Nouméa, New Caledonia
A saucy blend of France and the South Pacific, the capital of New Caledonia lies at the southern end of Grande Terre, the French territory's largest island. The city's French colonial architecture and sidewalk cafés offer an intriguing foil to local Kanak culture and palm-shaded beaches.
What We Love
Tjibaou Cultural Center: Even if you can't catch a show or exhibition at this hub of Melanesian art, dance, and music, stop in to marvel at the incredible modern architecture, inspired by traditional Kanak great houses.
Baie des Citrons: "Lemon Bay" offers the best swimming and snorkeling inside the city limits, and later morphs into a hip strip with trendy bars, restaurants, and a microbrewery called Les 3 Brasseurs.
Best Known For
French Cuisine: Pick your “poisson” (pun intended) — Nouméa's Gallic eateries run a tasty gamut from baguettes and bouillabaisse to crepes, roast duck, rabbit confit, and veal cordon bleu.
Cosmopolitan Culture: A real-life version of Rick's Café in Casablanca, Nouméa has all sorts — French sophisticates and bohemians, Kanak businessmen and reggae singers, Vietnamese chefs and North African supermodels.
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Who It's Best For
Global Culture Connoisseurs: Aficionados of the exotic will dig the city's heady ethnic, culinary, musical, and architectural mix.
Aqua Adventure Seekers: The many beaches and smaller tropical isles around Nouméa lend themselves to scuba and snorkeling, sailing and kite surfing, jet skiing and sunset cruises.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Beaches Aren't Cheap: Just like in the Riviera, expect to shell out cash for lounge chairs, umbrellas, and other sea, sun, and sand amenities.
Brush up on Your French: Much like the mother country, a lot of the locals either don't speak English or prefer that conversation takes place in their native tongue.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.