Things to Do in Mare Island

Things To Do in Mare Island

Maré Island – Where the Time Stands Still 

I need to confess that I had not heard (or rather paid attention to) about the island Mare, until I booked my ticket one week prior to the departure date of a cruise bound to South Pacific Islands. So it is only reasonable to explain where it is located before I dive into the details of my journey.

Maré Island (or Nengone) is the second-largest of the Loyalty Islands, in the archipelago of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean which features the world’s largest lagoon and second largest great barrier reef. A former coral atoll, Mare has been lifted about 120 meters and the interior of the island is the former lagoon, surrounded by a rim of higher land that was the ring of reef islets.

The population of Maré is about 6900, of mainly Melanesian heritage (less than 2% of the population is of European ancestry). The indigenous language is Nengoné but French is spoken everywhere. Even though New Caledonia has the currency CFP franc(XPF), AUD is accepted everywhere and change is also returned in AUD most of the places. With the tropical weather, Cruises operate throughout the year, January & March being the rainy months.

Apparently, English signboards started appearing in Mare only after the opening up of the island to the Australian cruise ships way back in 2013.

What to do in Mare, New Caledonia

How to Reach Mare

  • Multiple cruise lines operate between major ports of Australia and Mare. P&O and Carnival Cruises are quite popular and I think cruising is the best & hassle free option to reach the island.
  • Flights are available from Noumea in Port Vila to Mare.
  • Ferry Services are available from Noumea & Mare Island (Tadine bay). Since there is only one Ferry company operating as of now,  the schedules are limited and do not run daily. So it is better to book it in advance.

How to reach Mare?

Where to Stay if you are not visiting via Cruise

Mare being a small island, there are not many options for accommodation. The only hotel/resort I could find was Nengone Village Hotel. The other options are home stays which can be found here.

Getting Around

  • Rental cars are available in Mare and can be found here
  • Locals are friendly and asking around could help you to organize a local trip, but it is quite possible that they may not explain in detail but will just take you to the places. So better to set expectations.
  • At Tadine Bay, scooter hire is available as well.

Rocky pools of Mare

I was on the Christmas Cruise of P&O. On a bright & sunny day, the ship anchored around 500 meters away from the Tadine Bay.  Cruises transport the people to the Tadine Bay via tenders which are nothing but small boats. These boats run from the start of the day till the cruise leaves so that you can get off and leave as and when you want. This flexibility helps you to plan your day better in case if you want to go out only for a short time or depending on the weather conditions. This is great considering that you would not enjoy these small islands overcrowded with 2000 cruise travelers at a time!

The ride from the ship to the bay can get rocky depending on the tides however, we had a smooth one. The impressive first sight of Mare has the coconut tree lined, rocky edges overlooking the crystal clear turquoise water. We were thrilled.  When we got off,  we were welcomed by the natives singing beautiful welcome songs. Very expected out of an island which is highly dependent on the cruise ship income!

One thing or its absence which I got used to in this trip is the signboards or the incorrectness of it.  Since it was not new to me it was more of an awareness than of a trouble!

Coconut lines pathways - Mare

1. Visit Natural Aquarium

Natural Aquarium was the first stop. However, the ship did not offer any trips here. The polite lady at the counter in Tadine bay advised us it is 45 mins away and directed us towards the right side of the port, the road along the bay.  Since most of the cruise travelers had left for Yedjele beach there were only two other families and us who chose to walk our ways to the natural aquarium.

Abandoned House - Mare The walk was alongside the coconut farms, tropical wildflowers, abandoned huts & crystal blue rock pools.

Natural Aquarium - Mare

There are no clear signboards however with the explorer intuitions, not very difficult to find it. 50M off the road on the right-hand side, the protected aquarium has crystal clear water with the abundance of fishes and is not open for swimming, partially for preserving the reefs as all as for protecting the swimmers from the razor-sharp reefs.

Natural Aquarium - Mare

It is a beautiful location, but not a lot to do apart from soaking yourself in the beauty of it!

Wanderer’s Tip: Scooters are available for hire at the bay for AUD $40 for 4 hours (!)

