Food and Drink in Noumea
Many of Noumea's restaurants feature European cuisine with a strong French influence. The multi-ethnic menus will take you on an imaginary trip to regions of France, as well as Indonesia, Vietnam and China. Meat tends to be beef, with not much pork or chicken. Restaurants specialising in island food serve deer, shrimp, coconut, crab or wild hog.
For a local taste, try bougna, a traditional Kanak dish of yams, taro, fish and shellfish. Ingredients are marinated in coconut milk and simmered in banana leaves for several hours. You may want to ask what's in each dish, as cooks sometimes add pigeons or candlenut worms. The white worms, served raw or toasted, taste a bit like hazelnuts.
A quick straw poll at the tourism office reveals that La Perle d'Eram is the best for bougna and the go-to place for grilled lobster. (59 bis rue Sebastopole; +687 28 69 88; open Monday to Friday, 7 am to midnight; closed weekends).
Aux Delices de Noumea, a short walk from Coconut Square, is a gem of a patisserie, which shines with bakery goods, cakes, snacks and sandwiches. It's open daily for breakfast and lunch. (29 rue Eugene Porcheron; +687 27 25 24; open daily 5 am to 7 pm)
Almost diagonally across from the boulangerie you will find Boop's Cafe, where you can get a thoroughly decent coffee and killer croquet monsieur with green salad. The area is mobbed by hip, dreadlocked locals and seems to be the place to see and be seen. (20 rue Eugene Porcheron; +687 2860 70; open Monday to Saturday for breakfast and lunch, from 6 am to 5 pm)
Practise your French at Au p'tit Cafe de Noumea when you order fancy fare such as chausson de porc a la pistache with creme de foie gras. (8 Avenue Carcopino; +687 28 21 89; open Tuesday to Friday for lunch 11.30 am to 1.30 pm, and dinner, 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm)
Atelier Gourmand, close to the Anse Vata beach at, serves sandwiches and bakery goods. (141 route de l'Anse Vata; +687 23 73 11; open Tuesday to Sunday, from 5 am to 7 pm)
For a longer lunch Restaurant Le 1881 is a beach-side restaurant with a rich history: it is located in the grounds of the former penal settlement, was home to a naval infantry officer and dates back to the late 19th century. It is now regarded as one of Noumea's most exciting restaurants with a Sydney-trained mixologist behind the bar and a former Michelin-starred chef in the kitchen. Expect French-Pacific cuisine and an extensive wine list. (98 Avenue James Cook; +687 24 00 42; open daily for lunch, from 11.30 am to 2 pm.
Chez Toto, a French bistro, serves family-style, moderately priced meals. It's near Coconut Square, at 13 rue Auguste Brun; + 687 28 80 42; open Tuesday to Saturday, from 11.30 am to 1.30 pm.
Chai de l'Hippodrome is located within the grounds of Le Meridien Noumea Resort & Spa Noumea and is a great place to linger over dinner and a bottle of the very best French wine. The hotel also has four other restaurants, ranging from Japanese to French and standard BBQ fare. (17 Rue Louise Bleriot; +687 23 11 89; open Tuesday to Saturday from 4 pm to 11 pm; Wednesday to Friday from 10 am to 2 pm, 4 pm to 11 pm.)
La Chaumiere features a French menu with Asian and Pacific influences. Items like feta cheese flan, fish pasta, lamb, beef tartare and fish tartare are offered for lunch and dinner. Reservations are recommended. (13 rue du Dr Guegan, Latin Quartier; + 687 24 27 62; open Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 10 pm)
Best for vegetarians: Nea Bowls is a vegetarian caf? known for its fresh ingredients and inspired local dishes with a French twist. Try the baguette stuffed with tofu, eggplant caviar, cabbage, zucchini and cherry tomatoes or the mini Buddha bowls with chickpeas, spinach and topped with a fried egg. (Avenue Marechal Foch, next to Coconut Square; +687 23 32 43; open Monday to Saturday 6.30 am to 4 pm)
Best Cocktail in Noumea Pre-dinner aperitifs are popular in Noumea, due to New Caledonia's Franco heritage. Common choices are vermouth, Champagne, sherry or a dry, light white wine. The most popular local beer in New Caledonia is named Number 1. If you're after a sundowner near to the sea, head to La Bodega del Mar, an overwater bar with views across the turquoise waters of Noumea's stunning lagoon. (134 Promenade Roger Laroque; +687 26 11 53; open Tuesday to Saturday 5 pm to 2 am)
Beaches in Noumea
Noumea's waterfront is a series of bays with beaches. You could walk for hours.
