Reviewed by Emma Bradley
In May 2014 I visited the channel island of Jersey with my husband, young son and two dogs, we travelled to the island from Weymouth following an easy 4 hour crossing on Condor Ferries. Jersey is situated in the Channel Islands, just 14 miles from the coast of France and 100 miles from the coast of England. It is easily accessible by frequent ferries from France, Guernsey and England as well as flights to and from the UK.
The island itself is just 9 miles east to west and 5 miles north to south and includes over 360 miles of roads and 100 miles worth of cycle routes. It has a population of 99,000 and is the most southerly of the Channel Islands benefiting from the best sunshine record in the British Isles. It is at the same latitude as Paris.
If you are a British national travelling to Jersey from the UK then no passport is required however it is recommend that you do carry identification with you. Travelling with pets is no problem either as no pet passport is required if travelling from the UK. There is also no need to worry about changing money as pound sterling is the official currency.
Jersey itself is like getting the best of Britain and France combined, the street are beautifully clean, there are big sandy beaches wherever you look, St Hellier is a bustling capital with all your main shops, but it still has that distinctly ‘European’ feel to it.
We stayed at the Jersey Accommodation and Activity Centre “JAAC” (www.jerseyhostel.co.uk) which is located close to the town of Gorey in the South East of the Island. The JAAC boasts a variety of accommodation including single, twin, double, trebles, quads and multi occupancy bunk bed rooms many of which are en suite. We stayed here as part of a wider dog competition so camped in the grounds. The centre itself is modern and clean with great showers and toilet facilities. The centre offers a basic bed and breakfast rate but can also cater for packed lunches and evening meals. We ate at the centre in the evening twice during our stay and the food was lovely.
The centre also runs Jersey Adventures (www.jerseyadventures.com) which offers a variety of outdoor activities including sea kayaking, rock climbing, coasteering, abseiling, walking tours, cycle tours, blokarting, sup boarding, caving and castle fun.
There is really no shortage of family friendly accommodation in Jersey which is surprising for such a small island. From your 5* hotel and spas, to bed and breakfast, self-catering apartments and campsites there really is something for all tastes and budgets. We were travelling with dogs and found that there were still many bed and breakfast and self-catering accommodation that would take dogs. There are also a number of well-equipped campsites across the island. For up to date information on accommodation across jersey then look at www.jersey.com.
For those looking for something a little different then Jersey Heritage (www.jerseyheritage.org/coastal-towers) provides the opportunity to stay in one of the many costal towers that are dotted around the island. There are currently 6 to choose from with each one offering something truly unique.
Jersey Pass (www.jersey.com/jerseypass)
For the duration of the visit we had a Jersey Pass which allows free entry into a wide range of attractions across the island as well as discounts in many shops and restaurants. The Jersey Pass is available for consecutive days and is currently priced as Adult 2 day pass £42, Adult 4 day pass £55 or and Adult 6 day pass £65 whilst this may initially seem pricey you really do get value for money when you consider the number of attractions included.
We visited three attractions using our pass but wanted to visit so many more, that’s one of the problems with Jersey there really is so much to do that it is impossible to cram it all into one trip!
- Durrell Wildlife Park (www.durrell.org)
This famous conservation park founded by the naturalist Gerald Durrell was by far the highlight of my son’s trip to Jersey. Set in over 130 acres and containing over 130 endangered species of animals including our favourite the Gorilla’s, it’s a truly wonderful animal park worthy of a visit by children and adults alike. The Jersey pass allows one free entry to the park, but they clearly know how popular it is and offer a re-entry with your pass for just £3. The food in the park is great quality but I did find it to be a little pricey. We visited mid-week and it was very quiet so you could sit and watch the animals in peace and tranquillity.
- Jersey War Tunnels (www.jerseywartunnels.com)
A fascinating attraction setting out the history of Jersey during World War II, particularly focusing on the period of occupation experienced by the islanders. Dug by forced and slave labourers the museum is set in over 1km of tunnels designed by the German’s to be used in case of attack. The whole experience is really top notch, with a great use of media to really bring the period to life with lots to read and lots of video footage to watch. I would highly recommend this to anyone visit Jersey, however I would say that it’s aimed at over 10’s as far as children are concerned.
- Aquasplash (www.aquasplash.je)
Set close to the ferry terminal and within walking distance of St Hellier, Aquasplash is the islands main aquatic centre. The centre contains a 25m swimming pool, toddler pool with slide, a wave machine, a lazy river, flumes and a tyre ride. This is a great activity for all the family and entry is free with the Jersey Pass.