2. Swim in the Yedjele Beach

This is the major attraction in Mare and the cruises usually offer return shuttle service from Tadine Bay to the beach for around AUD $20. Though we attempted to walk from the aquarium to the beach we ended up taking the lift offered by a kind bus driver.  We realized the length of the walk (10+km) only after that. So unless you really intend to walk that distance, it may not be a great idea!

Beach as such is very beautiful and pristine and perfect for snorkeling, crowded of course by the cruise ship travelers.

We also managed to drag some curious eyes when we started to scoop out the flesh of the coconuts which they sold on the beach! Being from a tropical place, after we finish drinking the coconut water, we always ask them to cut it open so that we can scoop out the flesh . Looks like that was not very familiar with our cruisemates ! …

Yedjele Beach - Mare

Facilities include chair hires, showers, open-air barbeques & beers. The beach has good vibes with the Reggae influenced local music and the cheerful people!

Yedjele Beach - Mare

Wanderer’s Tip: If you plan to club the day with a bit of sightseeing and the beach it would be better to reach the beach in the second half as the morning rush would be over by then.

Wanderer’s Tip:  There are Blue Bottle Jellyfishes in the water and the beach. If stung, the locals & the authorities are available to provide vinegar or anything else needed (it is not that bad, but better to be cautious)

3. Snorkel the Turquoise Waters

Mare is great for Snorkelling. You can snorkel either at Eni beach or Yedjele Beach. Even close to the shore you can see fishes, not extremely colorful but still, they are there. To see better coral reefs, you have to cross the buoy. Yes, you need to be a confident swimmer for that ( at least more confident than me !).

Natural Aquarium 3

Wanderer’s Tip: Snorkelling gear is available on the beach for AUD $5 ( no need to pay the exorbitant price, hiring it on the ship). Even better if you bring your own if you are on the cruise visiting multiple islands.

4. Try out the Beer of New Caledonia

There is no beer specific to Mare. However, the local beer of New Caledonia is No.1 which is available in almost all the shops. Wherever I visit since local beer is on my list, had to try one at Mare and I loved it. Not sure if it was the beer or the vibes though!

Beer of New Caledonia

Wanderer’s Tip: Since most of the costs for food/beer etc come around AUD $5, it would be a good idea to carry smaller denominations. ( if the cruise receptionist is in a good mood, you can get some !)

5. Enjoy the colorful Markets

Everything about Mare was colorful. Be it the container at the Tadine Bay or the turquoise water or the Sarongs for sale!

There are beachside shops and food stalls at the Yedjele beach selling chicken on the skewers(“brochette”), other food items & beer (I didn’t enjoy the french fries though as it was oily & a bit cold)

Markets of Mare

The ambiance of this primitive island was great with friendly locals,  kids making friends with the tourists, the Kanak music, colorful clothes & the smell of open-air barbeque. The stalls offer hair braiding also. By the end of the cruise, you will have a lot of people with braided hair on the ship.

They sold sarongs, dresses & other souvenirs at the stalls in Tadine Bay as well as at the Yedjele beach.

Colourful Markets of Mare

6. Get a Massage

There are a couple of small huts in the Yedjele Beach for massages just like any other island location. Then, why not do a great massage on the Beach?

7. Taste Bougna 

Now, this is something I missed.

Bougna is a traditional Kanak dish which is made by wrapping seafood & underground roots( yam, sweet potato, taro etc)  in a banana leaf and then baked in the ground oven heated by red-hot bricks. Eni Tours arrange an opportunity to have Bougna. I could not see it anywhere on the beach though!

That was the end of my trip to Mare.

Overall, Mare is a great location to visit.

It was impressive to realize that this location is scaled up for tourist visits with very little investments ensuring the preservation of the land by preventing any major developments ( such as hotels or other amenities). Most of the tourists being from the cruise, the government makes sure they bring in the tourist revenue during the daytime and leave the place by evening!

What I liked the best was the “Island Time”.. how fresh and pristine the beaches were, how happy and lovely the locals were… I am not sure how much of opportunities those kids will get living in an isolated corner of the world, but one thing I am sure is that they were having the fun of a lifetime playing in the beach as fearless souls, even after the blue bottle jellyfish bites!

