Planning your Holiday to the Loyalty Islands
The Loyalty Islands is a collection of three small islands about 100-km off the east coast of Grand Terre in New Caledonia. Mare and Lifou are uplifted limestone islands whilst Ouvea is a sunken atoll. All three islands have traditional tribal villages with a strong Polynesian influence and a Protestant religion, making them culturally different and slightly segregated from Grand Terre which is dominated by Catholicism and the Melanesian culture. If you're looking for a romantic South Pacific beach escape far away from the crowds, the Loyalty Islands are hard to beat.
Loyalty Islands Holidays Overview
These remote islands are the least visited by tourists although they have some of the most breathtaking beaches in the South Pacific and should be high on the list for anyone visiting New Caledonia. The islands also retain a strong traditional subsistence lifestyle. With several tribal hut accommodations on Lifou, the islands are the most popular to visit amongst budget travellers.
The Loyalty Islands are quite different from the other islands of New Caledonia with more Polynesian influence than Melanesian. This makes little difference to holiday-makers except being more autonomous, the islands have been less developed for tourism. For some, this is the main attraction for visiting: to experience an untouched slice of paradise. One of the islands, Ouvea, is nicknamed the "Island closest to Paradise" after a Japanese novel, but ironically it is this that attracts Japanese tourists to visit the island as their New Caledonia experience. Only a handful of holiday-makers board the daily plane to either Lifou or Mare, the most appealing of the five islands.
The administration centre of the Loyalty Islands is Lifou and this makes it the most advanced with a supermarket, bank and even a small marina (although only a handful of boats are moored here). Lifou is an uplifted limestone island with a craggy coastline broken by amazingly white sand beaches and stunning turquoise lagoons. Tourists are kept to the west coast, with most accommodation around the town of We with its picturesque sweeping beach. Although car hire is available, most accommodations provide guided sightseeing tours to make sure guests don't get lost or wander into villages they are not meant to visit.
Mare is a even more relaxed than Lifou and here most tribal villages welcome tourists openly. The island is similar to Lifou with beautiful beaches, most notably along the south coast of the island where a stunning coastal walk is a must-do. There are other beautiful coastal walks around Mare best accompanied with a guide.
Ouvea is a beautiful lagoon to the north of Lifou and has white sandy beaches and a central lagoon with good snorkelling. Life on the thin string of islands evolves around fishing in the lagoons and weaving mats and other handcarfts from pandanus leaves.
Loyalty Islands Travel Information
There are daily flights from Noumea to Mare (40-mins), Lifou (40-mins) and Ouvea (45-mins) or a weekly cargo / passenger ferry from Noumea stopping at all islands (5-10hrs). There are no flights between the islands, with all connections going via Noumea. Once on island, getting around is difficult with no public buses and few taxis. Accommodation providers will arrange airport transfers and sightseeing tours, but with a confusing network of roads and no signposts, car hire is not recommended. There's a small supermarket in the main town on both Mare and Lifou as well as ATM machine but it's recommended you bring everything you need with you from Noumea.