There’s a rich history that runs through the islands, most easily understood by exploring New Caledonia’s museums and culture. Ancient tribes and customs are still respected and practised throughout the territory. Their myths and legends loom large in the upheld practice of storytelling.
Meanwhile, the effect of French settlement is positively felt from one island to the next. The mix of Pacific and European cultures make for exciting cuisine, language, and style. The best places to learn about the past and present of this picturesque string of islands are New Caledonia's museums and galleries.
Ancient Kanak culture and modern French architecture meet in the most extravagant fashion. The Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre is home to what many critics consider one of the most fascinating contributions to modern architecture in recent ages. Renzo Piano’s awe-inspiring timber structures break the canopy of the coastline, almost appearing as fantastically modernistic skyscrapers. The centre is dedicated in memory of its namesake, the figurehead of the Kanak fight for independence.
St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral is a magnificent piece of classic French architecture in the most unorthodox surroundings. Following the construction plans of a former convict of the island, the penitentiary workforce were tasked with constructing the holy church in 1887. The structure took 10 years to complete, and the local timbers and stone used give the cathedral other-worldly sensibilities.
The Musee du Nouvelle-Caledonie provides an excellent introduction to Kanak culture. Local exhibits of art, sculpture, and artefacts are on display to the general public. Located in the capital city of Noumea, this museum and gallery is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the rich culture and history of this gem of the South Pacific.
From the native fishermen to European exploration, New Caledonia has a long history of maritime affairs. The Musee Maritime de Nouvelle-Caledonie is an insightful glimpse into a territory that has seen many visitors come to its shores over hundreds of years. Learn about the first European exploration of Captain Cook, French settlement, and World War II combat.