The ones I could not go

Visiting the wonderful Bone hole/Sinkhole(vertical cave hollowed out in the limestone rocks), Shabardran Terraces  & swimming with the turtles at the Turtle Bay are few things which I did not get an opportunity to do.  Maybe the reason for a second visit!

Also in my research, I found below spots as well justifying a longer stay in Mare !. I don’t have more information, but could be useful if you are planning for a longer stay!

  • Pede bay (a small inlet nestled in the rock, an ideal spot to snorkel), Vanilla plantation in Hnawayac or Tenant, The cultural center and the village of La Roche, The warrior’s leap, Pethoen cave (access by a small trail through the forest where a freshwater cave covered by stalactites is hidden), 3-beach trail, Roh(a historic monument dedicated to the arrival of the gospel on the island), Patho, Kurine, Wabao & Eni beaches.

There are few tours available on New Caledonia website which covers few of these locations.

Wanderer’s Tip: If you are exploring by yourself, it is important that you ask the permission of locals as that is the polite way.

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How I found time for this trip?

As this blog focuses on Part-Time Travelers, I thought I will detail how I found time for this trip

Since last year I have been thinking about a South Pacific trip.  In my previous article about why cruising is so popular, I have detailed the reasons why cruising is a great idea to travel to these islands. So I decided to use my annual furlough during December on a 10 day Cruise to the South Pacific Islands.

For those who expect some business calls even on holidays, probably cruising is a not a good idea as the connectivity can get tricky.  So I chose the best time I could be disconnected from work as well as all online activities (which was a very good idea!)

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Things to do in Mare Island

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35 comments

  1. A cruise of South Pacific Islands from anywhere in Australia sounds like a great idea. My daughter has migrated to Melbourne so I will have time to do such a cruise. However, it sounds like you missed so many things on the island. I might research how I can stay there for a longer time.

    1. That is great to hear . Yes I guess it would be good if you could find an option to stay for longer. I think that is the downside of traveling by cruise. Even if we have more things to see, we are compelled to leave!

  2. Mare Island is a true island paradise, if ever there was one. I have seen many gorgeous beaches in my lifetime but this has captivated me still. I love that it is relatively unknown – which means you can enjoy the island minus the tourists. The photos just keep getting better and better as I scroll down!

    1. Yes it is . The tourists you see there are the cruise travellers. So pretty much you tend to see the untouched island and the natives. Thanks for your comment on photos.

  3. I never heard of Mare Island and I would love to take a Carnival cruise there. It seems like the easiest way to experience it. The color of the water is so beautiful, and I think those trees are magnificent.

    1. Agree, taking a cruise would be a good idea. I have never been on carnival , but have heard from friends that Carnival crises have better food options than P&O. I too would love to try Carnival some day .

  4. Going on a cruise is a great way to visit many small beautiful island such as Maré island and I yes I am sooo jelous right now! Reading your post makes me want to cry because where I am right now is raining cats and dogs…ever since November!!
    But to be honest, I would be frustrated to be on such a beautiful island and I have to leave very shortly after..I guess thats the downfall with going with a cruise ship. That said, it is still better than not to have set foot on the island at all!

    1. Yes , that is the downfall of travelling by cruise. But we can conveniently try to ignore that considering we get a good oppurtunity travelling by cruise 🙂 . Hope the weather gets better for you soon !

  5. I’ve never heard of this place until now! I’d love to swim in those turquoise waters. And yes, those markets are really colourful!

  6. Colorful markets, amazing food, bright clear water and… a good beer. Mare Island sounds as a paradise on earth, I never heard about it before and now, well, I am looking for a way to get there! Nice post, thanks for sharing

  7. Mare looks a little bit like parts of my adopted country, but cleaner, and less developed, It’s a really good place for cruises to stop and I’m happy you took the opportunity to do some shopping because I bet there’s not much work for the people there. Loved the pics of the aquarium and lagoons!

    1. Hi Dan , you mean Indonesia ? Could be because of the tropical nature. Yea I am a minimalist, usually dont shop much . But giving back to communities especially when they are heavily dependent on tourism seems like a great thing to do and so I do it , Thanks for your comment.

