I love catching a ferry. It’s normally the start of a great adventure. Ferries are the very essence of island hopping, more often associated with our Mediterranean neighbours, than the UK. But we forget that we, as an island nation have numerous ferry ports dotted around our shores. Albeit less glamorous than Capri, Mykonos or Santorini, UK ferries do link us to some pretty fabulous destinations.
In a bid to start exploring some of the cool locations that UK ferries can drop you to, we took a Condor ferry from Poole to The Channel Islands and on to St Malo in Normandy.
Approaching the Channel Islands - a scene more reminiscent of Greece than the UK
The Channel Islands
Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands at 45 square miles is the perfect family getaway. This sub-tropical island nearer the coast to France than the UK has glorious sandy beaches, thundering surf and is steeped in history. But what makes Jersey priceless is the seemingly lack of tourists. Blessed with empty beaches, unclogged roads and fabulous weather, it’s a no brainer for active families wanting to explore the boundaries of the UK. See our Top 10 Things to do in Jersey with Kids aged 5+ here
Who doesn't enjoy a ferry ride? Wind whipping your hair - off to adventures new!
Sark, a tiny gem of the Channel Islands is a wonderful getaway from the modern world. Transport yourself back 100 years and experience life without cars. This tiny island, only 2 miles square, is a designated dark sky area with only a smattering of tractors, a few horse & carriages, hundreds of bicycles and not a strip of tarmac. It’s a perfect place to quit technology for family bonding time. Get back to basics by exploring this captivating island with your tribe – I guarantee you’ll be smitten. Review coming on The Family Freestylers next week.
La Coupeé - Sark
Herm – a teeny weeny island we’ve yet to explore but firmly on our radar for another trip. Guernsey – explore the pretty capital of St Peter’s port, the gateway to Herm and Sark. Alderney – famous for the perilous waters of the Alderney Races, a strait between Alderney and Normandy. Alderney was also the site of a Nazi concentration camp in WWII - this island has a few stories to tell.
Sandbanks - the small penisular crossing the mouth of Poole harbour
From the South-West getting to the Channel Islands is a cinch. Condor Ferries cruise from both Poole and Plymouth direct to Guernsey and then onto Jersey, linking the islands and mainland France on their Jersey – St Malo route.
Catch the ferry from Poole and you can be in Jersey in a mere 5 hours. Drive direct to Poole Harbour along the A350 cutting out the traffic choked promenade. After a quick check in we drove onto the Condor ‘Liberation’ ferry, kids frothing with excitement.
Poole is a beautiful port to leave from. Bursting with yachts of every description, it has a distinct riveria feel to it as the Liberation cuts between the islands of Sandbanks and Purbeck, where billionaire pads look over million dollar views.
Cruising past the fat pads of Studland, leaving Poole Harbour
Booked into Ocean Plus, we find our seats in the plush Horizon lounge at the bow of the ferry. Wall to ceiling glass gives us spectacular panoramic views of the passage and the girls memorized by the ocean, stand for yonks watching the sea sparkling in the sun. Ocean Traveller provides free standard airline style seats but as a family I’d highly recommend paying the extra to get into Ocean Plus – you’ll be rewarded with large tables with comfortable seats, massive leg room, ridiculous amounts of electricity sockets and a private bar making the 5 hour journey a doddle.
The onboard café sells good food reasonably priced with main meals costing between £5.00-£8.00, whilst the toilets have an upbeat feel with messages such as “Spread Happiness not Germs”.
Left: The Condor Liberation has a refreshing modern approach for age old problems
Right: Kids can chill out in a movie room complete with bean bags
The Channel Islands have a treacherously large tide – one of the largest in the world, so we carefully approached pretty St Peter’s Port, the capital of Guernsey through a deep sea trench between the islands of Sark and Herm. The ferry stops for an hour in Guernsey to allow passengers to disembark. Sark & Herm passengers get off here to connect to a smaller ferry and Jersey, a further hour away, is soon appearing on the horizon. Look out for impressive views of Corbiere lighthouse as the Liberation rounds the South Westerly point of Jersey and then St Brelades, Ouaisne and Portlet Bays come into sight before entering St Helier, the capital.
Perfect for large families where flying is cost prohibitive, aviophobics (fear of flying) or those who like to pack everything but the kitchen sink - ferry travel is the way forward.
From The Channel Islands, 100 miles off mainland UK and merely 15 miles from France, it’s easy to make the hop to Normandy on Condor. After 2 glorious weeks on Jersey and 4 nights (not long enough) on Sark we picked up the Condor Rapide ferry for the short ride over to St Malo. Tip: Catch the evening sailing & arrive at sunset in the stunning vieux port of St Malo.
Arriving at sunset in beautiful St Malo
We had a great experience with Condor. After a late boarding, we caught up time and arrived 10 minutes within our arrival time. Boarding was quick, the sailing was smooth and the crew friendly. With great, affordable food options and large lounge areas travelling with Condor was easy.
And - if you didn’t know the Channel Islands has it’s own microclimate - often basking in sunshine whilst the rest of the UK slumps under cloud. So if you're in the blues after another scorching bank holiday comes to an end, have a look at The Channel Islands to book your next family break.
Condor Ferries operates a year-round service to the Channel Islands from Poole with its fast ferry Condor Liberation, alongside a conventional ferry service from Portsmouth. Prices start from £59pp each way with a car. To book, visit condorferries.com or call 0845 609 1024.
Whilst The Family Freestylers were guests of Condor Ferries, our opinions, as always are entirely our own.
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far