Whether it’s sandy beaches, water sports or history that floats your boat, Jersey is now the hotspot of the UK for family holidays. Post Brexit, the increase of terror attacks in Europe and the dwindling value of Sterling abroad means more families than ever are keen to stay closer to home. With more sunny days than you can shake a stick at and deserted sandy beaches, this Island paradise is a must for families wanting to try somewhere new inside their own borders.Here are our top things to do as a family in Jersey.
1. Kayak St Brelades
With our youngest now 5, kayaking – something we’ve always done solo is now wide open for family enjoyment. Launching into the shore break, equipped with nothing more than sunhats, life vests and a picnic stuffed into a watertight drum, we paddled furiously over a couple of waves onto the calm ocean. Veering over to the pier we lingered to watch local kids bombing the deep water before setting off round to Beauport, a beautiful sandy cove, just round the peninsular. Beauport is an easy 1-2 hour kayak for young families.
Tip: Beat the long walk down to the water’s edge by setting off at high tide. High water levels also mean gullies and coves are so much more accessible to explore. Kayaking through the large stack at the end of the peninsular is fun, particularly if there’s a little swell. Take a packed lunch and beach yourselves on Beauport for a few hours. Older children might like the challenge of swimming round the small rock island 100 metres offshore.
Jono’s also offer lessons in windsurfing, dinghy sailing and canoeing and equipment only hire such as stand up paddle boards, blow karts (wind powered go karting) and much more.
Call Jono on +44 7797 717564
2. Cycle St Aubins to Corbiere Lighthouse
Make time to cycle the old railway track from the pretty port of St Aubins to iconic Corbiere Lighthouse on the West coast. It’s a fantastic ride on a track that is quiet, safe, wonderfully wide and easy for young families. With only a very slight upward slope on the way, even youngsters from age 6 can cycle it. For the smalls hire a tag-along or carriage from the cycle hire shop in the Old War Tunnel at St Aubins where the trail starts.
If you’ve got young kids be sure to stop half way at the Elephant Park – a great kids playground directly on the trail with a café selling good coffee. The track, flanked by eucalyptus and pine trees, continues past fields packed with famous jersey royal potatoes and peaceful meadows. The trail ends at the impressive Corbiere lighthouse, set on a promontory out to sea. It’s a breathtaking view looking out to the West Coast with the golden sands of St Ouens Bay stretching as far as the eye can see and Rocco tower standing guard out at sea. Corbiere seems to capture the hearts of anyone who visits. For me, it was a highlight of our visit – stunning views at both low and high tide, and particularly at sunset. At low tide walk the causeway over to the lighthouse (you need to book a tour to see inside) and at high tide it’s equally mesmorising to watch the might of the ocean pound the rocks. On-site are a couple of German bunkers, great to explore with the kids and to finish off treat yourself to an ice-cream at the car park kiosk – arguably the best ice cream on the island!
3. Visit Durrell Wildlife Park
Set in 32 acres, Durrell Wildlife Park, home to over 130 species, devotes itself to protecting animals from all over the world through breeding, research, training and education. Watch gorillas, orangutans, bears and gibbons roam in large open air enclosures, a far cry from pokey wire cages of other zoos.
Friendly knowledgeable keepers give daily informative talks, chatting about the personalities of each animal, their past and what is happening on the ground in the wild to help tackle the threats that impact them and their habitat. Learn about Gerald Durrell, his life’s mission to tackle the problems facing wildlife and of his success in pioneering zoo lead conservation. You can also pre-book time up close with some of the animals through the Park’s ‘Animal Encounters’ or ‘Keeper For a Day’ experiences. And if you want the thrill of hearing the Park come alive at night, it’s now possible to stay in the Park overnight in their on-site hostel or 5 star glamping pods!
Tip: bring a packed lunch and have a picnic in the beautiful sub-tropical grounds or in the Dodo playground – the cafés are quite pricey.
Price: Adults £14.50, Child £10.00, under 4 free. Not a cheap day out but proceeds do go towards the charity – a great cause.
4. Catch a RIB to the Écréhous with Jersey Seafaris
Experience the thrill of bouncing over waves at high speed on one of Jersey Seafari’s 10 metre RIBs. Seafaris offer a range of trips from zipping around the Jersey coastline, over to the remote reefs of the Écréhous or the Minquiers, or popping over for an evening dinner in France – it’s a brilliant way of seeing the island from the outside in.
Our visit to the Écréhous, a reef 6 miles from Jersey and only 8 miles from France was a highlight of our trip. An ultra professional outfit, the Seafaris crew were young, energetic and fun, combining the seriousness of safety with fantastic knowledge of the wildlife we encountered – seals, bird life, and often dolphins. Over the rushing tide, through the infamously treacherous coastline, the RIB rode effortlessly through the maze of rocks and reef reaching the Écréhous in just 15 minutes. Discover the warren of tiny fisherman huts clinging limpet like to the 300 metre jagged outcrop that remains at high tide. With it’s golden sandbanks, white pebble beaches and charming dwellings, a visit to the Écréhous is pretty special. The trip is only 2 hours so kids are not likely to get bored quickly. Highly recommended to families with older children who will appreciate the wildlife, the heritage as well as the RIB excitement.