Other attractions free with the Jersey Pass that we never got the opportunity to visit this time but we certainly will next time include:
- aMaizin Adventure Park (www.jerseyleisure.com) – an adventure park with over 30 activities, great for older children
- Elizabeth Castle (www.jerseyheritage.org) – a 300 year old castle set on a rocky outcrop in the middle of St Aubin’s Bay. Depending upon the tide you can either walk the causeway or get a boat/bus from St Helier promenade.
- Hamptonne Country Life Museum (www.jerseyheritage.org) – a living museum highlighting 6 centuries of rural Jersey life.
Luckily the Jersey Pass comes with a handy guidebook detailing all the free attractions and containing lots of vouchers for discounts at shops, restaurants and other attractions.
One of the reasons we didn’t get chance to use our Jersey Passes as much as we would have liked is the fact we were totally spoilt by the vast range of outdoor walks, trails and beaches that Jersey has. It is worth noting that from 1st May each year dogs are not permitted on the beaches between the hours of 10am and 6pm – although this caused us little problems as there were so many other places to take them. There is no way I can cover every walk we did whilst in Jersey but these are a few of the highlights from our trip
- Devils Hole – a relatively short walk from the car park down a graded path leads you to a large geological “hole” where a sea cave has collapsed. It is about 750m from the carpark to the “hole” but there are a number of steps on the route to not accessible for prams or wheelchairs. The devils hole is on the northern coast.
- Plemont Bay – a lovely coastal walk on the cliff tops on graded paths between the access points. There are cafes and restaurants dotted along the route. There are quite a few exposed sections so dogs need to be kept under control and children under close supervision.
- St Ouens Bay – A huge sandy bay where all the surf schools and kite surfing etc… are located. There is also a large expanse of sand dunes where the dogs had a great time exploring the rabbit holes. This is a very popular spot for local dog walkers and can get quite busy and unfortunately is a little spoilt by the amount of dog mess left lying around.
- Gorey and Royal Bay – our early morning and evening walk as it was walking distance from the accommodation (down a very large hill!). Even though there was a large dog competition happening locally the huge beach never got busy and there was always plenty of space to find your own quiet spot. The sand is compressed very hard so it can be accessible to a pram at certain times. During the day there are little kiosks along the promenade. In a warm evening the promenade is a beautiful spot for a quiet stroll admiring the views of Mont Orgueil castle above the quaint harbour which is adorned by many restaurants.
As with everything else in Jersey you are totally spoilt for choice in eating out, all across the island are dotted tea rooms, pubs and restaurants in which to sample some of the local food. Obviously at the top of the must try list is the local Jersey Royal potatoes which are grown in every spare plot of land across the island. May is a great time of year to watch them being harvested by hand on some extremely steep slopes, we were amused to see as we were driving round houses selling Jersey Royals from honesty boxes at the side of the road in the same way you usually expect to see eggs!
Another must is to check out the local seafood, king and queen scallops are available year round, spider crabs are available from April onwards and oysters, ormers, mussels and turbot are all locally farmed. There is no shortage of seafood restaurant’s to sample the local delights.
Some of our favourite meals out on Jersey included
- Mad Mary’s Café at Bouley Bay – Bouley Bay is worth a trip in its own right, but an extra bonus is Mad Mary’s Café at the bottom, run by Mary a friendly Irish women who serves a great cooked breakfast and provides great chat and information about the island. Lovely to see a mixture of tourists and visitors visiting this tucked away gem.
- Seymour Inn (www.seymourinn.co.uk) – a great little pub in La Rocque which served a variety of traditional pub meals and local seafood.
- Feast – (http://feast.je) set on Gorey Pier, this is a great place to eat whilst taking in the sights of Gorey.
- Ransoms Garden Centre – (www.ransomsgardencentre.co.uk) A great garden centre with a wonderful café, worth a visit for the lovely cakes and meringues alone!
Jersey European Agility Festival
As well as a family holiday the other reason for our visit to Jersey was to take part in the Jersey European Agility Festival. This is a dog agility event held for the last two years at the Jersey Accommodation and Activity Centre in Gorey. This sees some of the best competitors from across the UK and Europe, along with some less experienced dogs coming together to compete against each other in a way not seen in either the UK or in Europe unless it is at a major competition such as the European Championships. Anyone visiting the island over the May bank holiday should call in to witness the trials and tribulations of the competition. Further details of the event can be found on the festivals website (www.jerseyagility.co.uk).
Coming up in 2014
There are lots of events going on across the island during the rest of 2014 here are some of the highlights:
- 5th-8th July – Jersey in Bloom
- 10th August – Jersey Seaside Festival
- 30th-31st August – Jersey Live Festival
- 11th September – International Air Display
- 23rd-25th October – Black Butter Making
- 4th – 7th December – La Fete de Noue
We had a wonderful time in Jersey.
For more information visit www.jersey.com.