WHY VISIT JERSEY?
Jersey, along with the other Channel Islands, is one of those places most of us have heard of, but not all of us could place on a map. It floats around in our subconscious as ‘another part of the British Isles’, but, for a lot of Brits, it doesn’t stand out as a must-see destination.
This might, in part, be because of its relatively small size or remote location north of Brittany and west of the Cotentin Peninsula in France. Maybe it hasn’t made such a name for itself because if Brits are going to bother to go to the effort of catching a flight, they prefer to go somewhere further afield and more exotic.
Whatever the reason, it’s both a shame and a blessing that Jersey’s tourism industry is yet to boom, but if you’re one of the lucky few to visit Jersey, you’ll discover huge stretches of pristine coastline, a plethora of adventure activities, great food and drink, friendly locals and a very relaxed vibe.
Still not convinced? Read on for 10 of the top reasons to visit Jersey.
1. GOOD WEATHER
Jersey is the most southerly part of the British Isles. While this doesn’t necessarily guarantee great weather all year round, it does mean that the average temperature is higher than most other parts of Britain. From May until the end of September, temperatures average 20 or 21ºC, with highs in the top 20s. With long, dry summer evenings, and mild winters, it has the perfect climate for exploring or just relaxing at your accommodation.
You don’t have to look far to find a beautiful cottage or converted farm barn to stay in. Le Hurel Cottages are a great choice if you want to be based centrally. They have ample parking and outdoor space, smart and modern decor, comfortable beds, and very helpful and friendly hosts.
2. FANTASTIC COASTLINE
With around 70 km of coastline, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting a beach or coastal town to visit. About 30% of the population of the island is concentrated in Saint Helier on the south of the island, but those who visit Jersey tend to opt in favour of the prettier, more secluded bays to the north and east, or the huge stretch of sand that runs along the west coast.
The north has much more rugged landscape, with cliffs, rock pools, sea caves and undulating coastal paths. It’s great for birdwatching, especially around the Plémont headland and Grosnez, where Atlantic puffins are frequently sighted between April and July.
The Devil’s Hole, just north of St Mary, is an unmissable natural geological feature. Originally known as the Creux de Vis, which translates from French to ‘the screw-hole’, this cave floods at high tide. The pressure of water forcing itself through the tunnel and out of the hole creates a booming noise that is a feature of local legends.
Further east is the delightful Bouley Bay, a harbour with deep water ideal for diving and swimming – if you don’t mind entering via a stony beach.
The east coast of Jersey is great for a morning road trip. You should be able to check out Gorey, St Catherine’s Bay and Rozel in just a few hours. Gorey – one of the larger towns – is a great place to grab a bite to eat. There’s a promenade with a selection of seafood restaurants, a large harbour and a sandy beach. History lovers can also tag on a tour of Mont Orgueil Castle. Stop off at Rozel for a snack at The Hungry Man and look out for photo opportunities along the coastal road.
Other than the capital of St Helier, most of the southern side of Jersey is formed of low-lying terrain with long sandy beaches and some rocky headlands. Of the twelve parishes that make up Jersey, St Brélade has some of the most popular bays on the island, including St Brélade’s Bay, Ouaisné, Portelet and parts of both St Ouen’s Bay and St Aubin’s Bay. At low tide, you can walk out to the lighthouse at La Corbière via a causeway. It’s one of the most picturesque on the Channel Islands and appears on the Jersey £5 note.
The west coast is best for sunsets. There are a few places to stop and catch a bite, including Big Vern’s and Le Braye. The Watersplash is a lively venue with bands, evening entertainment and Sunday hog roasts, which attracts a younger crowd – especially surfers, who come to check out St Ouen’s’ swells. Opposite Big Vern’s’ car park is a large pond and wetland centre, which is well worth checking out – even if you’re not a die-hard twitcher.
Jersey is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. At the aforementioned wetland centre, there’s an impressive bird hide, converted from an old WWII bunker, which offers a fantastic vantage point for spotting marsh harriers and waterfowl. It’s fitted with a remote-controlled video camera and, if you’re lucky, you might spot a bittern, bearded tit or Cetti’s warbler in the reed beds. The circular walk around the lake takes around three hours and incorporates boardwalks and gorgeous fields of wild orchids.
Another great spot for wildlife is Les Écrêhous. If you take a boat out, you stand a very good chance of spotting seals, and perhaps even dolphins.
Perhaps the best option for animal lovers, though, is the Gerald Durrell Wildlife Centre. Open all year round, this park has 32 acres of natural wetland valleys, woodland and open greens, which are home to some of the world’s most threatened species. Highlights include the juvenile Sumatran orang-utans, a recent Andean bear cub, and a reptile house with such diverse species as the European adder and Komodo dragon. You can even stay on site in a 5* luxury glamping pod!
Jersey has been self-governed since the early 1200s. Although it’s been under the possession of the English crown since then, the French attacked many times and occupied the island for a few years in the 1380s and 1460s. During WWII it was German troops who occupied the Channel Islands.
As a result of its tumultuous past, Jersey is dotted with interesting architecture in the form of castles, forts, barracks, bunkers and tunnels, many of which can still be explored today.
One of the island’s most visited tourist attractions is the Jersey War Tunnels. Here, you can explore over one kilometre of tunnels built by prisoners of war during WWII. Along the way are exhibitions that focus on the personal stories of local Jersey inhabitants. On arrival, you’re given the ‘passport’ of a real resident and when you leave, you can find out what actually happened to them. If you’re in a group of four or more and have an extra hour, there’s also a fun ‘Escape Tunnel’ challenge involving clues and puzzles relating to the war.
