THE NORTHERN PROVINCE
Aside from the top north, beyond the town of Koumac, the Northern Province also encompasses the West and East coasts of Grand Terre, the main island of New Caledonia.
Houailou River, in the northwest of Grand Terre Island.
The West or leeward coast is a region of wide open spaces, mountains scarred by mining, and savannah sprinkled with paperbark. Extensive stock-farming is predominant, and interspersed are a few Melanesian tribes.
The East or windward coast is more tropical with lush vegetation, turquoise lagoons, wide rivers, the spectacular waterfalls of Ciu, coconut groves, and the coffee plantation of Negropo. Not far from Canala are the warm and sulphurous waters of the Crouen, renowned for their therapeutic properties.
Across the mountains and forests, one can encounter Melanesian tribes such as the Xaracuu. Also famed for its nickel mining, the old regional capital, Thio, has a mining museum, and Kouaoua has cable cars and a 14 km nickel conveyor.
Balade, where the Melanesian encountered the first Europeans to land in New Caledonia, has interesting churches and the ruins of former missions. Then there's Hienghene with a coastal road that drops steeply into the most picturesque bay in New Caledonia where there are mysterious small dwellings, a Cultural Centre, and strange 60m high rock formation shaped like a 'brooding hen' and a 150m high 'sphinx'. A range of hiking and horseback excursions are available including a visit to Mount Panie, the highest point in New Caledonia.
Heading to the top north from Koumac with its fascinating churches and caves, you leave civilisation and enter wild, deserted countryside littered with abandoned mines where you encounter every facet of nature ranging from densely forested mountains and valleys to grassy savannah and bays lined with coconut palms. The lush green Diahot Valley flanks the longest river in New Caledonia. The north is also an enormous mining area where nickel, copper, zinc and even gold have been minded for many years.
Major attractions of the north include its massive rugged coastline, and beautiful beaches near Poum. Malabou in the vast bay of Nehoue, and the deep blue coloured Bay of Pam. Hiking and mountain biking are the best way to explore the region.