What to do in New Caledonia’s Bourail with kids. Despite its charming French influence, pristine beaches and impressive accessibility to coral reefs, Bourail in New Caledonia is still a family travel destination that is largely undiscovered. Hire a car, bring your swimmers and explore some delightfully quaint seaside locations – that you need only share with a few stray locals and no fast food chains, hawkers or tourist buses.
The Destination – Bourail With Kids
At first glance Bourail really seems to hold nothing more for the average family traveling with kids other than a nicely located Sheraton Deva. (More on that later.) But if you are an adventurous family that enjoys kite surfing, wakeboarding, snorkelling or just having a beach all to yourself, this is a fantastic place to get some sun and (small) surf.
Because it is not commercialised, Bourail is conspicuously absent of traffic, touts and large tourist groups. Most other people you will see outside a resort are either French traveling families with kids, dedicated kite surfers or otherwise locals looking to cool off in the ocean.
The flip side of this is that there is very little infrastructure. You can’t really move around without your own car, there are no real restaurants to eat at or shops to browse, there is barely any fresh food in the supermarket and English is still not always commonly spoken.
But for the lack of changing room facilities or lifeguards on the beach, Bourail makes up for with its deserted sands, beautiful vistas and authentic and untouristy vibe. And at only 2.5 hours’ flight from the Australian eastern capital cities and another couple of hours’ drive from Noumea, it is remarkably accessible.
The Activities in Bourail With Kids
The primary reason to visit Bourail is the beach – and there are several to choose from. Most famous of all is Poe Beach which is one of the longest in New Caledonia. This is a popular spot to kitesurf. Bring along a towel, some snacks and plant yourself along the waterfront to watch the colourful surfers catch their waves.
If you plan on kitesurfing yourself, don’t forget there are specific areas dedicated to kitesurfing on Poe Beach and others where it is prohibited so make sure you do your research before you get into the water.
Paddle boarding is also popular on Poe Beach.
From Poe Beach is where you can also access the famed reef. This is a particularly good spot to introduce young kids to snorkelling as there is a dedicated section with pontoons and markers to show you the best spots to watch the fish and marine life.
It is worthwhile doing a glass bottom boat tour out to this area as the tour operators will provide you with waterproof guides to the fish to be found in each spot. While on the way you might also get to spend a bit of time watching the many giant sea tortoises that inhabit the area.
Bateau a Fond De Verre runs glass bottom boat tours from the beach in front of the Sheraton Deva. Their vessels are clean and well maintained which means that even tiny children who can’t swim will still get a fantastic marine experience.
Alternatively, if you have older kids with a bit of stamina, you can also kayak out to the snorkelling area from the beach.
Otherwise, if you head further south down Plage de Poe away from the Sheraton Deva there is good snorkelling right off the beach – just wade in with your snokel and get started.
Another kid friendly beach in Bourail is La Roche Percee.
There are waves large enough for kids to body surf and boogie board but small
enough for toddlers to splash and have some fun. Here there are even fewer tourists
than at Poe Beach and so the area has a lovely local feel about it.
Despite the small surf there are no lifeguards on this beach and there is very little infrastructure around it. Bring your own everything to the beach including snacks in case the creperie is closed. The only retailer is a crepe food truck – La Crepe Bonhomme – that sells delicious French style crepes, hot dogs and hot chips. They also sell beer and soft drinks but you must consume the alcohol at the kiosk (you cannot take it to the beach).
From La Roche Percee you will get a fantastic view of Le Bonhomme de Bourail – the striking rock formation located beside a cave. While you can view the structure and even walk quite close to it, swimming around it is prohibited.
You should also spend a bit of time driving around the roads around La Roche Percee.
You will get some magnificent views especially if you go to explore the Baie de Tortues. Here you will get some fabulous pictures of the kids against the backdrop of the huge crashing waves and there are some cool rock formations to explore. But do take note that the surf is rough here and swimming is banned.
Bourail in New Caledonia is also famous for its hikes and walks and many families like to cycle around the area too. You can also go horse riding in Bourail with kids – get in touch with Ranch de Carre 9 to organise this.
There is also a beautifully maintained golf course at the Sheraton Deva.
Family Friendly Accommodation in Bourail New Caledonia With Kids
While there are a number of small, independent accommodations around Bourail for families, by far the easiest to coordinate when you are organising your family holiday from elsewhere is the Sheraton Deva.
This kid friendly resort has a large pool that has a
clearly demarcated deep section and is located right on the beach. There are
plenty of free watersports equipment you can use – including a catamaran. It
also has a kids club.
It is worthwhile bringing a lot of snack foods with
you to the resort as the kids menu is limited and is the same for lunch and
The two bedroom Superior Golf Suites are huge, come with a massive balcony, full kitchen and are really worthwhile for families of four.
The Practicalities of Bourail in New Caledonia With Kids
The best beaches and walks in Bourail can really only be accessed if you have your own car so it is worthwhile hiring one for the duration of your stay. Hotel transfers from Noumea with kids are expensive anyway, so you will get your money’s worth from your hire car.
Because New Caledonia is still relatively untouched as a tourist destination, the wildlife is still quite wild. It is not uncommon to see snakes, particularly the tricots rayes or striped sea snakes – even on land. These are pretty distinctive, have small mouths and are also easily frightened so the chances of being bitten are slim, but beware as they are venomous.
If you stay longer than just a few days, you will notice the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in New Caledonia pretty quickly. If you head into Bourail town there are a couple of supermarkets but the bulk of the food is frozen or tinned. It is worthwhile bringing some food from home with you – particularly fruit and vegetable pouches – but remember that New Caledonia has strict quarantine laws and you will not be able to bring fresh foods.
New Caledonia has a distinctly continental European feel to it and, therefore, the prices to match. Perhaps one of the reasons why it is so pristine is because this is definitely not a budget destination – expect to pay European prices (some places will even quotes prices in Euros!).