If you are you longing for a weekend break in the British Isles, Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, has much to offer. An idyllic destination, with wonderful coastal hot spots, delicious restaurants and so many varied tourism attractions and activities to choose from. Top on our agenda – a morning rock-climbing session, a visit to the Jersey War Tunnels, a session of crazy golf and a family park run! I hope you’ll enjoy the highlights.
We arrived at Jersey airport, late-afternoon, picked up our hire car from Hertz, and drove a 20-minute journey to our hotel. As far as a holiday commute overseas goes this was by far the smoothest transition from home to hotel I’ve ever experienced. Almost effortless.
Our accommodation, St Brelade’s Bay Hotel, was situated directly on the beach front, and as its name suggests, looks out across the bay. The hotel is divine, a luxuriously refurbished 19th century hotel, with 74 guest rooms and suites, an enormous Spa and Health Club complete with two swimming pools – set within five acres of award-winning gardens.
Despite the size and grandeur, the character and ambience of the hotel still managed to offer a home-from-home warmth where you are made to feel extremely welcome, and at ease. The beautifully decorated hotel lobby and lounge areas are hugely inviting and relaxing – and the bedrooms are just as beautiful. We opted for a Sea View Balcony room with unspoiled views of the Atlantic Ocean. There are a variety of rooms including Penthouse and Bay Suites, with many family options.
After checking in and marvelling over our wonderful view, we could see there was the most stunning sunset on the horizon, that had just started to fill the sky with beautiful red tones. The weather was mild – and having been tipped off that one of the best places on the island to enjoy the magnificent Jersey sunset was just a few minutes drive away we headed out in search of the La Corbière Lighthouse.
The lighthouse is set on a tidal island out at sea, surrounded by dark rocks and reached by a causeway. At low tide, you can walk the causeway out to the lighthouse, past rock pools and sandy beaches to discover a part of the island only revealed at low tide. You must stay alert though – there’s an alarm which warns visitors when the tide is returning and it’s time to leave the causeway.
We found it just in time to relax and enjoy the famous view before it got too dark – with the most magnificent silhouette by the vibrant colours of a sunset sky lighting up the striking white architecture of this iconic lighthouse – it was a great moment, enjoyed, in-between taking to the camera in search of a few memorable Instagram shots.
Driving back along the coast to our hotel gave us an opportunity to get our bearings of our location on the island. The hotel in St Brelade’s Bay was on the south west corner of the island, in-between St Ouen’s Bay (west coast) and St Aubin’s Bay (south coast). And from La Corbière we just about drove past our meeting point for our rock-climbing session the following morning. It is fantastic having everything so close together (the island is just nine miles by five miles), so nowhere is far away, and although you do ideally need a car, it is certainly one of the pleasantries of island life.
Before bedding down for the night we stopped at The Crab Shack, a real gem of a seafood restaurant nestled in St Brelade’s Bay just across the road from our hotel. With two other locations in Jersey, St Helier and Gorey, The Crab Shack is a perfect choice for sampling some of the fresh fish Jersey is known for – I opted for seafood linguine and it was delicious.
Saturday morning at 9am is, for us, a family ritual to run parkrun (for those who don’t know this is a 5k free timed run, managed by volunteers in various locations across the UK, and now the globe). With a parkrun location just a few minutes’ drive away it was an opportunity not to be missed and a great way to start the new day and meet some of the locals.
Continuing with the theme of sport and adventure next on our packed itinerary – Rock Climbing with John, owner of Jersey Adventures, and Panda, his adorable long haired Jack Russell, who seemed highly experienced and confident on the rocks (if only the same could have been said for me)!
I think I did a pretty good job as I managed to get to the top of some fairly daunting cliff faces, although not quite as quickly as my nimble daughters did. They made it look easy and it was an unforgettable experience for the family. John told us about the summer-time Coasteering, a must for another warm day.
On getting back to the hotel, we were told there was a hidden gem right on our doorstep. Across the road from the hotel is St Brelade’s Church. This picturesque church and graveyard with stunning views across St Brelades Bay dates back to Norman times. The adjacent Fishermen’s Chapel is thought to have been built in the 12th century, its ceiling is adorned with 14th and 15th century murals and has a beautiful stained glass window. Well worth a quick visit.
I am so pleased we headed off to Rocco’s crazy golf course at St Ouen’s Bay. With competitive family in tow, there was fierce competition, and I knew I stood very little chance of winning, but we all thoroughly enjoyed the game, and I managed a hole in one.
We headed south-east into St Helier next, the capital of the island, which was the longest car journey we had taken so far, but still only about 20 minutes. A completely different feel to the island we had experienced so far but the contrast still came as a bit of a surprise. More difficult to park, and busy – very busy.
There’s a pretty modern harbour where land has been reclaimed, Hong Kong style, from the sea and modern office-blocks line the seafront Esplanade. You can feel the level of business and leisure activity within the buzzing capital, with a vibrant day, and nightlife.
The pedestrianised, King Street/Queen Street precinct is the busiest area of all; we enjoyed exploring the sleepier cobbled sidestreets and squares which offered bars, cafes and plenty of stylish shops. Personal favourites included the beautiful hand-crafted jewellery from local designers in Jersey Pearl and Aurum of Jersey. There was a plethora of leading international brands too like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Breitling, Cartier and Chopard.
After an adventurous day it was time for a well-earned refuel. We headed for the uber trendy JB’s Brewhouse, a couple of rounds of ping pong followed by a delicious burger and session of craft beer tasting – fabulous!
With limited time before heading back to the airport we made a decision to find out what life was like in Jersey during WWII with a visit to the Jersey War Tunnels and I am so pleased we did. It was fascinating, and I would highly recommend paying the extra £10 for the audio guides, and wrapping up warm as it was quite cold once on the trail. It’s a good idea taking a trip to the toilet prior to your tour as there are no facilities in the tunnels themselves, and you could easily become lost in them for a few hours! The only toilets are in the adjacent Visitor Centre which is also a fabulous stopping point for a drink and cake at the end of the tour.
To be honest a long-weekend is not quite long enough for exploring this wonderful picturesque island. We certainly still managed to make the most of our time, with an appetite to see more, a return trip is definitely on the cards. I would head next time to the rugged north-coast, perhaps coupled with a visit to La Mare Wine Estate and the world renowned Jersey Zoo.
Take advantage of the clear island skies and unpolluted air. For spectacular stargazing discover a favourite astronomy spot at Grosnez, St Ouen. The castle ruins create an eerie silhouette for star-studded night skies and clear views of the Milky Way.
SPOTTING DOLPHINS IN THE WILD:
Take a Jersey Seafari RIB trip to Les Ecrehous. The panoramic views of the sea and coastline will not disappoint and you might spot wild dolphins swimming beside the boat for an unforgettable experience.
LA HOUGUE BIE:
Discover Jersey’s Neolithic history at this tranquil and spiritual heritage site, it’s one of the ten oldest buildings in the world. Experience the awe-inspiring spring equinox when the sunrise aligns with the passageway, and sunlight illuminates the passage grave.
GET ON YOUR BIKE:
Spring is a great time to explore the island. Find a seaside route and enjoy the many sights, stopping off for food along the way. We chose Cyle Route One which is one of the most exhilarating ways to explore the west of the island; bayside routes and woodland trails lead to a panoramic finish at La Corbière Lighthouse.
Less than 1 hour away from UK airports 4.5 hours by sea on Condor Ferries from Portsmouth or Poole jersey.com