New Caledonia is very much a colony of France comprising dozens of islands in the South Pacific. It’s known for its palm-lined beaches and marine-life-rich lagoon, which, at 24,000-sq.-km, is among the world’s largest. A massive barrier reef surrounds the main island, Grand Terre, a major scuba-diving destination. The capital, Nouméa, is home to French-influenced restaurants and luxury boutiques selling Parisian fashions.
Vanuatu made up of roughly 80 islands that stretch 1,300 kilometres. The islands offer scuba diving at coral reefs, underwater caverns and wrecks such as the WWII-era troopship SS President Coolidge. Harborside Port Vila, the nation’s capital and economic centre, is on the island of Efate. The city is home to the Vanuatu National Museum, which explores the nation’s Melanesian culture.