Isle of the Pines in New Caledonia - French paradise
January 1, 1970
Getting to the New Caledonia itself is a little adventure, as it’s pretty much the furthest you can go away from my home in Europe. In my case, I had a layover in New Zealand to visit some friends, otherwise, it would have been at least 25h on the road/in the air via Osaka or Sydney. So I flew from Auckland another 2,5h to Noumea and after a few days there, we ventured to the Isle of the Pines for New Years, which is one of the places the closest to paradise you can imagine. As you can tell from the name, it’s covered in pine trees (of course also palm trees), which gives it a very very unique look, especially in combination with the white sand.
There are two ways of getting to this island, either flying or taking the ferry. As we’ve been quite late booking this adventure, we decided to go for the cheaper, budget-friendly option, the ferry, which was about 80€ return fare. In New Caledonia, the Pacific Franc is the local currency and it is, unfortunately, a very expensive place to travel, but still incredibly beautiful. The flight prices range between 100-300€, depending on the time of the year and how far you can book in advance. Arriving on the Isle of the Pines on the port of Vao, the capital, after about 6-7h on the ferry was very pleasant, probably also because the ride itself was rather calm. We’ve heard horror stories about high waves and rough ferries, maybe we have been lucky!
Camping on the island
Anyway, even though we had planned to go camping, we didn’t bring a lot of luggage for the 4 days in paradise, so that each of us two only had a day pack to carry off the ship. From the port of Vao we got picked up by a driver from our campsite, „Chez Loulou et Léléne“, basically the only accommodation left available due to our late booking right before New Years. Looking back though, it’s probably been the best decision we could have taken. As we arrived at our home for the next few days, we were warmly greeted by the owners Loulou and Lélène, a lovely couple with an even lovelier family. Loulou showed us our tent, which was already perfectly set up including foam mattress with a wonderful view over the private beach and the crystal clear water. But as a general advice, it’s definitely not a good idea, to just rock up on the island without booking in advance, especially in high season, as the options are very limited and can also get very expensive.
Things to do
As it was already afternoon, all we could do was venture around on a bicycle to the “Baie d’Oro” and the next town but as it was the 30th of December and a Saturday, no bank was open and all the shops were closed, so no way to buy at least a little bit of food. The Baie d’Oro is the main beach, where also the cruise ships arrive from Australia, so it gets very busy during day time until 4-5pm, but after that, all the cruise ship tourists leave and you can be by yourself!
One important thing to consider going to this island is Stock up with money beforehand, as the ATM is either closed or often out of money.
Pirogue tour in Bare d’Upi and Piscine Naturelle
The following day we went on a boat cruise around the „Baie d’Upi“ in a little boat typical for this area, the Pirogue, wonderful clear water, blue sky and white sand beaches included.
The tour led around the coast of the island through a little bay with turtles and a lot of fishes and corals until we finally reached our destination, the „Piscine Naturelle“, a natural swimming pool of salt water surrounded by rock formations.
After being dropped off on a beach, it was a little trek through the forest and wading through a river until we arrived at this little wonder of nature. Luckily, we had set off very early in the morning so that we were the first ones to set foot on this spot for the day, just an hour later it was way busier. At this little lagoon, you can snorkel, swim or just enjoy the view while sitting on the beach. After about an hour, we walked to the other side of the bay to get picked up again by our boatman, who then brought us back to the original point of departure, where we took a rest before the celebrations of New Years.
Biking/ Driving around the island
Spending the New Years Eve with a bunch of travelers mainly from France and Canada and of course the local family including tons of food, like fresh crab salad and lobster right on the beach was beyond amazing and for sure an unforgettable experience.
New Years day started a bit later than expected but nevertheless very very beautiful, cycling around the island (our host brought us to the north tip of the island with his car in the morning), seeing all the deserted beaches as the north of the island is far away from resorts or any kind of tourism but still easily reachable with bicycles or ideally with a car. The roads can be quite steep, so biking is definitely not a good idea if you want to have a lazy day.
On our way back we found a deserted resort, could use their pool in exchange for buying a soft drink to cool down a little bit. We also went to a few caves on the way, which is also definitely worth the way and the nature and diversity of wildlife made this day unforgettable.
Our last full day in paradise then was one of the highlights of this trip, the cruise to the „Nokhanoui Atoll“, a sandbank in the middle of the blue ocean and only accessible during low tide. Only a few little trees and pure white sand, fine like flour and so bright, that you can’t see without sunglasses. Blinded by this beauty, we just enjoyed playing on the beach and meeting a few other travelers and again we were lucky enough to be the first boat to reach this destination. To top up this already amazing day, our next stop was a little island, where we had the second lobster of this short trip, together with tons of fruits and rice and surrounded by flower necklaces and beautiful palm trees on white beaches.
Talking of budget, it was about 20€/night for the camping including breakfast, the New Years Eve dinner including welcome drink was around 50€, the trips between 40-50€.
On our last day, all we did was packing bags and getting on the ferry back to the port of Noumea. Altogether, if you happen to go to New Caledonia, don’t miss out on the Isle of the Pines!