New Caledonia: What to know?

Print anything with Printful

New Caledonia is a South Pacific island territory with a rich history of settlement, trade, and colonization. It was first settled by the Lapita group around 1500 BC and later saw the arrival of Polynesian groups. In the late 18th century, the British began trading with the locals, but their presence was met with hostility. Blackbirding and missionary activity followed, and in the mid-19th century, Napoleon III claimed the island as a French penal colony. Today, New Caledonia has a strong independence movement and is a popular tourist destination known for its unique mounds, diving, surfing, and flora and fauna.

New Caledonia is a medium-sized island territory in the South Pacific. The island covers 7,360 square miles (18,580 sq km). New Caledonia is located in Melanesia, near Vanuatu, about 750 km east of Australia.

Records of the first settlements in New Caledonia date to around 1500 BC, when the Lapita group first arrived. The early Laptia settled most of Melanesia and introduced quite sophisticated agricultural techniques to the region. At some point in the 11th century Polynesian groups began arriving in New Caledonia as well, intermarrying with the existing Lapith people. The cultures also merged, forming a new and distinct culture.

In the late 18th century New Caledonia was first sighted by the British. The British began trading with the existing population of New Caledonia, often introducing disease and hardship to the people of the island. The locals grew increasingly hostile towards the British, and at times this hostility turned to violence, such as when the crew of a British ship were killed by a local clan in the mid-19th century.

Around this time New Caledonia began to be raided by blackbirds, slavers who captured locals to work on sugar plantations in Fiji and Australia. Blackbirding would continue on and off for more than a century. Around the same time missionaries began arriving in New Caledonia to convert the locals to Christianity, in many cases subverting the local culture and heritage to do so.

In the mid-19th century Napoleon III claimed the island, hoping to establish a foothold in the South Pacific to counter British holdings in New Zealand and Australia. For the next seventy years, France used the island as a penal colony, sending more than 19 criminals to serve out their sentences. With these new inhabitants came many new diseases, greatly reducing the native population, and sometimes almost completely eradicating it.

Since the mid-1980s New Caledonia has had a strong independence movement. During the late 1980s the issue of separation from France sometimes escalated into violence, including a particularly drastic hostage situation. Since then New Caledonia has been granted a certain degree of autonomy. Further autonomy was achieved in the late 1990s, including provisions for Caledonian citizenship, a territorial flag and a further step towards full independence. The issue remains fairly volatile, although for now it appears that the issue will be resolved through political rather than violent channels.

One of the most alluring tourist destinations in New Caledonia are the various mounds that dot the island. These large mounds are of unknown origin, with some people believing they are evidence of early settlement and the use of an artificial concrete, while others believe they were created by a 6-foot (2m) tall bird that inhabited the island more than 5000 years ago. Whatever their origin, the mounds are unique and fascinating.
Other than the mounds, New Caledonia offers many of the same attractions as other islands in the region. There is amazing diving and snorkelling, good surfing and beautiful flora and fauna all over the big island.
Flights arrive daily into New Caledonia from a number of international hubs, including some in North America, with the majority of aircraft arriving from Japan, Australia and France. Yachts and cruise liners also regularly call at many of New Caledonia’s ports and arriving by ship, while a little more expensive, is hardly more difficult.

Protect your devices with Threat Protection by NordVPN

Skip to content