This article is in partnership with New Caledonia. However, all content has been curated by the Yahoo Lifestyle team as per usual editorial discretion.
We’re all looking for that statement holiday. Something we haven’t seen yet. A destination that is as aesthetically pleasing as it is culturally intriguing. And while us Aussies are spoilt for choice when it comes to close-to-home island paradises, New Caledonia is underrated and anything-but-generic.
With drowned forests, French cuisine and a heart-shaped natural phenomena on the agenda, New Caledonia is a big contender for your hard-earned annual leave in 2019.
Here are four things you can only do in New Cal:
1: Explore a pine rainforest on the reef
Glide across the crystal-clear waters of the Isle of Pines in a traditional pirogue. The outrigger-style boat will take you to the Instagrammable utopia where a pine forest grows along the edge of the lagoon.
It’s here local communities run safe programs where visitors can snorkel with the turtles. Tourists have to fly or ferry to the island but there are lovely accommodation options placing you in the heart of the beauty. Your Instagram will be hotter than a French kiss.
2: Kayak amongst a drowned forest
Being an archipelago with more than 50 kms of sandy shore means there are no shortage of beaches in New Caledonia. But what is really unique to the destination is the La Rivière Bleue (Blue River Provincial Park), a drowned forest set in 90 kms of rust-coloured soil, reminiscent of the Australian outback. This is where you can meet the protected native bird the Cagou (Kagu). He looks similar the Kiwi Bird but barks like a dog and hisses like a cat. Mucho attitude and we love it.
There are many walks around the national park, the shortest starting at 30 minutes and the longest around six hours. After crossing the Pont Perignon (Perignon Bridge) you’ll see the bleached tree branches eerily stretching from an artificial lake. Those keen to get on the water can hire kayaks.
3: Find the heart of New Caledonia
The Beatles sang You Can’t Buy Me Love but you can certainly purchase a joy flight over the famous Heart of Voh. And that, to us, is love.
Coeur de Voh is a natural love-heart shaped formation in the mangroves towards New Caledonia’s northern tip. There are several tour companies to take you to the skies including Nord ULM, Hibisair by Hotel Hibiscus, Cao Ulm Poè and Skydream. Most are ultralight aircraft offering different packages, depending on how fast you want your heart rate to accelerate. Imagine flying over the heart with your loved one on Valentine’s Day. Je t’aime!
4: Meet the local cowboys
The west coast of the mainland plays host to the little-known New Caledonian cowboy culture. The pastoral-rich land makes for ideal cattle farming and stockmen have worked the grassy fields that flood the island territory’s plains for more than 100 years.
The town of Bourail is a couple of hours’ drive inland from the capital of Noumea and the Wild Wild West scene is a surprising curveball to the usual cocktail-on-the-beach scenario. Every August, the town hosts an annual rodeo ‘The Bourail Fair’ where rhinestone-bedazzled cowgirls and cowboys ride bucking bulls, locals eat delicious Kanak food fare and the most prized stallions and mares are on show. This is the authentic New Cal.
If you’re not in town for August, lock in November for the tasty Fête de Boeuf (Beef Festival) or choose one of the many farm stays to get your rural fix.
Keeping in the livestock theme, the horse is treasured in New Cal. There is one horse for every 200 residents and the terrain of the island is best surveyed from the saddle. A guided horse ride will take you through breeders’ properties and to cliffside viewpoints that show off the lagoons in their best light. Trot along the beach and take a dip at high tide. A day on horseback is best wrapped up by sampling fruits from the agricultural industry in the form of venison.
In 1870, the governor of Java gave the governor of New Caledonia ruse deer as a gift and it’s been on the menu ever since. Match this with French classics like cheesy onion soup, potato gratin and finish with a Chocolate soufflé for the full French experience in the heart of the Pacific.
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