Exposition permanenteMusée MaritimeThe golden age of sea travel

The story of the Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes is the stuff of dreams. For many, the name is suggestive of sea cruises to fabulous exotic destinations.

During the course of more than a century, the Compagnie's vessels evolved to meet the expectations of its passengers, and to transform the exhausting and occasionally terrifying long-distance journeys by sea into unforgettable comfortable cruises, enlivened with stopovers in mythical locations and a wealth of on-board entertainment.

On February 5, 1882, the ship M/V Natal sailed from Marseille bound for New Caledonia. The journey took 53 days. By the end of the 19th century, the Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes had become one of the major elements of the French presence throughout the world, providing a regular link between France and its colonial empire. This was to last nearly one hundred years until the Compagnie was wound up in 1971.

Exhibition starts on nov 2021.



Temporary exhibition from September 15 2018

On First Floor

In New Caledonia, with its large forests, a new expertise on ship building appeared in the mid-nineteenth century introduced by European settlers, alongside traditional canoes which had been built by Kanak for centuries.

Since then, several shipyards were established all around New Caledonia but Noumea, and more precisely around Baie de la Moselle, was where the activity reached its peak in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1970s modern materials replaced wood and the business, little by little, slowed down.

With its unusual scenography, this exhibition shows a great range of marine carpenter tools and relates the evolution and the rich expertise of the marine carpenters, who for generations marked the history of New Caledonia navigation.

The text of this exhibition has been translated into english.


Earliest settlement in New Caledonia

Temporary Exhibition from August 26 to October 8 2017

The word Lapita originally came from the name "Xapetaa", a site near Koné, on the West coast of New Caledonia. It primarily defined a ceramic tradition that appeared dramatically around 1350 BCE in the Bismarck Archipelago and featured complex geometric and anthromorphic dotted decorations on pottery of unusual shapes.

Around 1250 BCE, keepers of the Lapita tradition, at that point of mixed parentage with pre-Austronesian groups of the Bismarck Archipelago, left Northern Melanesia to reach the boundary of known lands, South of The Solomon Islands, close to Oceania.

Probably driven by a strong tradition of maritime explorations, they were the first to seek out unknown areas of the Southwest Pacific, after 200 miles of sailing eastwards, they discovered the Reef and Santa-Cruz Islands, first untapped lands of a great region, which would later be defined as Remote Oceania.




Temporary Exhibition from September 2nd till October 30th 2016


This exhibition is the result of a shared work between the Escoffier Vocational High School and the Maritime Museum of New Caledonia. It invites you to walk around different locations of a 18th century ship from the hold up to the officers' table and to discover the living conditions on board. 

Smell, taste and share the officers' refined meals or the sailors' ration. Learn about the cooking, the health conditions and the food and water supplying on board. 


Special Exhibition November 14th 2015 to March 13th 2016

Six years after France took possession of New Caledonia, the budding colony's maritime traffic was beginning to suffer from a lack of aids to navigation. In 1861, the Lights and Buoys Commission in Paris decided to commission the building of a lighthouse. This new beacon was to be built of cast-iron and set on Amédée Island, a small islet on the barrier reef, on the edge of Boulari Pass. The design was entrusted to Mr Léonce Reynaud, noted architect and engineer, and construction began in 1861 in Paris.

The structure was first assembled in Paris for testing, then (1864) dismantled and shipped to New Caledonia in pieces, onboard the Emile Pereire. The voyage took five months to reach Port-de-France (the earlier name of Noumea). The new lighthouse was erected on the site under the management of engineer Stanislas Bertin.

On November 15, 1865, Mrs Guillain, wife of Governor Guillain, ceremoniously lit the new lighthouse's lamp for the first time.

The exhibition can bee seen on the ground floor of the Musée Maritime