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From WWII heritage and speakeasy bars to sea kayaking and bioluminescence, there’s plenty to fill 24 hours in Jersey. Emma Field indulges in a cool weekend break away from it all.
Head east to make the most of the early morning sunshine and kick off your island trip by or in the sea. If the tide is high, go for a dip at La Mare Beach in St Clement. If the tide is out, stroll eastwards along the beach, scramble over the rocks and have a cuppa at Green Island on the other side. The beach is a popular spot with dog walkers and locals going for a run before work, and you might spy sea glass or pieces of antique pottery washed up on the sand here..
After all that exercise, follow the locals to the legendary Hungry Man kiosk (01534 863 227) on Rozel harbour, a 20-minute drive north of St Clement, for what many say are the best bacon sandwiches on the island. From Rozel it is just a five-minute drive to Durrell Wildlife Park (La Profonde Rue, Trinity, 01534 860 000), a conservation zoo founded more than 50 years ago by author, naturalist and broadcaster Gerald Durrell. Spend a happy few hours wandering the sprawling 13 hectares of parkland and garden. This is a great time to visit as the animals will be making their morning patrols and you’re likely to catch the bears and apes at one their most active times of day.
Drive west for 25 minutes and your jaw will drop as St Ouen’s Bay slips into view. This swathe of golden sand covers almost 8 kilometres of Jersey’s west coast. Walk along the sea wall and sand dunes and watch the surfers, kite surfers and windsurfers ride Jersey’s best break. Or rent a surfboard and wetsuit from Splash Surf Centre (Grande Route des Mielles, 01534 490 671) and dive right in too. Lunch in style at The Atlantic Hotel’s Ocean Restaurant (Le Mont de la Pulente, 01534 744 101), which dishes up Michelin-starred cuisine with views across the hotel’s perfectly manicured gardens and those hypnotic Atlantic rollers.
Lawrence, 01534 860 808), which are fascinating and moving in equal measure. The underground labyrinth was constructed by the Germans during WWII using slave labour and was latterly used as an underground hospital. It is eerie and slightly chilling but compelling all the same. If you’re travelling in a group of four to eight people, take on the challenge of The Escape Tunnel, right next to the War Tunnels. It’s a brilliantly offbeat way to experience these extraordinary passageways and you’ll need your best sleuthing skills if you want to escape.
After The Escape Tunnel, you’ll appreciate some fresh air and some wide-open space, so drive 10 minutes south to St Brelade’s Bay and paddle out to sea in a kayak. Join one of Absolute Adventures (La Route de la Baie, 078 2988 1111) two-hour tours and nose along some of Jersey’s more inaccessible coastline. The more adventurous paddlers can have a go at coasteering, rock climbing and cliff jumping, and if you’re lucky you might spot a playful pod of bottlenose dolphins or a peregrine falcon.
Treat yourself to a post-paddle sundowner at Oyster Box beach bar and restaurant (St Brelade’s Bay, 01534 850 888), which is conveniently located next to Absolute Adventures’ HQ. Grab a table outside and sup on a chilled glass of Sancerre as you gaze out to sea. Wherever you are, real ale fans should sample a pint of the local Mary Ann ale. If you prefer pubs to bars, make the seven-minute journey around the edge of St Brelade’s Bay to the Old Smugglers Inn (Le Mont du Ouaisnè, St Brelade, 01534 741 510), which serves its own Smugglers Ale, or settle in at the family-friendly Old Portelet Inn (La Route de Noirmont, St Brelade, 01534 741 899).
Come dinner time, hop across to St Aubin, where you’ll be spoilt for choice for restaurants around the pretty harbour. Many have outdoor terraces with views of the yachts bobbing on the water. An established local favourite is the Old Court House (Le Boulevard, 01534 746 433), which is full of nooks and crannies with part of the building dating back to the 15th century. Another hit with the locals is Salty Dog Bar & Bistro (Le Boulevard, 01534 742 760), which puts unexpected and highly flavoursome spins on Jersey’s best produce. No matter where you end up, don’t turn down a chance to try Jersey’s creamy butter, as well as hand-gathered scallops, spider crabs, oysters and shellfish that have been freshly plucked from the rich waters around the island.
Next, make your way to Jersey’s capital, St Helier, to rub shoulders with locals in the island’s nightlife hotspots. Funky Chambers (5 Mulcaster Street, St Helier, 01534 735 405) showcases Jersey’s top bands and ships in artists from all over the world. It also has softer acoustic sets on the stage by the fireplace. For an eclectic night out, seek out the notoriously secretive Blind Pig (10 Caledonia Place, 01534 610 422), tucked away behind Chambers. It’s a 1920s speakeasy-style bar where it’s not unusual to find your cocktail served in a teacup. If pubs, clubs and bars aren’t your thing, try something completely different on one of Jersey Walk Adventures’ (01534 853 138) guided ‘Bioluminescence on the beach’ walks. Watching tiny luminous creatures twinkle on the seabed as the stars come out overhead is an entirely unforgettable, and otherworldly, experience.