Tip: Older bolder children will love the thrill of the front seat ride whilst oldies and younger children can sit comfortably on the rear bench seating.
Price: At £39.99 each it’s good value for money but not a cheap day out for a family of four. If you’re on a budget, I’d save this for older children who will get far more from it, especially the doughnuts in the RIB on the way back.
Book online or speak to one of their friendly staff on +44 7829 772222
5. Explore Mont Orgueil, Gorey
Mont Orgueil is an imposing medieval castle built high above the charming fishing village of Gorey on the North East coast. What we loved about this castle was that there were zero off limits. We literally clambered up the tiniest staircases to secret towers and felt our way through dark chambers to discover hidden treasures and such randomness as the Wheel of Urine. Forget the guided tour with kids – let them discover the labyrinth of stone corridors, the turrets and towers laden with exhibits, many with an impressive modern twist. With break taking views to the French Coast, Mont Orgueil was built to protect Jersey from marauding French and Spanish fleets in an age fraught with invasion. From a dressing up room stuffed with knight & princess costumes, a great play area, and it’s all access policy, Mont Orgueil, with it’s recent 3 million makeover is proving a real hit with families.
Tip: Head straight for the dressing up room on arrival so kids can get in character to roam around the castle. Skip the guided tour and get ahead of the group to chat to the Medieval lady playing the lute. We loved The Wound Man carving, which cleverly depicts the types of wounds medieval battle would inflict on a soldier.
Price: family ticket £35.20 (2 adults/2 kids) or Adult £12.15 Child £7.40
6. Eat Thai on the beach at the Dicq Shack, St Saviour
On spring high tides let the kids enjoy the sea spray from the sea wall next to The Dicq Shack.
Tip: Call up and order in advance as waiting times can be lengthy due to it’s popularity and takeout demand.
7. Visit the War Tunnels
If you’re fascinated by Jersey’s 5-year occupation by the Nazis in WWII, then Jersey War Tunnels will be right up your street. Churchill’s decision to refuse to defend the island to the advancing German army must have come as a crushing blow to islanders who had less than 24 hours to decide whether to stay or be evacuated to Britain. Walking through these tunnels, carved out by prisoners of war for a Nazi underground hospital, the grim reality of invasion, occupation and liberation of the island begins to sink in. Explaining the build up to the war this museum is packed with riveting photos, footage and memorabilia depicting how life was like during occupation. We loved the originality of each being given a copy identification card of a real person during the occupation. Walking around the museum you must discover the fate of your character.
A must visit museum. Expect to be compelled and emotionally moved.
Tip: Recommended for older children only. Our 8 year old studied the second world war at school recently so had some interest, whilst our 5 year old couldn’t wait to get out as the tunnels are dark and can be scary. Take warm clothes – the tunnels are cold and take around 2 hours to complete.
Price: Adults £12.00 Child £8.00
8. Go surfing at St Ouens
The West Coast of Jersey faces the Atlantic swell and bags consistent waves drawing a huge surf culture to the island. Boasting the oldest surf club in Europe, Jersey has a rich surf scene with plenty of surf shops, surf schools and shapers in the mix. St Ouens is a great place to spend a day with the family. Rent a board and take a lesson, or just get in the shore break with the kids on bodyboards or skimboards. There’s plenty of good restaurants along the front – Big Verns, The Watersplash and El Tico. Or if you just fancy a quick bite, we love The Line Up kiosk on the sea wall at La Port for affordable fodder with great views.
The Splash Surf Centre at The Watersplash gives 1 hour family surf lessons (up to 5 people) for £99.00 – perfect to try something new as a family together.
Call 01534 490671 or 7829 878878 to organise.
Laneez Surf Centre at El Tico rents surfboards from £10.00 a day or try a taster surf session for only £30.00
Call 01534 744157 to book.
9. Visit Elizabeth Castle
Positioned on a tidal island Elizabeth Castle is an impressive sight offshore from St Helier. Built over 300 years ago to supersede Mont Orgueil, Sir Walter Raleigh, Governor of Jersey at the time named her Elizabeth Castle after the reining monarch, Queen Elizabeth I. The castle protected the future King Charles II during exile and later, upon taking the thrown repaid Jersey’s loyalty by giving Jersey independence from the Crown.
Whilst Mont Orgueil is, we think, more engaging for kids, Elizabeth Castle has huge excitement factor in getting there and back. Time your visit at high tide to really stoke out the kids. Amphibious ‘duck’ ferries (old military landing crafts) drive down into the high tide water and then ‘swim’ across – so much fun and much easier than the walk over at low tide for little legs. The castle itself is site of an ancient hermitage where Saint Helier, a 6th-century ascetic hermit (the patron saint of Jersey) lived. The castle has army barracks and a museum. We enjoyed watching the men folk join in with the recreation of the garrison of 1781, being marched from the square to watch the canon being fired out to sea.
Price: Castle only – family ticket £32.00, adult £10.70, child >6 £7.30 (under 6 free)
Castle + ferry £41.60, adult 13.25, child >6 £9.85 (under 6 free)
Condor Ferries (0345 609 1024) sails from Poole – Jersey and Plymouth – Jersey. Condor also sails from Jersey to St MaloBritish Airways, Easyjet, Blue Island and Jet2 all fly to the island