We were back on the mainland having just spent two incredibly relaxing days on Îlot Maître. It was now time to swap our flippers for hiking shoes and venture out into New Caledonia‘s great south. The Great South comprises the municipalities of Yaté and Mont-Dore. We’d spent one day driving through the centre of Yaté already but we were yet to catch a glimpse of New Caledonia‘s most famous mountain.
We set out on the road headed east from Nouméa and about 40 minutes later, we spotted the enormous Mont-Dore. After eventually finding the start of the trail, we parked the car, slathered on sunblock and began our hike.
Although the mountain looked lush and green from the ground, this was almost all shrubbery and provided very little shade. Somehow we had also picked the hottest day of the week to embark on this hike. Needless to say we were rather hot!
The scenery is spectacular, providing panoramic views of the Baie de Murari. The colours are incredible; think green mountains, red dirt and the bluest sky you’ve ever seen. This is the quintessential landscape of the great south but it never ceased to take my breath away.
We arrived back at the car, albeit sweatier than I care to admit and continued our journey. We were headed toward the old town of Prony.
The drive from Mont-Dore to Prony is a spectacular one where the road winds up mountains overlooking pine plantations and then dips into shallow creeks that you literally have to drive right through to cross.
Named after the ship that landed there, Prony became a mining and logging town to support the development of Nouméa back in the 19th century. It was later abandoned and many of the buildings left to crumble. Since then, it has been lovingly restored by a dedicated team of locals.
This is truly one of those off-the-beaten-track places to visit. When we arrived we were the only ones there and we had the ruins entirely to ourselves.
Prony is a sublime place. In parts, banyan trees have entirely swallowed up the ruins. A solitary taxi boat is docked in the bay. Apparently there is one local who drives this taxi to a nearby island on request.
After thoroughly exploring the ruins it was time to head back to Nouméa but we just couldn’t resist the opportunity to take the long way home and drive past Lac de Yaté once again.
This time we found a little spot where we could walk right out onto the dried-up lake and really appreciate the sublimity of the place.
What you need to know:
How to get to Mont-Dore…
Mont-Dore is about a 40 minute drive from central Nouméa. Finding the entrance to the hiking track up Mont-Dore isn’t easy. I couldn’t find it marked on any map but we knew it had to be situated off Route de la Corniche – which it is, but this is a massive road that goes right around the mountain.
We were about to give up when we saw a little sign pointing up an unassuming residential street simply reading sentier (trail). So keep an eye out for this sign. From there you just park your car at the end of the street where the track begins.
How long and how difficult is the hike up Mont-Dore?
The trail is 7.3km long and takes approximately 4.5 hours because it is rather steep in parts.
The dirt can be slippery so bring shoes with good grip. There’s also very little shade making it challenging in hot weather. Best to be prepared with sunblock and a whole lot of water.
When is it best to hike Mont-Dore?
Don’t go when it’s raining or has recently rained at the track will be slippery. It’s best to go a somewhat cooler or overcast day if possible. Having said that it was 35˚C (95˚F) when we went.
How to get to the old village of Prony…
It’s about a 90 minute drive east of Nouméa but with all the stops we made to take photos and walk around, it honestly took us about 3 hours (that’s not including our hike up Mont-Dore). Simply follow the route du s all the way there, it’s well signed.
When is the best time to visit Prony?
Given the nature of the road – in some parts you have to drive through shallow creeks – I wouldn’t recommend this trip if it is raining or has been raining.