Dan and I were discussing our bucket lists one day. He told me that New Caledonia was high up on his bucket list. I was a little surprised. I hadn’t even heard of New Caledonia until recently, and even then it didn’t feature high on my own list. “Why New Caledonia?” I asked. That’s when he told me about a small island called Ils des Pins. (Isle of Pines)
In true bucket list ticking manner, we made our next Pacific Island destination New Caledonia. And of course, we had to make sure we visited Ils des Pins.
The Complete Guide to Ils De Pins
Ils de Pins is so named after the gorgeous Araucaria pine trees. It is also the most accessible of the islands off New Caledonia. We went there on a day trip as unfortunately there were no seats left during the dates we originally wanted to go, but I would recommend spending at least one night on the island if you have the time.
Getting to Ils des Pins
You can either fly or take the ferry. I recommend taking the ferry. Not only is it cheaper than the plane (by far), but it is only two and a half hours from Noumea. Although the flight is technically shorter than the ferry, when you factor in checking in one hour prior as well as the commute to the airport, it doesn’t actually end up much shorter. Also the ferry is quite comfortable with an on site cafe and movies playing.
The ferry only runs a few times each week, so check schedules ahead of time when planning your trip.
Getting around Ils des Pins
There is no public transportation on Ils des Pins. The best way to get around the island is by rental car. Make sure you rent your car in advance though to avoid being stranded at the ferry terminal with no options. Most operators will meet you at the ferry terminal when it arrives. Some hotels may organize your transport for you, so make sure you check that option as well.
For those who do not want to rent a car, it is also possible to rent bicycles. But as with renting a car, make sure to do so in advance.
What to do on Ils des Pins
For such a small island, there is actually quite a bit to do and see. Well…. there aren’t *heaps* of things to do and see, but the things that are there will keep you entertained for ages.
Beaches: There are so, so, so, so many great beaches on Ils des Pins. So many. So great. Our favourite was at the beach behind the statue of St Maurice. The water was impeccably clear, and was just over ankle deep for metres and metres. It was the perfect place to relax in the sand, and was safe and shallow for our little one to play in.
The statue at the beach is also worth checking out as well. The statue of St Maurice, is well, just a statue. It’s the fence that surrounds it that is interesting. Fence isn’t a good way to describe this structure, it is more aptly described as a circle of totems, each with unique and hand carved faces standing watch over the saint.
Incredible snorkelling: There are several great snorkelling spots on Ils de Pins, but if you only have time for one, we recommend La Piscine Naturelle. This turquoise pool is partially cut off from the rest of the lagoon by a wall of reef, creating a calm and tranquil pool for of amazing snorkelling opportunities.
We had a bit of a debacle trying to find La Piscine Naturelle at first. We parked at Chez Regis and were told to follow a hiking path through the woods. We walked… and walked and walked. A German couple was also hiking the same route. We walked for what seemed like forever, periodically exchanging questioning glaces with the German couple. Eventually we both gave up and went back to the guest house. Instead we took the direct route, walking along the shallow creek until we finally reached La Piscine Naturelle.
Caves: The easiest cave to visit is the Grotte de la Reine Hortense. Legend has it that the Queen took refuge here during a tribal conflict. The gardens surrounding the area is beautiful and the friendly lady who runs the admission booth is happy to tell you about the cave and the island.
There are other caves on the island as well, and some that you can even explore by scuba. But keep in mind, those caves are for experienced divers only.