So for any visitor who just wants to fly into Noumea, put their feet up in a beach hotel, and of course spend a few hours looking round the amazing Tjibaou centre, then there really is no need for a car, because the main international airport is close enough to town for local taxis to suffice. With new Caledonia still having such a strong French influence, local buses are also perfectly reasonable, but don’t expect urban French standards with real time displays!
However, to only stick around Noumea simply wouldn’t be doing New Caledonia justice, hence we would strongly recommend getting hold of a hire car and driving around this stunning island. Allow up to 6 hours to head all the way up to the top non-stop, and then a little bit more again to head down the eastern side. There really aren’t that many driving roads here, but it would be a bit of a stretch to do all this full circuit in a single day!
Many visitors will also want to continue island hopping by plane, and this might mean a relatively short stay in Noumea before heading on elsewhere. Local flights within New Caldeonia use the smaller Magenta Airport in Noumea, whereas international flights use the large Tontua Airport, some 50km away.
James says - a few trip notes:
Noumea is the one place in the world where I would love to go if he was given a blank airline ticket, but this capital of New Caledonia really is such a long way from anywhere that few Europeans or North Americans will have heard for it, unless they are French, because New Caledonia is a French overseas territory with local autonomy.
The most striking image of Noumea is one which might be familiar to anyone with an interest in architecture, and this is the Tjibaou Cultural Centre. This vast imposing complex, which was built to celebrate the local Kanak culture, is the only one of the late French President Mitterrand’s massive “Grand Projects” to be built outside Metropolitan France. This set of buildings was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, who first made his name by co-designing the Pompidou Centre in Paris (also a Grand Project), with British architect Richard Rogers. He has also since designed The Shard in London.
So our car hire advice verdict is that getting a rental car in Noumea is far from essential, but it’s probably still worth doing.