It’s one of the most popular places for Aussies to cruise to and no wonder. In just a couple of days from mainland Australia, you can visit beautiful tropical islands with the clear blue waters and white sands you have been dreaming of, with the added attraction of exploring the native cultures of the South Pacific nations and people.
But, how much do you really know about the wonders that await in the South Pacific, here are some tips to ensure you get the most of out of your South Pacific cruise for three of the ports that your South Pacific cruise will most likely visit.
It’s the capital and largest city of New Caledonia, or Nouvelle Caledonie as the locals call it. First-time visitors that maybe have never been to France before, always get excited about experiencing a little bit of France in the South Pacific. Whilst you can try out a few French phrases you might remember from French classes, English is widely spoken and understood – particularly amongst those that work in tourism. The township of Noumea is small and first-time visitors should try the “Tchou Tchou train”, which takes you around the town and then up to a great viewing lookout to see the whole city and surrounds. In addition, your host will give you a mini-history of New Caledonia and an insight into life in this Pacific hub.
As I’ve been to Noumea a few times, on my last two trips I opted for a day trip to Amedee Island – highly recommended. It is very much a full day – you will be one of the first off the ship in the morning and one of the last on before you depart but it is certainly worth the full day on this stunning private tropical island. On the island, you will have free time to go snorkeling, diving or swimming and sunbaking. Or, you can do a trip on the glass bottom boat to see the local sea life up close and personal without getting wet. Then it’s time for a delicious full lunch buffet – with lots of options based on the local specialities as well as some more familiar options. As you enjoy your lunch, you will be entertained with local song and dance – the music is so infectious you will be encouraged to join in if you wish or you can just sit back and take it all in with your beverages all included. Then post-lunch, if you have the energy, you can try climbing for coconuts or hair braiding or more free time on the beach and the water – the choice is yours.
ISLE OF PINES
Whilst still New Caledonia, your experience when you reach the Isle of Pines is very different to that in Noumea, but this is a huge part of the charm of this Island. Cruise ships tender into the Isle of Pines, so get off early if you can to explore before the crowds arrive. There are no shops, no restaurants, no cafes – just a few locals who are selling some local arts and crafts and a few local specialty snacks to try if you wish. Aussie dollars are accepted, but change will be in Pacific Francs, so don’t bother with those big notes. Bring a few smaller notes or coins if you want to buy something. The Isle of Pines is all about the swimming and the beautiful waters – on the side your ship arrives, you have a big open tropical beach and on the other side (just a few minutes walk over) are smaller beaches lined with stunning caves and cliffs on the side. These are one of the most photographed areas of New Caledonia. You would have seen them in the brochures and online, but make sure you have your phone or camera with you, so you can take your own masterpieces of these vistas. As I’ve been to the Isle of Pines a few times, the last time I went I took the opportunity to spend the day in one of the exclusive resorts on the island, for a different perspective. Le Meridien Isle of Pines throws open its facilities for the day and I would recommend it thoroughly – it was a truly exclusive experience with only a few of us taking over the resort for the day. They have a private beach - I really did feel like I had the beach to myself and their pool was heaven. Then, for lunch, they served an amazing BBQ lunch – looking over the beach with some amazing fresh salads and your choices from the BBQ, including fresh seafood.
The amazing thing about Mare is that as the island is the second-largest of the Loyalty Islands. In your time here, you do feel that you can get a bit closer to the locals, simply due to the fact that a lot of people live close to the cruise port – it feels so unspoiled and untouched by the modern world, as though stuck in time. So, you can explore the island yourself on foot and get a chance to wander past the homes to get a real insight into what living on an island such as this is like and maybe meet a local or two along the way. If you are willing to head off on your own, you will come across natural beaches that you may have all to yourself. Be sure to bring your goggles and snorkel as the sea life is amazing. There are market-style stalls close the cruise arrival pier – but no shops as such to speak of. I would recommend the coconuts – drink the juice then hand it back and it will be cut it open for you to enjoy the delicious flesh inside. If, however, you would like an organised trip and don’t want to walk too far or explore on your own, then the most popular is the trip to Yejele Beach. It’s a secluded beach approximately 20 minutes drive away – an easily accessible stretch of pure white sand and clear waters – so suitable for everyone. But, when the crowds hit in the middle of the day, it can be very busy. The wild dogs there are perfectly safe, however, they are very keen to try the snacks you have packed for your trip, so don’t leave them unattended or they will be gone. When I visited I went in search of the Petheon Caves. After walking for quite a way, a friendly local advised it was way too far to walk to and suggested you need to drive or bike there, so I took that advice and turned around. It didn’t matter as I checked out a local church and village on the way, so still got my fill of local culture and walked off some of those meals on the ship as well …
The South Pacific is truly a gem of a destination and certainly somewhere you will want to travel back to and feel like you are exploring something different every time! At ecruising, we have a range of South Pacific voyages to choose from but if you are looking for the right cruise line for you, feel free to give us a call and we can point you in the perfect direction. You'll be sipping on coconuts in no time..
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