Best beach for walking, jogging: Cote Blanche
Best lively beach with bars and restaurants across the street: Lemon (Citrons) Bay
Best beaches for watersports and watching kitesurfers and windsurfers: Anse Vata and Cote Blanche. New Caledonia is on the world windsurfing circuit. As soon as the tradewinds start blowing, a parade of sailboards flitting to and fro brings the waters of Anse Vata and Cote Blanche to life. On Anse Vata, go to the south end, near the Meridien Hotel.
Best beach for a picnic and a swim: Take a swim at Anse Vata and then park underneath a palm tree for a picnic of French cheese, fresh bread, local handmade chocolate from Chocolats Morand and other local delicacies.
Don't Miss in Noumea
Noumea Morning Market is open 5 am to 11 am weekdays on Moselle Bay. Vendors sell fresh fish, meat, veggies and racks of souvenirs and there is free Wi-Fi on offer here, too. At the edge of the market, on the waterfront, are the tour operator offices, open from 9 am, every Tuesday to Sunday. Tour boats can take you fishing, sailing or on trips to nearby islands such as Amedee Lighthouse and Duck Island. The enchanting Isle of Pines, which is 2.5 hours each way by boat, will be too far for most cruise ship port stops.
The Musee de la Ville, Noumea (Town Museum) facing Coconut Square, provides a fascinating history lesson of the early days of World War II in the Pacific when New Caledonia became the primary Allied military base and naval centre in the Pacific. Brochures are in English and French.(39 Rue Jean Jaures; +687 262805; open Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm)
Tjibaou Cultural Centre, designed by architect Renzo Piano, explores and promotes Kanak, an indigenous culture of the South Pacific. Stories are told through exhibits and collections of ritual masks and costumes, totem poles and sculptures. A pathway lined with traditional Melanesian huts from three different regions is a must-see.. If you want a bus to the centre, ask at the tourism office on Coconut Square. The Blue Line Karuia and Noumea Explorer buses run regularly to Tjibaou Centre from the city centre. (Max Frouin, Noumea; + 687 41 45 45; open Tuesday to Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm)
Visit the Blue River Park if you want to see plants that look like they belong in dinosaur movies. (Such movies have been filmed there.) The park is about 45 minutes from Noumea, so you'll need to rent a car. Follow the main road that winds around the mountains and valleys. Stop to look at a giant Kauri tree that stands about 120 feet high and is about 1,000 years old.
Don't miss the Exhibition Building (Maison du Park) for detailed displays of the plants and animals found there. The land is 160 million years old. You may prefer to hire a guide in Noumea for this trip, which costs about XPF$12,000 (AU$171), including lunch. A guide can help you find a good stopping place to look for rare cagou birds, most of which live in the park.
Amedee Lighthouse Island, 45 minutes by high-speed ferry from Noumea, is a bit touristy, but everyone -- especially children -- seems to have a good time strolling, swimming, snorkelling and climbing coconut trees. You can take a ship's excursion or find a tour operator, either at the cruise terminal or at the waterfront next to the daily outdoor market, a 10-minute walk to the right as you exit the terminal.
Head into Lagoons Aquarium to learn about the marine life in Noumea, which is home to a range of corals, fish, crustaceans and marine mammals. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Noumea. (61 Promenade Roger Laroque, Anse Vata; +687 26 27 31; open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm)
The Promenade Pierre-Vernier is on the other side of Noumea's mountain - Ouen Toro - and just beyond the popular Anse Vata beach. The pretty coconut palm-lined promenade has a seven-kilometre track that runs along the water, with fitness equipment along the way. Locals head here each day to walk, run, cycle, roller blade or people-watch. And the views over the water are spectacular.