New Calendonia is a large beautiful and forgotten tropical island in the South Pacific. It is located in between and north of Australia and New Zealand. It is a special collectivity of France and currently going through the process of deciding its future - if it wants to be independent of France and become the world's youngest country or not. Like the British with their famous penal colonies in Australia, New Calendonia was once a penal colony of France. New Calendonia is not a very popular tourist destination, but that is probably because most people just are not aware of how beautiful it is.

THETRAVEL VIDEO OF THE DAY

Introduction To New Caledonia

New Caledonia: The Facts

  • Status: Special Collectivity Of France
  • Land Area: 18,576 Sq Km or 7,172 Sq Miles
  • Population: 271,000
  • Capital And Largest Town: Noumea
  • Currency: CFP Franc

Governance And Independence Referendums

With the Matignon Agreements signed in 1988 and then the Noumea Accord signed in 1998, the framework for increased local rule and options for referendums have been taking place on the island. The agreement allows the island to have three referendums on full independence from France. Two have already happened and one more is scheduled.

  • First Referendum: 2018 56.7% Voted To Remain Part Of France, 43.33% For Independence
  • Second Referendum: 2020 53.4% To Remain Part Of France, 46.73% For Independence
  • Third Referendum: Scheduled For 12 December 2021

It won't take much to swing the vote to independence, so by the time you visit New Caledonia, it just might be the world's newest country.

Related: A Travel Guide To Tahiti: 11 Things To Know While Planning Your Trip

New Caledonia is a part of the mostly submerged continental fragment of Zealandia (of with New Zealand is a part). It has been separated from Australia since the end of the dinosaurs around 66 million years ago. There are two peaks virtually tied for the status of the highest peak - Mont Panie (at 5,344 feet or 1,629 meters) in the north and Mont Humboldt (at 5,308 feet or 1,618 meters) in the southeast.

  • Visa Requirements: Visa Free

The climate on this island is greatly affected by the rain shadow effect from the mountains. On the east coast, the island is covered with lush vegetation while on the west coast it's much drier with savannahs. Much of the island is covered with wet evergreen forests. The climate here is tropical with November to March being humid, while June to August is a bit cooler and drier.

  • Fun Fact: Some Scientists Are Calling For Zealandia To Be Recognised As The World's 8th But Most Submerged Continent

New Caledonia boasts one of the largest lagoons in the world measuring some 9,300 sq miles - larger than the island itself. The New Caledonian lagoon is surrounded by the picturesque New Caledonia Barrier Reef. This barrier reef is the longest continuous barrier reef in the world and the third-largest after the Australian Great Barrier Reef and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

  • Reef Fact: Third Largest In the World

Related: Bora Bora Vs. The Maldives: Which Is Better?

New Calendonia is known as a biodiversity hotspot boasting many unique species in the world with many endemic to the island and found nowhere else on earth.

New Caledonia is full of microclimates all within a short range of each other. Here you can see and explore many different types of environments in a relatively small area. You can visit the tropical white sand islands, the forests, and mountains of the interior, the savannah grassland of the other side of the island much more.

Activities on New Caledonia

New Caledonia is a mix of French and Melanesian cultures and here you can enjoy a French fine dining experience or see the traditional culture of the native population. There are lots of activities for the explorer, these include chartering cruises to the nearby islets and their tropical beaches, scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking in the interior, fine dining at restaurants, exploring caves, corals, canyons, and even shipwrecks. New Caledonia is a piece of heaven that is so often overlooked.

  • Fun Fact: Caledonia Is The Roman Name For Scotland Because It Reminded Captain Cook Of Scotland

Transport To And Around The Island

The international airport is La Tontouta International Airport and it services direct flights to various cities in New Zealand and Australia as well as connects the islands to other Pacific island nations.

Once you are in New Caledonia it is best to hire a car and drive around. You will be amazed at what you can find in just a small area. Also, the island is highly developed with the average income being very high by Pacific standards outside of New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii. Much of that wealth is aid from France who provides financial support amounting to more than 15% of the GDP.

While New Caledonia is a tropical paradise, the tourism sector here is underdeveloped. They only receive around 100,000 tours annually that is only a quarter of what the tiny Cook Islands receive and half of what Vanuatu gets. So if you do go, you will be something of a pioneering tourist. New Caledonia is a great destination for those looking for tropical island paradises that have not been "overrun" with tourists like Tahiti or the Caribbean Islands.

In short, New Caledonia is one of the world's gems that is just waiting to be explored - and could soon be the world's youngest country.

Next: If You're Not Doing These Things In Tahiti On Your Honeymoon, You're Doing It Wrong