options.

While it’s tempting to pick the car up at the airport when you arrive, it may be worth rethinking that if your flight arrives late at night. That’s because it takes over an hour to drive into the city, and the majority of the road is narrow, winding and not well lit.

A better idea is to book an airport transfer with Arc en Ciel which is significantly cheaper than a taxi, unless you’re a larger group in which case a private van might make more sense.


It’s important to note that if you’re taking a domestic flight to one of the surrounding islands, it will likely leave out of Magenta Airport which is much more convenient and located only about 10 minutes from the city centre in Noumea, New Caledonia.

Globe Guide explored Noumea as a guest of Hilton resorts. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.



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