What to Do in Jersey, the Biggest of the Channel Islands
The great thing about living in/travelling through the UK, is there is no shortage of places to visit for a day trip. You can keep it local, or you can hop on a train/plane for a short trip somewhere, for not very much cost at all.
Jersey, the biggest of the Channel Islands, seemed like the perfect destination for a weekend escape. There are plenty of things to do in Jersey, that will suit any traveller – especially those who have a great interest in nature and history. And failing that, fancy a few hours of sunshine at the beach.
This Channel Island is pretty tiny and extremely easy to drive around, if you’re not opposed to tiny, country roads. Luckily, I had driven around Ireland two years previously, where I learnt how to deal with this.
Let’s kick off this post with some facts about the biggest of the Channel Islands, followed on by a few suggestions of what to do in Jersey.
Fun Facts About Jersey
It’s not imperative to know these things about Jersey before visiting it, but we’ll cover them because learning is fun.
- Jersey is 22.5 kilometres (14 miles) from France. Yet, the English population on the island outweighs the French by a long mile.
- Eight islands make up the Channel archipelago – Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou and Lihou.
- Jersey use sterling as their currency – yet they have their own printed notes.
- The island is only 14 kilometres (9 miles) wide.
- The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by the Germans in WWII.
How to Make the Most of Your Trip to the Island
There are two ways you can get to Jersey from mainland UK and France.
You can fly. Duh.
Or, you can take a ferry! They department from the UK via the town of Poole (maybe you could venture there after spending a few days checking out the Jurassic Coast).
In France you are spoilt for choice. You can visit the largest Channel Island from three different ports – St Malo, Granville and Carteret. St Malo is your best bet, with a five times a day service to the capital of St Helier.
Jersey is tiny, in every sense of the word, but extremely drivable. In fact, I’d recommend hiring a car at the airport, grabbing a map and hitting the road. Although most towns and streets are French in name, cars drive on the left hand side of the road.
So, if you’re from the UK you’ll feel right at home. If you’re Australian, you’ll get upset at how tiny the roads are, but I dealt with it, so you will too.
If you’re not a fan of driving, or don’t have a licence, there are buses, with frequent stops littered across the main roads.
Parking is a bit of a pain, with some odd rules in place. I’ve decided that car hire in Jersey is a topic that deserves its own blog post, so keep an eye out for it.
Where to Stay
Saint Helier is the capital of Jersey, located in the south of the island. We chose to stay in an Airbnb about a twenty minute walk out of town. The space was lovely and we were fortunate enough to not have too many issues with parking.
If I were to do my time again, I would probably want to stay somewhere a bit more picturesque. If you have a hire car, you’d be absolutely fine to do this. In fact, I found parking to be far less of a nightmare in other parts of the island, when compared to St Helier.
My two picks would be either the small seaside village of Gorey, or one of the most popular beaches, St Brelade’s Bay. Both are rather easy on the eye.
Or for something completely different, you could look at staying at Durrell Wildlife Park. Visitors have the option of either glamping on site, or staying at the park’s hostel. Admittedly, looking at the glamping pods now, I’m feeling a tinge of regret… I love glamping!
When to Visit
Jersey is known as being the sunniest place in the British Isles. Although this is amongst a cluster of islands that are notorious for their bad weather.
We visited in late August. The sun was shining in a cloudless sky and it was a barmy 29 degrees. I was repeatedly told by locals that it was the best weather they’d had all summer.
Although the weather was good, it was still summer holidays and so was quite busy. If I had my time again, I’d probably hit the island a mere two weeks later, in early September. I imagine the weather would still be quite nice, but you wouldn’t have to compete with the crowds, or have your ears constantly ringing with the sound of screaming children.
What to do in Jersey
Now. Onto the good stuff. What on earth is there to do in Jersey?
Quite a lot, as it turns out.
Durrell Wildlife Park
On the top of my list was a visit to Durrell Wildlife Park. The park is named after its founder, conservationist and author Gerald Durrell and was formerly known as Jersey Zoo.
Durrell has been making strides in the conservation world for fifty years now, doing their best to save species from extinction. One of their success stories includes the Pink Pigeon, which hails from the island nation of Mauritius (also where the Dodo once walked, which now serves as the park’s symbol). In 1991, there was only 10 left in the world. The population now numbers almost 500, thanks to the park’s efforts.
I could go on about Durrell all day, but I’ll restrain myself from doing so at this point in time. Look out for more information about the park in a future blog post.
