LGBTI travellers looking for a bit of French glamour with a summery, relaxing twist — without needing to take the long haul flight to the French Riviera — may want to consider visiting New Caledonia.

[showads ad=MREC]An emerging destination for LGBTI travellers, New Caledonia — or Nouvelle Caledonie as the locals call it — has it all: tropical resorts; a year-round pleasant climate; chic European sophistication seamlessly interweaved with local Melanesian culture; top-tier dining and shopping; spectacular UNESCO World Heritage-listed landscapes; beaches and lagoons; and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

What’s more, it’s only a four-hour flight from Melbourne, three hours from Sydney or two hours from Brisbane. And with many direct flights available, there’s never been an easier way to leave Australia in the morning and arrive in time for dinner in what is an official territory of France.

Caronline Brunel, an Australian-based representative from New Caledonia Tourism, says the island has lots of visible LGBTI people living there.

“It is a very safe, very LGBT-friendly destination [with] open, accepting and welcoming local people,” she says.

“All kinds of LGBT people are here — married couples, French travellers, people from different native tribes, those travelling through, etc.”

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Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, also has an emerging gay scene that features a community resource centre, gay-owned nightclubs, and waterfront restaurants flying the rainbow flag.

However, while Brunel highlights that the local LGBTI community is integrated well into New Caledonia’s wider community, there are still several events held that cater to LGBTI locals and visitors alike.

“The LGBT not-for-profit organisation, Homosphere, often organise New Caledonia events for LGBT audiences,” Brunel says.

“Last year, the Rainbow Party was held on Duck Island. 700 LGBT-friendly people — the maximum capacity for the island — congregated for a massive party surrounded by blue waters and drenched in sunshine.

“The 2016 Rainbow Party will be held on March 12 next year, and attendees should book tickets early to avoid missing out.

“A special gay week project is also in the pipeline for around May, with more information to come shortly.”

Brunel also says that because it’s under French jurisdiction, marriage tourism for same-sex couples is also on the rise.

“Gay marriage for French residents is legal here, which is a huge win for the destination,” she says.

“LGBT wedding ceremonies in New Caledonia really are something different and special.”

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One of the biggest attractions of New Caledonia is the Isle of Pines, which is not far from Noumea on the main island of Grande Terre. It’s best to stay a night or two here, and whether you want five-star lodging or to camp out under 5000 stars, this is best the place to snorkel in a natural aquarium and take a short walk in the rainforest.

Other easy trips from Noumea are to Amedee Lighthouse, Blue River National Park or Duck Island, or you can easily spend the day at Noumea’s city centre or various beaches. The whole main island is easy to drive around and self-explore, too.

There’s also the option of taking a trip by air or sea to the New Caledonia’s outer islands of Mare, Lifou and Ouvea. Each is perfect in its own right, with Kanak villages and traditions, and each open to LGBTI travellers who want a chance to interact with indigenous people and culture.

There’s clearly so much more to what meets the eye in New Caledonia, so it’s no surprise that’s it’s known as the “jewel of the Pacific”.

For more information, visit www.new-caledonia.com.au

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