5. CASTLES AND LIGHTHOUSES
With Jersey being an island surrounded by treacherous channels, it needs a lot of lighthouses to assist marine navigation. La Corbièr and Noirmont Point Light are two of the best known and most picturesque.
If castles are more your thing, Mont Orgueil in Gorey and Elizabeth Castle in St Aubin’s Bay both offer tours.
Mont Orgueil has protected Jersey from French invasion for over 600 years. It contains hidden artwork, a medieval ‘wheel of urine’, a witchcraft exhibit and a creepy wounded man statue. From the top, there are also great views across the sea to France on a clear day.
At Elizabeth Castle, a causeway provides access at low tide. There’s a midday parade and cannon firing every day except Sunday. The granite and gunpowder exhibition is also not to be missed.
6. TRADITIONAL FOOD
For its small size, Jersey produces a wide variety of delicious foods. Its Jersey Royal potatoes are nourished by one of the largest tides in the world, rich fertile earth and a gentle climate to create their signature taste. Jersey cows produce some of the richest cream and milk, which has led to the creation of a whole range of high-quality dairy products, including fudge, cheese, ice cream and chocolate. Freshly caught seafood, from shellfish and oysters to lobsters and crabs, is served up in seafood restaurants across the island. And let’s not forget traditional Jersey black butter – a preserve made from apples, which goes just as well on toast as it does flavouring ice cream.
A few highly recommended eateries include…
THE PRIORY INN
Just five minutes’ walk from the Devil’s Hole at St Mary’s, The Priory Inn is a fantastic traditional pub with plenty of outdoor and indoor seating and a large selection of delicious meals. Come with an empty stomach, as they’re renowned for serving up huge portions. The friendly service is second to none. They also cater extremely well for families, with a huge slide and play area for the under 10s.
THE HUNGRY MAN
One of the best places on Jersey to get breakfast, this seaside shack in Rozel Bay is popular with locals and tourists alike. Serving bacon butties, burgers, sandwiches, baked goods, cream teas and ice cream, it’s the perfect way to cure a hangover or fuel up for a busy day of exploration. Mad Mary’s Beach Cafe at Bouley Bay has a similar vibe.
LE BRAYE AND BIG VERNS
Both situated along the west coast at St Ouen’s, these beachside restaurant/cafes are open all day and serve British classic dishes with a Mediterranean influence, as well as hot drinks, pastries and snacks. On a sunny day, grab a picnic table and enjoy sea views. Le Braye also has a beachside shack where you can rent surf boards and wetsuits (each £5 for half a day and £10 for a full day).
7. …AND WINE
The La Mare estate started life as a working farm in the late 18th century. During WWII it fell under Nazi control, but after a brief period of dereliction, it was brought a new lease of life as a vineyard and winery. Its 8 acres of land produce between 25 and 35 thousand bottles of wine each year, in addition to sparkling wines, brandy, cider and liqueurs.
Their very entertaining tour includes information on the art of winemaking, chocolate production and the 36-hour tradition of watching over a steaming pot of Jersey black butter while getting progressively more drunk on apple cider. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to try the produce. Arrive on public transport to avoid being over the limit, and aim for the last slot of the day (3:30 pm), when they’re trying to empty taster bottles and are more likely to be over-generous with their measures…!
8. OCEAN EXPLORATION
With so much coastline, Jersey is the ideal place to do some watersports. Whether you’re into surfing, paddle boarding, coasteering, kayaking or scuba diving, there are plenty of outfitters available to rent out the gear, teach a lesson or guide a tour.
For those more used to tropical waters and coral reefs, the idea of scuba diving from Jersey might not appeal too strongly. With highs of around 14ºC even in the summer, it’s a bit on the chilly side, and the viz is challenging at times, but it’s fascinating to explore a completely different environment and with the appropriate exposure suit, it’s highly enjoyable. The huge kelp forests are captivating, and while marine life is less abundant and colourful than on a reef, you can see huge spider crabs, lobsters, dogfish and scallop beds. There are also a surprising number of wreck dives in the area. Drop by Bouley Bay Dive Centre to find out more.
Ocean exploration isn’t the only way to get your kicks when you visit Jersey. There are plenty of exciting land-based adventures too. One such activity that’s gaining popularity is blokarting. This portable wind-powered go-kart was designed in New Zealand. With winds of 5mph and wide open beach, the west coast provides the perfect environment in which to learn the ropes and race your friends. Other activities include rock climbing, archery, zip lining, cycling, and even flying lessons.
10. EASILY ACCESSIBLE
Being so close to the UK and mainland Europe, it doesn’t take long to reach Jersey by air or boat. Regular flights out of Manchester with FlyBe take just over an hour (although they don’t have the best record for being on time!). Once on the island, you can easily pick up a hire car at the airport with Hertz.
One of the advantages of Jersey being so small is that it never takes more than about 40 minutes to drive from one part of the island to another. However, you do need to pick your route carefully and pay attention. Many of the lanes are quite narrow, with brick walls lining either side and not that many passing places. If you choose to drive, hire the smallest car you can – and if you cycle, be extra vigilant on bends. There are also a number of tour companies and public buses, although you may find that this option limits your flexibility.
Disclaimer: We were guests of Visit Jersey. This press trip was the prize from a competition in which ten bloggers were asked to write about their perfect Jersey itinerary. Visit Jersey did not ask that I write a favourable review, and all of the opinions expressed are my own. For further information or tips on where to go, please leave a comment below!