Aerial view of the commune of Thio, New Caledonia, overlooking the Bota Méré lookout, the village and the mountains.Municipality of Thio
©Municipality of Thio|Oneye Production

The archipelago

of New Caledonia

With its UNESCO World Heritage lagoon, mesmerising landscapes, grandiose mountains and preserved traditions, New Caledonia invites you on a unique journey to the heart of the Pacific. Here’s an overview of the archipelago’s geography!

A French archipelago in the middle of the Pacific

At 18,564 km2, New Caledonia occupies an intermediate position in the vast South Pacific between the Australian giant and the hundreds of islands and archipelagos that make up Melanesia and Micronesia. It is home to a wide range of landscapes. Distant 17,000 km from mainland France, New Caledonia looms on the world map as a tiny speck of land to the east of Australia and north of New Zealand. This little piece of France in the middle of the Pacific is surrounded by the neighbouring islands of Fiji and Vanuatu. A slight zoom is all it takes to make out the contours of the archipelago and its turquoise lagoon… New Caledonia surprises visitors with its size, exceptional landscapes, and a mild climate that allows for a wide range of activities.

Frequently asked questions about the archipelago
  • Is New Caledonia a country?

    While New Caledonia is located far from mainland France, it is an integral part of France, recognised as an overseas collectivity (COM), similar to French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna. However, New Caledonia enjoys a unique status, granted through the Nouméa Accords signed in 1998, which grants it a degree of autonomy.

  • How do I get there?

    From Singapore, direct flights from Aircalin bring travellers to New Caledonia in approximately 8.5 hours. To find out about airlines flying to New Caledonia, ticket prices and the possibilities of travelling to New Caledonia, we recommend you visit our pages “Organising my trip from A to Z” and “Flights to Nouméa“.

A vast territory to explore

New Caledonia’s main island – Grande Terre – is almost 400 km long and 50 km wide, almost 25 times the size of Singapore! The archipelago boasts over 140 islands, the best known of which are the sublime Isle of Pines in the south and the Loyalty Islands on the east coast: Ouvéa, Lifou, Tiga and Maré. With its adjoining islands, the total area reaches 18,500 km². The size and diversity of the archipelago make it a prime tourist destination. More than half the population lives in the capital and its immediate suburbs, Greater Nouméa, while the rest of the territory is occupied by 32 towns, or villages with fewer than 7,000 inhabitants. This vast and diverse archipelago has become a top tourist destination, offering idyllic, deserted beaches, superb wildlife viewing opportunities, well-maintained roads, and authentic interactions with the locals.

Did you know?

Lifou, the main Loyalty island, itself is bigger than Singapore! This gives you an idea of the size of the archipelago…

An infinite number of landscapes to discover

Visiting New Caledonia is like embarking on multiple journeys in a single destination. Grande Terre features a chain of medium-altitude mountains that cut across the island from north to south, while extensive plains border the West Coast lagoon. To the east, lush tropical vegetation appears to cascade into the ocean. Further south, you’ll encounter the urbanised region of Nouméa and the distinctive red soils of the Great South. Beyond the postcard-perfect sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons that grace the Islands of the archipelago, the diverse terrain offers a multitude of year-round outdoor activities.

The "roads" of New Caledonia

Exploring the Caledonian archipelago is an adventure that can be undertaken by car, bus, plane, boat, or bicycle. Most journeys start at La Tontouta International Airport, a 45-minute drive from the capital, Nouméa. The domestic airport is conveniently located in downtown Nouméa, serving the Loyalty Islands, Isle of Pines, and various destinations on Grande Terre. Island-hopping is possible through boat connections. For inland exploration, renting a car is recommended to access all points of interest. The well-maintained roads make travelling a breeze, offering you the freedom to explore at your own pace. Depending on your preferences, budget, and itinerary, keep in mind the distances and remoteness of certain natural sites. To plan your stay effectively, visit our “Getting around” page or use the Këdia planner, a valuable tool for your holiday planning.

Itineraries & roadtrip

Discovering the beauty of the Caledonian archipelago can be accomplished through self-drive itineraries, allowing you to customise your journey. Alternatively, many service providers offer guided tours with experienced drivers, catering to your specific interests and preferences.

A global biodiversity hotspot

Welcome to the world’s largest enclosed lagoon! Surrounding Grande Terre, New Caledonia’s Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world, stretching 1,600 km and enclosing a 24,000 km² lagoon. Notably, six areas of the lagoon, spanning 15,000 km², are designated as UNESCO Natural Heritage sites, including regions around the towns of Bourail, Poé, La Foa, the northeast coastal zone, Isle of Pines, and the atolls of Ouvéa. The exceptional biodiversity of the Caledonian lagoon is a testament to its robust health, boasting over 350 coral species and nearly 1,600 fish species. While renowned for scuba diving, you can also appreciate the beauty of the Caledonian seabed with just a mask and snorkel. This underwater treasure is a fantastic opportunity and a shared responsibility, urging public authorities, locals, and tourists to preserve the classified natural sites they visit.

Exceptional endemic flora and fauna

Covering an area of 20,000 km², New Caledonia is home to over 3,500 plant species, 4,300 animal species, and 1,000 fish species. A relic of the ancient continent of Gondwana, which separated 250 million years ago, the archipelago shelters numerous unique species. The distinctiveness of New Caledonia’s flora includes tropical plants like hibiscus, frangipani, flamboyant, coconut, tree ferns, and niaouli tree, alongside endemic species such as the columnar pine and amborella, a flowering plant over 130 million years old described as a “living fossil.” Remarkably, 80% of the region’s flora is endemic, meaning it can only be found in New Caledonia, with scientists estimating the discovery of 200 to 300 additional species yet unknown!

Animals to observe in the wild

Thanks to dedicated environmental preservation efforts by authorities and local communities, observing wildlife in its natural habitat is a delightful experience in New Caledonia. The islands host numerous bird species, creating an enchanting soundscape, even in the bustling capital. Among the 142 listed species, 22 are endemic to New Caledonia. Land animals include the cagou, Ouvéa parakeets, notous, rusas deer, tricots rayés (sea snakes), and roussettes (bats). In the lagoon, you can encounter colourful coral, tropical fish, turtles, dolphins, sharks, dugongs, and humpback whales, creating a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers.