The Pacific is vast and untamed, a seemingly endless force of nature that appears to give as much as it takes – and, boy oh boy, it has given the world so much! The South Pacific is a home to some of the most dazzling tropical paradises you’ll likely ever get a chance to see. There are so many irresistible options, yet so little free time on our hands, and deciding on a location can be a true definition of “sweet suffering.” If you feel eager and ready for an adventure in this immense corner of the world, here is the rundown of some of the most interesting South Pacific islands that were touched by Francophone colonizers – from French Polynesia to New Caledonia.
Discovering the eclectic culture
Even today, people tend to be surprised by the extent of French influence during the peak of their colonial power, but this very corner of the globe gives you a chance to discover the eclectic mix of cultures: the rustic French charm with epic Polynesian allure. The way familiar European feeling mixes with the mystifying attractiveness of ancient native traditions creates a truly unique blend of impressions.
French Polynesia is a gargantuan set of islands that consists of five archipelagos and it used to thrive under the French flag before most of the residents fought for their autonomy. Still, many of these islands are still under the protectorate of France, and smaller island groupings, like New Caledonia, are technically a dependent overseas territory. Such blurred lines when it comes to sovereignty only go to show how integrated the cultures have become.
Start with New Caledonia
If you are in the mood for a casual South Pacific adventure and eager to learn more about the French territories, you can start with New Caledonia. The tour of this archipelago is pretty manageable and you can see all the highlights, and more, in one lofty week. New Caledonia consists of the main island, known under the French moniker of Grand Terre, the mini-archipelago of the Loyalty Islands (Iles Loyaute) and the enchanting Isle of Pines (Ile des Pins).
You’ll spend most of your time exploring the impressively big and long main island of Grand Terre as well as its charming capital Nouméa. In case your vacation is shorter than you expected, prioritize the visit to Isle of Pines over a field trip to Loyalty Islands. The Isle of Pines is renowned around the world for its barely touched nature, the dreamy white sand that blends into the turquoise ocean and some mysterious ruins of the old French prisons. It is a magical place of immense beauty that simply begs to be explored if you ever wander to this corner of the world.
Pick and choose the best of French Polynesia
When it comes to French Polynesia, the matters are much more complicated. There are simply too many islands to visit beyond the horizon, and one can easily spend the entire lifetime unpacking this treasure chest of the location. There are at least 118 islands to explore, which is a staggering number. Still, one can easily start off with the fragments of land that take the spotlight.
The Society Islands are by far the most popular and lauded islands of French Polynesia, and for a good reason – the blend of staggering natural beauty and top-notch services leave nothing to be desired. Tahiti is the “main” island of the entire French Polynesia and it is home to its capital city, the biggest urbanity and the administrative center of the region – Papeete. While the city itself is rather small by the world’s metropolis standards, it still offers all services the most spoiled tourist might require.
The Society Islands are also popular among honeymooners, as they can be a dreamy backdrop to a budding romance. The overwater bungalows, which can be found from the shores of Moorea to the coastline of Bora Bora, have practically become the iconic symbol of hedonistic vacations in this part of the world. Bora Bora, the epic island group wrapped into the candy-floss coating of the barrier reef is a major global tourist destination, and a visit to it is a rite of passage for all newcomers to this part of the world.
Make sure to enjoy the overwhelming beauty of its beaches and don’t forget to bask under the summer sun on the world-famous Matira Point, the exceptionally gorgeous white-sand beach of Bora Bora that is also a home to one of its most exclusive hotel experiences. The delightful InterContinental of Bora Bora offers impeccable service with the comfort of a genuine boutique hotel covered in Polynesian décor and a stunning view of the lagoon from almost every side. Its location is not only conveniently positioned on the main island, but it also manages to offer an “isolated” experience of a truly intimate locale on the edge of the Pacific.
Moorea is slowly becoming a new hip location for the French Polynesia enthusiasts, as it offers the lush biome to explore without the interference of civilization (most small towns are relegated to its coastline) while it is still close to the main island of Tahiti. Its natural splendor is undeniable and wild, yet it is practically impossible to get lost for long, as the islands itself is not particularly big.
Discover the paradise
However, if you want to feel like an explorer and indulge in your Nathan Drake – Indiana Jones fantasies, French Polynesia is a perfect place to safely “discover” the most secretive islands. You can go on an adventure to the extremely remote, yet absolutely incredible Gambier Archipelago and seek ways to access the atolls such as Tikehau and Maupiti. Rurutu is a good spot for whale watching and Tuamotus is an archipelago of staggering 78 coral reef atolls. The secrets await you to discover them. Are you ready for them as much as they are ready for you?
The blue lagoons and enchanting coral reefs of the South Pacific Francophone islands are practically inviting the visitors from every corner of the globe with their beauty. The combination of rugged mountains and lush tropical biosphere acts like a seducer that knows all the moves and shamelessly flaunts their looks on the alluring Pacific breeze. Get swept away by the tides of a sparkly ocean to the world that exists thousands of miles away from your everyday life and have an adventure or a lifetime.