Noumea is the largest city in and capital of New Caledonia, lying on the main island of Grande Terre. One of the most westernized capitals in the Pacific Islands, it features beautiful beaches and colonial mansions and is not yet a heavily touristed destination.
It is home to the majority of the island’s European, Polynesian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese populations, as well as many Melanesians, Ni-Vanuatu, and Kanaks who work in one of the South Pacific’s most industrialized cities. The city lies on a protected deep water harbor which serves as the chief port for New Caledonia.
Where Metropolitan French will hear a bad French accent, wince and say that they speak English, the Francophones of New Caledonia are either less willing or less able to accommodate Anglophones. It is probably a matter of capability since they are marvelously willing to persevere in determining what it is that a foreigner needs.
Without tourist-level French, you may find yourself lost–but it’s a lovely place to be lost! The French spoken by Kanaks is much harder to understand than the French of people in Paris: on a par with Breton French.
History of Noumea
The first European to establish a settlement in the vicinity was British trader James Paddon in 1851. Anxious to assert control of the island, the French established a settlement nearby three years later in 1854, moving from Balade in the north of the island. This settlement was initially called Port-de-France and was renamed Nouméa in 1866.
From 1904 to 1940 Nouméa was linked to Dumbéa and Païta by the Nouméa-Païta railway, the only railway line that ever existed in New Caledonia.
During World War II, Nouméa served as the headquarters of the United States military in the South Pacific. The five-sided U.S. military headquarters complex was adopted after the war as the base for a new regional intergovernmental development organization: the South Pacific Commission, later known as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
The city maintains much of New Caledonia’s unique mix of French and old Melanesian culture.
Top Destinations in Noumea
Baie des Citrons
Tjibaou Cultural Centre
Musée de la Ville de Noumea
Parc Zoologique et Forestier
Place des Cocotiers
Aquarium des Lagons