Gin-clear water so bolt-bright, you almost have to look away. Crystalline beaches framed by a Jurassic landscape unmarred by high-rise or hype and rendered all the more moody by colonial and convict-era reminders. Underwater vistas that verge on psychedelic. Although L’Ile des Pins (let’s face it, everything sounds more suave and sultry in French) lies only a few hours from Australia’s east coast, this gem-hued lacework of lagoons, powdery sand and fringing islets promises otherworldly pleasures.
On this delightfully compact island, the local Kunié people cherish their traditional lifestyle and welcome visitors warmly. Join them as they don sherbet-hued Sunday best and strum guitars for a spine-tingling sing-along at the historic Mission Church. Nearby, at Baie De St Joseph, the elegant sails of traditional outrigger canoes slice the horizon. This is the place to launch into the quintessential Isle of Pines journey: stretched out on a pirogue, gliding past glassy bays on the way to the magnificent Baie d’Oro – a compelling expanse of electric-aqua overlooked by the island’s signature pines – or an uninhabited island.
On Terra Firma, cycling is the most engaging and aptly-paced way to take in frequent swoon–stops and the blissful solitude of unpeopled beaches. For wind- in-the-hair sensuality, ride a horse along the longer, casuarina-fringed beaches. When energy levels abate and a Gallic twist is called for, motor scooters are widely available.
Short strolls reward with seductive scenes: there’s Pic N’ga, from where you can ogle whole island vistas and layer-upon-layer of fringing blues, or the tidal intrigues of Kuto Peninsula’s coral platform. A wade through an ankle deep inlet at Oro Bay, through forests thick with birds and butterflies, leads to the vast aquarium the locals refer to as the Natural Swimming Pool. Words: Melissa Rimac.
Need to Know
DO: bring picnic supplies (bread can be purchased on the island) and a bottle of wine from Noumea, along with reef shoes.
DON’T: dismiss this gem as a day–trip: to ease yourself into the somnolent pace and to allow for contemplative exploration, set aside at least several days.
COUPLES WILL LOVE: strolling to secret slivers of white sand accessible only on foot, such as the trail from the Le Meridien to Upi Bay and from Kuto Beach to Rollers Bay. Gazing at a velvet black sky streaked with distant galaxies and toast to the replenishing soundtrack of the Pacific hurling itself at the reef.
WINE AND DINE: at Chez Regis, a rustic, sandy feet affair serving Melanesian dishes in a glorious setting.