French language, pastries, and oh, the cheese! New Caledonia had a lot to offer on Aana Marinovich’s French inspired family holiday.
If you haven’t ventured to New Caledonia with your kids yet, then I think you would be genuinely surprised by the variety on offer. As expected, it’s a beautiful tropical island with the world’s largest lagoon (a World Heritage site), banyan trees, and coconut palms hanging over white sand beaches. But you’ll also find the Grand Terre, a chain of mountains sweeping through the middle, that offers a playground for families – beautiful parks, woodland areas full of kauri trees, and cute little mountain villages hosting delightful family restaurants where kids can run around and play.
Where to Stay in New Caledonia
The Sheraton Deva Golf and Spa Resort
The new Sheraton Deva, just 90 minutes from the airport, is authentic and built for families, and we loved it. Nestled right on the Lagoon in Bourail, the Northern Province of New Caledonia, the resort spreads along 13km of white sand beach, scattered with Banyans and Palms and an 18-hole golf course. Guests can tootle around the resort on bicycles (provided – just grab the nearest).
The pool area is where all the action happens: Set next to the beach, there are a multitude of activities for kids, all free; a diving board area, mini ping pong, and the pool staff load the pool with noodles, volleyballs and blow up beach balls each day.
Near the beach you can set up the beach volleyball and badminton and the kids can use the kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. For the sailing able, you can hire out the hobie cat or windsurfer.
Golf at the resort is free for kids, so a great opportunity to get the kids out there to have a go. And just down the road from the resort (take the bikes) you can hike up the mountain and view the resort from the highest point.
The all-new family apartments are spacious and luxurious. The bedrooms are super comfy, each with their own ensuite. There is plenty of living space, including a large terrace with outdoor furniture, table and loungers. The full kitchen means you can stop in at the local supermarket 15 minutes up the road and stock up on whatever supplies you need.
Food at the resort is very French and, of course, very delicious. The weekends are buffet, which gives everyone a chance to try out all the amazing cheeses, meats and local fare. There are two restaurants at the resort, so between those and the apartment kitchen – we were well covered.
I’m fussy about beaches, and Le Meridien has the best in Noumea. It’s private, calm, and has great sand for kids to play. If you prefer a pool, it’s set near the beach and has a big area for kids. Check out the family offers, as kids can stay and eat free with certain deals.
Their new family suites are spacious and lovely, and have a kitchen, dining and living areas (the large balcony looks over the beach), which makes managing meals, sleeps, and family mess much easier. It’s a great idea to spend some time in Noumea, so you can try out a few activities and explore all the foodie places in town. Don’t forget the markets, and if you’re a fitness freak, there are (free for all) outdoor fitness machine hubs pocketed along the waterfront.
what to eat
Food is pricey in New Caledonia, but gastronomic. Make sure you plan for a few splash-out meals. Noumea has many top restaurants, but also, head into the mountain villages where you’ll find small, family run cafes with set menus. Very French! Visit the bakeries and head to the food markets for fresh produce and seafood. Supermarkets are a treat: Fun to explore and a great place to buy cheese, bread and amazing pre-prepared dinners, perfect for easy and less expensive meals.
what to do
Arbrevolution (climbing trees) at Ferns Park
We’re not just talking wires between trees here; this is a chance to be like an arborist and climb the tallest kauri. Climb your way up into the tops of the kauri forest reaching up to 20 metres high, moving between trees on ropes and safely hooking up as you climb. There are giant nets to laze about on (you can actually do an overnight stay) or swing in the hammocks.
Segway tour through the Le Parc Zoologique & Forestier
With the hoverboard craze in full swing, you can imagine how excited kids get over this adventure. (Cue pre-holiday frantic eating in our household so they could all met the 45KG minimum weight criteria!) Firstly, you master the Segway, then you’re off.. Zooming all around the beautiful gardens, seeing monkeys, tropical birds, albino peacocks, and all at a peaceful glide. So much fun.
Glass bottom boat
New Caledonia’s lagoon is one of the largest in the world, so get the kids out there where they can snorkel over all of the coral and colourful sea life. From the Sheraton Deva, head out to the best spot in the lagoon on the Glass Bottom Boat, viewing the lagoon sea life all the way (resident turtles if you’re lucky).
Whatever age, this bright yellow train is a relaxing way to see Noumea. Safe for littlies, with open side windows making all the sounds and activity seem closer and creating an exciting ride for kids.
Lighthouse tour to Amedee Island
This is a popular excursion – it’s a big day including boat rides, fish feeding, lazing on the white sand beach in loungers, jumping off the jetty and a big and delicious shared lunch on long tables with local dancing and music. The island has a few resident snakes (not harmless, but not at all aggressive) slithering around, which was a great fascination for our kids.
We flew Aircalin, which was a quick 2.5-hour flight across the Pacific. So close! Right from the get-go you start to experience the French flavour of New Caledonia and how incredibly friendly everyone is (not just the airline staff, either; we noticed this throughout New Caledonia). Take along a device so you can make the most of the inflight entertainment. Aircalin fly into New Caledonia three times a week from New Zealand, and under 12s fly 25% cheaper than adults.
Are your kids learning French at school? Well, here’s your chance to immerse them in the language (and so much closer than Paris!). The resorts are full of children from New Caledonia, so your children will get to practise their French at the pool area where they all play together and there’s no pressure. Also, let them order in shops and cafes, and send them on little errands at the resort.
Littlies have free entry into the Kids Club at the Sheraton Deva (including lunch) and the resort is flat and well set up for prams, with nice shallow areas to play in the pool and plenty of pool noodles and inflatable toys. Both the Sheraton Deva and Le Meridien have apartments with kitchens and high chairs, and at both resorts, under 4s eat breakfast and dinner for free. Best activities are Le Petit Train and Le Parc Zoologique & Forestier, with its beautiful gardens and wide pathways.
Travelling with grandparents
In New Caledonia, the resorts seemed to be brimming with extended families, and we were lucky to have our nana there too. To make sure grandparents are comfortable, here are a few ideas for the kids:
- Grandparents love time with their grandchildren, but check they are not overwhelmed by too many overexcited and high-energy children.
- Prep the kids to use their manners, not be too loud, and listen carefully so grandparents don’t have to yell to be heard (a work in progress, but worth it!).
- Teach children to help Nana while on holiday, such as bring her drinks to keep her cool, carry her bag, make sure she gets the shady spot and a comfortable place to sit.
- Take plenty of photos and make them a special skite album.
- Food: Chevre (goat) cheese and French bread every single day
- Treat: Pastries galore, baked every morning
- Play: Tiggy in among the massive Banyan tree roots
- Challenge: Mastering the Segway on the Zoo tour
- Bravery: Swinging in hammocks at the top of the tallest Kauri trees
- Discovery: Spying the stripy snakes on Lighthouse Island. So cool!
- Water: Diving under the glass Bottom boat
More family travel tips from Tots to Teens: