La Chute de la Madeleine was definitely one of the more well-known waterfalls in New Caledonia. I suspect the reason why this was the case was because of its relative close proximity to the city of Noumea, which itself was certainly the busiest and most populated part of New Caledonia. That said, this waterfall was in an area that appeared to be refreshingly devoid of development so we actually got to experience this falls in a seemingly remote and picturesque part of the Grande Terre Island. What really stood out to us about the waterfall was that it was a wide block-type waterfall, which seemed to be very unusual for waterfalls in tropical islands. Moreover, the red dirt that was prevalent in the far south also contrasted with the greenery. While the falls itself wasn’t very big (maybe about 5m tall or so), the overall experience and the picturesque settings (as you can see in the photo above) were what made this excursion very memorable.
From the well-signed car park and reserve (see directions below), we walked the red dirt path towards a totem-guarded kiosk. During our visit, the kiosk itself was unattended, but I’d imagine in busier times, someone might be here collecting a fee (I’ve read this is typically 400 CFP per person). We then had an immediate choice of paths to take, but we kept right immediately after the kiosk. After passing by a few more interpretive signs, we then reached another junction, where we opted to go right as the sign pointed this way to the falls. It turned out that we also could’ve gone left, but we would eventually come back that way to complete the lollipop loop that we wound up doing.
After a few more minutes, we reached another junction, where going left would’ve taken us to the Point de Vue (a more distant lookout for Chute de la Madeleine) and going right would take us closer to the waterfall itself. So we first headed right where after a short descent down some elongated steps, we’d be at the nearest frontal lookout for the falls. From this vantage point, the waterfall didn’t look particularly big nor impressive. So Julie and I kept going along the trail as it degenerated past the bridge into a scramble on reddish-black lava and rocks. Once we ascended the rough stretch of rocks, we then kept left, which led us all the way to the brink of the Chute de la Madeleine. There was no swimming allowed in the river, and access from the brink was not safely possible anyways while other potential access points were fenced off to ensure no one would go in the river.
Back on the main trail, we then walked the couple of minutes to the Point de Vue, where we were further downstream of the waterfall, but it was a much more satisfying view from a photography standpoint. This was where we took the photo at the top of this page, and as you can see, it had the nice mountain backdrop, the river leading to the falls, and plenty of green foliage contrasting the red dirt on the banks of the river. It was the kind of scenery that reminded us of just how beautiful and tranquil nature can be, even though we weren’t that far from the commotion at Noumea.
There were other trails branching from this viewpoint leading into more primitive trails that could go on for a much longer 5km loop hike (essentially tracing the steps that early botanists who have identified the species here have taken), but we opted to complete the lollipop loop to get back to the car park. Overall, we spent 55 minutes away from the car, but most of that time was spent taking pictures and just basking in the scenery. Julie and I had this place to ourselves until another couple showed up just as we returned to the car park (so they also got to experience this place for themselves).
Finally, I’ve seen different names for the Madeleine Waterfall from Chutes de la Madeleine (where they pluralized the French word chute even though there was only one waterfall here; our LP guide does this) to Cascade de la Madeleine. The singular form that I’ve chosen was what I’ve seen in the official tourism literature. I’m guessing that the name of the falls was derived from someone imagining the waterfall looking like the skirt or apron belonging to someone (else) named Madeleine.
Julie and I began our drive to the Chute de la Madeleine from Noumea South (we stayed at the Chateau Royal apartment-like suites). We followed the Promenade Pierre Vernier east (though we managed to cut across Rue G. Laroque so we didn’t have to swing all the way around the peninsula) then north as the street followed the Baie de Boulari (including several smaller bays belonging to this major bay like Baie de Sainte-Marie, Baie de Magenta, etc.). The street went through several street-name changes (becoming Voie de Degagement EST after the first roundabout, then Rue A. Daly where we turned left to keep going north, then Rue R. Gervolino after the first of the several roundabouts near the Magenta Airport). We then continued north past more roundabouts beyond the airport eventually following the roads leading to the commune of Mont-Dore.
Once we got to the RP3, we followed the signs for Yate. I recalled that there was a roundabout by a supermarket (I think it was the Casino Supermarche near Plum) some 25.5km northeast from our starting point at Southern Noumea, where I took the second exit to continue going east (had I taken the first exit, it would’ve followed the Baie de Boularis to Mont-Dore and Plum, which was not was I wanted to do). Roughly another kilometer later, there was a signposted turnoff on the left leading to Yate. Naturally, I took this route (where going straight would’ve led to Plum).
Next, the RP3 would eventually leave the developments of the Mont-Dore municipality into the red-soiled wilderness of the Plaine des Lacs, where there were turnoffs for the Parc Provincial de la Riviere Bleue (which was closed because we were visiting on a Monday). Then, the road passed by the head of the Lac de Yate, which I believe was a man-made lake due to a dam further downstream by the town of Yate all the way by the southeast coast of Grande Terre. Anyways, after about 64km of driving from Noumea South (or 36.5km northeast of the roundabout by the Casino Supermarche), we turned right at a sign indicating Chute de la Madeleine was another 11km inland.
Taking this road for about 9km (just a short distance south of the reserve at “Netcha”), we then turned left onto an unpaved red dirt access road that contained some small hidden potholes (thanks to the red dirt). Other than that, the road was pretty tame, and signs helped point us the way to where we should park. Overall this drive took us about 2 hours though admittedly, we had some head-scratching moments taking the wrong exits at the roundabouts beyond the Magenta Airport.
It should be noted that if your aim is to spend more time hiking or sightseeing and less time driving, then we don’t recommend taking the southern road past Plum. That would take you past some heavily potholed roads as well as an unsightly industrial mining area at Prony. It’s very slow driving, and it would take far longer to get to the falls this way than the way we’re outlining above.
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