  8. I had to Google this place to find out where it was, as the South Pacific is still very new to me. The water looks absolutely amazing and I would just LOVE to snorkel around! And a massage on the beach sounds amazing as well. I’d love to check out the colorful markets too!

  9. I had never heard of Mare before but it sounds lovely! And that water- could it be any dreamier? I would absolutely love to enjoy a beer and get a massage by the water!

  10. This looks like a beautiful place to visit and it’s great that tourism isn’t spoiling the place. I’d also never heard of it but it’s definitely be a cruise I would consider

  11. I haven’t heard of Mare either, but I’ve visited New Caledonia before and loved it – such a beautiful region! I’m close by in Australia, so could definitely pick up a cruise – thanks for the heads up to check P&O or Carnival. The Natural Aquarium is stunning – that’s turquoise water if I’ve ever seen it! I love that it’s an authentic experience to being able to interact with the locals at the markets. And that even though they’ve scaled up the island for tourism, that the environment hasn’t suffered because of it. Glad you had a fabulous trip!

    1. Hi Megan , which places did you end up visiting . I have a feeling that I would be going back to New Caledonia, because there is so much more to see. Yes , I was pleasantly impressed by the fact that they have scaled up for the toursim without impacting the nature . What a great way of doing it .

  12. But you have to eat the fresh coconut flesh when you’re done with the milk 🙂 Do most people just toss the coconut at that point? Oh and that water. It’s so beautiful. I’ve never heard of Mare Island so am looking it up for even more info. The Natural Aquarium is also amazing andsuch a great way to see the local water creatures.

  13. I love Island vacations and this looks one picture perfect island to go to !! All your pictures are so amazing that makes me want to go there right away. Thanks for sharing .

  14. I confess, I haven’t heard of Mare Island either but it looks gorgeous! Makes you wonder, there are so many of these hidden gems everywhere, places you’ve even heard of which are breathtakingly beautiful!I would love to be on a cruise that takes me here, the turquoise waters are absolutely the best.

  15. I had never heard of Mare Island, but now I want to go! The South Pacific in general looks so beautiful, and this is no exception–the color of the water at Tadine Bay is simply astounding! I’d love to check out the Natural Aquarium as well.

  16. Hey Rohini, firstly hi and hope you are doing well. It has definitely been a really long time since college.
    Wow, it is the first time I am hearing about Mare Island. This looks such a perfect island to spend a day in during your South Pacific cruise.I would definitely love to go snorkelling in those turquoise waters.Yes, just get a drink and relax all day at the beach. My ideal kind of vacation.

  17. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen water so green–that’s really the color? Brilliant. I think that would be a good island to rent a scooter on; i can’t imagine being cooped up in a car on those roads.

  18. Ahhh, there are so many hidden beautiful wonders of the world. I had to google Mare Island to really figure out where it is located. The waters are so beautiful. It’s snowing here today and after reading this post all I’m thinking is how I can get to a sunny beautiful island and relax. I’ll def look into visiting as I love undiscovered places. Fewer tourists = more fun.
    By the way, how was the food?

  19. I had absolutely no clue where Mare Island is. I could have easily thought it to be somewhere in South East Asia or the Carribien. The watercolor and beaches look insane. Would love to take the Carnival Cruise. Looks like you had a lot of fun.

  20. I’d definitely want to stay here a little longer. Loved learning about Mare Island as I had never heard of it before. Would be great to experience the fresh air cruising around on the island and just relaxing on that beach. oh the water – so beautiful.

  21. Just like you, I never heard of Mare, but it looks like the perfect place to relax and unwind. Not only because the waters are crystal clean but because it looks so peaceful and heavenly!

  22. wow this is my kind of place!!! It really looks like the Caribbean, great post loads of information, makes me want to pack my bags now!!

  23. What a stunning location! I must admit I’d never heard of Mare Island, and certainly didn’t know that it boasted the world’s largest lagoon and second largest great barrier reef! It’s been years since I’ve visited Oceania and this definitely is inspiration to return and do more exploring!

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