Noumea! After days of agonizing over the vast array of shore excursions, I finally decide on none (I’m even worse with menus). However as soon as we’re ashore we find a visitor centre offering even more and settle finally on the great value Explorer Bus day pass. For $10 each we can hop on and off all round the island.
First stop is the Cultural Centre – a unique structure that looks like a row of giant timber shells – which sits on a very pretty peninsula surrounded by mangroves. Inside there are several exhibitions both contemporary and traditional, all telling a story of Melanesian cultural history.
We hop on the bus again and head for Lemon Bay along a beautiful coastal road lined with beaches and reefs. Lemon Bay itself is a turquoise arc lined with pine trees, palms and a great selection of cafes. After a leisurely swim we head over to one for lunch.
We’ve been warned the prices are high in Noumea but in reality they’re not too different from Australia and the food is delicious. I opt for a trio of tuna: carpaccio, tartare and lightly seared steak, served with a tart raspberry sauce.
Next stop, downtown Noumea in search of souvenirs. I’ve given the kids 2000 francs each and they’re itching to spend it. The shopping’s not great here but there’s enough to satisfy us day-trippers, so having spent the offending money on a few hair clips, sandals, bracelets and a short spear we head back to the ship. The spear is confiscated for the duration of the voyage.