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Running on island time

Travelling can be hard work, but Traveltalk’s JON UNDERWOOD manages to do (and see) it all New Caledonia style: slowly and with a spot of exquisite lunch.

“You look like you’ve been here for weeks,” commented one of my travelling companions as I lay back in the sun. Truth be told, I’d only been there for ten minutes (honest, boss) but New Caledonia has a way of doing that to you. Step off the plane and you’re instantly transported back to a place and a time when things moved just a little slower.


The Isle of Pines was named by Captain Cook when he sailed past and noticed the proliferation of said trees growing here. Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to stop and explore too much of this idyllic place, where the sand is like talcum powder, the food is freshly caught and the natives are warm and friendly.


We’d spent the previous day exploring the Hortense Queen Cave, St Joseph and St Maurice bays and the Vao village with our guide, Jean Christophe Deret. He runs private tours of the island, which has only 2,000 residents, one ATM, a pretty church and plenty of happy faces.


But the highlight of our trip was most certainly the boat trip out to Nokanhui Island. The manager of the excellent Oure Tera Beach Resort, who can arrange the excursion, told us we would take 250 pictures when we got there...but I think he underestimated.


This is the kind of place that features on the cover of travel magazines and in TV commercials for swimwear and sunglasses, with sand so white you can only look at it through sunglasses and water ranging from cobalt to turquoise and every shade in between.  Divers and honeymooners have been coming here for years but any traveller worth his salt should check out this place at least once.


All too soon we were back in the capital of Noumea and heading out with local tour operator Toutazimut for a tour of the red-centre of the island. A more contrasting experience with the beaches of the Isle of Pines you cannot imagine but the experience was no less enjoyable. The nickel mining which provides the main income for New Caledonia won’t last forever so tourism is a growing and viable option, putting quality operators like Toutazimut in the driving seat when it comes to encouraging more Australians to come here.


Their day tour provides a glimpse into the history of New Caledonia, including some pretty barbaric treatment of the convicts who were sent here, but also takes in areas like the Madeleine waterfalls, Netcha botanical reserve and Yate Lake.



The international airline of New Caledonia, Aircalin, operates twelve flights per week non-stop from Australia to Noumea, New Caledonia. Flights take less than three hours from Sydney, under four hours from Melbourne and under two hours from Brisbane. Sydney flights operate six times a week, whilst Brisbane flights depart three times per week, on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and Melbourne flights operate three times per week. For reservations call 1300 655 737 or visit


For more information, head to

Toutazimut: [email protected]



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Written by: Jon Underwood
Published: 3 June 2015

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