New Caledonia - Off the beaten track
The small town of La Foa is surrounded by lush cane fields and beautiful blackwood and araucaria pines. The town has seen its share of troubles, from its earliest days as a penal settlement through to the shooting of two FLNKS leaders in 1985. The historic Paserelle de Marguerite bridge was designed by two students of Gustave Eiffel and although it's been superseded by a wider bridge, it's still an impressive construction. Fort Teremba, which sits on the plain overlooking Baie de Teremba, was headquarters for the local colonial military and was besieged by Kanaks in 1878 during the great insurrection. It is now used to stage sound and light shows in November. Farino, 3km (1.8mi) from the main road turnoff, has great views over La Foa and out to sea, and sports a popular market, held on the second Sunday of the month. Buses make the 110km (68mi) journey from Noumea to La Foa weekdays.
Although they're rocky, the beaches here are worth a swim or a snorkel. The islands and reefs just out of town are some of the best in New Caledonia for scuba diving. If you're into what is laboriously described as 'modern architectural integration art', check out the Municipal Pool Vasarely Mosaic at the southern end of town. Victor Vasarely was a well-known artist in his day and his mosaic was designed to brighten grey, urbanised areas. The drab War Memorial sits on the hill in town to commemorate US involvement in the War of the Pacific, and a few minutes' drive north of town along the RT3 is Tié Mission, with a church built in 1866. Poindimié is about 308km (191mi) from Noumea on the northeast coast of Grande Terre, and the best way to get there is by bus along Highway RT3.
At the end of the RT1 on the northern tip of Grande Terre, Poum is a windswept community of 1300. If the weather's wild, Poum can be uninviting, and while there's not much to see in town, if you have time and your own transport it's worth making a trip to Boat-Pass, also known as Pointe Nahârian. This wild and desolate peninsula is exposed to the sea and bordered by palms, grasslands and araucaria pines.
Along the Baie Banare you pass excellent but desolate beaches at Nennon and Kejaon. There are flights between Noumea and Koumac, from where you can catch a bus, a little over 50km (30mi) to the southwest. Poum is at the end of the RT1, 340km (210mi) northwest of Noumea, and if you are coming by bus you will have to change at Koumac.
Few travellers reach this tiny raised coral atoll in the Loyalty group. On the island's protected side, underwater cliffs abound with coral and fish, making for great diving. Deserted beaches are ideal to kick back and relax, and although there's no formal accommodation you can camp at the airport or on most private property if you get the owner's permission. The 380 Tigans live in the northwest corner of the island, where the reef is most accessible and the island least exposed to the elements. Tiga's airstrip is just south of the village, and there are four inter-island flights a week from Maré and Lifou, or one a week from Noumea.