Mont Orgueil Castle, Gorey
Jersey is teeming with castles and ruins. Mont Orgueil in Gorey is one of the most picturesque and intact.
Entry is £12.15 for adults and £7.40 for both children and students. We didn’t go in. Instead, we surveyed the castle from the outside, then walked down a hill to a tiny and secluded beach at the foot of the structure.
Elizabeth Castle, St Helier
To be honest, the bit about visiting Elizabeth Castle that I’m most interested in has nothing to do with the structure itself – it’s how you get there that sounds most exciting.
To access the castle, you have two choices, which depend entirely on the tide.
In high tide, you can take the Castle Ferry onto the grounds. However, in low tide you can access the castle by walking along the causeway.
Entry is £13.25 (£9.85 for students and kids) for thecastle and ferry, or £10.70 (£7.30) for castle access only.
Jersey has a heritage pass, which provides visitors with entry to 4 attractions, for the price of 3.
Jersey Lavender Farm
How cool are lavender fields? About a hundred. A sight for the summer, the fields are located in St Brelades and are at their bestest and brightest from June to mid-August.
Go to the Beach
Self-explanatory. Jersey is littered with beaches, which in turn feature relics from its period of German occupation. My two favourites were the aforementioned St Brelades and St Ouens.
Here are some other ideas for things to do in Jersey, if you fancy adding more activities to your list.
Where to Eat
Do you like seafood? Well, you’re going to like Jersey.
I enjoyed pretty much every morsel of food that passed over my lips, while on the island. I scarfed down a plate of Fruits de Mer (pictured) at Quayside Bistro in St. Helier, which has a lovely view over the town’s harbour.
We spent the next evening at St Aubin, indulging in even more seafood at the Salty Dog.
Eating out at Jersey is on the expensive side – expect standard UK prices.
Even more good stuff! Beach holidays and reading go hand in hand, no?
My Family and Other Animals
The first part of what is known as Gerald Durrell’s Corfu Trilogy, details his family’s move from rainy England to sunny Corfu in the 1930s.
It was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic account of the natural history of the island, but I made a grave mistake by introducing my family into the book in the first few pages.
– Gerald Durrell
Durrell was a master of language (which makes sense, as his older brother Lawrence was a celebrated poet and novelist). His characterisation of family members, friends around the island and the animals they encountered will have you in stitches. There’s Archilles the turtle with his ardent love of strawberries. Geronimo, the gecko who took on a giant Mantis and lived to tell the tale. The Magenpies who take a particular joy in devastating Larry’s room. Not to mention Gerry’s loyal companion Roger the dog, who is somehow able to both tolerate and refrain from eating every animal that crosses over into his territory.
This book packed a double punch for me. I visited the island of Corfu in late 2015. Durrell’s book brought back happy memories of our time spent there.BUY ‘MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS’ ON AMAZON.
Against the Tide
As far as modern history goes, the Channel Islands have an interesting background. They were the only part of the British Isles to fall victim to German occupation and weren’t liberated until 9 May 1945, four months before the war ended.
Against the Tide tells the story of 18 year old Jack Renouf, in 1939 before the outbreak of WWII. Jack makes a mess of his love life, plays water polo, mucks up at school and gets involved with his Communist Uncle, to the chagrin of his family. It’s a coming of age story told within the setting of a country that is on the brink of war and foreign invasion.BUY ‘AGAINST THE TIDE’ ON AMAZON.
Left of the Bang
Claire Lowdon’s debut novel is set in London, rather than Jersey, but makes for an excellent beach read. We follow the story of failing concert pianist Tamsin Jarvis. She’s estranged from her famous father and quietly bored of her relationship with older school teacher Callum. Then, a figure from her past appears back in her life. Chris is an army recruit who has been fixated on Tamsin since they met at age 17 and is just months away from serving in Afghanistan.
As Tamsin well knows, life in your twenties is tough. You don’t quite know your place in the world, nor what you should be doing with your life. Should you work that failsafe job, or pursue your passion? Should you follow your head, or listen to your libido in matters of the heart? When the world is your oyster, how can you ever know what you want out of life? Can you make a decision and then have the resolve to see it through – and live with the repercussions of your actions?
This was a compelling read, one which I struggled to put down (so I didn’t, finishing it at some daft time of the morning).BUY ‘LEFT OF THE BANG’ ON AMAZON.
Jersey is a beautiful stretch of land, with a rich and interesting history. Whether you go for the animals, for the heritage, or even for a weekend escape to the beach – you won’t regret any time spent in the sunniest place in the British Isles.
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