With a wealth of outdoor activities, Michelin-starred food, miles of sandy beaches and a relaxed island vibe, what’s not to like in Jersey? Antonia Windsor gives you the lowdown on how to plan a cool weekend break away from it all.
To enjoy the best of the early morning sunshine you need to start your day in the east. If the tide is high, go for a dip at La Mare Beach in St Clement, and enjoy a post-swim cup of tea from the van parked up on the slip. If the tide is low, then take a stroll eastwards along the beach, scramble over the rocks and have your cuppa at Green Island on the other side. The beach is a popular spot with dog walkers and locals going for their runs before work, and you might spy sea glass or pieces of antique pottery washed up on the sand here.
After working up an appetite with all that exercise you’ll be thankful of a bacon sandwich or full English breakfast at the Driftwood café, situated right on the beach at Archirondel (Archirondel, 01534 852 157) a few miles up the coast. This pebbly beach is a real morning-sun trap and another great swim spot as the tide doesn’t go out too far. After breakfast, explore the distinctive red and white Archirondel Tower.
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. Even those ambivalent about wildlife will enjoy a couple of hours here, wandering around the sprawling 13 hectares of parkland and garden and being enchanted by the gorillas, entertained by the gibbons and charmed by the cute ploughshare tortoise – one of several endangered species residing at the park. Stop for a coffee at the Dodo Bistro, before marvelling at the loveable meerkats next door.
For a trip back in time, head 15 minutes southwest to the Jersey War Tunnels (Les Charrières Malorey, St 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. Return to the present day with lunch at The Pantry, on the first floor of the Visitor Centre. This funky space serves delicious sandwiches and mouth-watering homemade cakes – think grilled halloumi and roast pepper ciabatta and Victoria sponge. It also has a sizeable sun terrace.
It’s surely time to see another of Jersey’s lovely beaches, and a short drive south will take you to the beautiful sandy St Aubin’s Bay with its 16th-century fort. If you are feeling energetic, this is a good place to try some water sports. The Jersey Seasport Centre (077 9773 8180) operates from La Haule slip and offers escorted jet ski tours westwards around the coast, which take 1 hour 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can book a waterski or wakeboard lesson. If the weather isn’t so good, head into St Aubin’s village and wander the cobbled streets looking in the art galleries that pepper the area. The Harbour Gallery (The Boulevard, St Aubin, 01534 743 044) is the largest and a fine example of the island’s creative spirit.
A pint of the local Mary Ann ale is a must. You are spoilt for choice for bars around St Aubin’s pretty harbour, and most have outdoor terraces that offer 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. Alternatively you could pop into the more modern Boathouse (1 North Quay, 01534 746 433) on the opposite side of the harbour, and enjoy a tipple amid its wood and glass surrounds.
The seafront boardwalk of St Brelade's Bay has lured a number of top-notch restaurants (and a Pizza Express), so there is something for most occasions. For a seafood feast, try the Oyster Box (01534 850 888), and opt for a table outside on a warm summer evening to enjoy a platter of local crab and oysters with a chilled glass of Sancerre and the sound of the sea in your ears. If you fancy something a bit more meaty or spicy, head to Sugareef (01534 866 844), an Asian fusion restaurant that mixes a mean mojito. Try a Reef and Beef skewer – grilled steak wedges mixed with salmon, cod and king prawns served with coconut and turmeric rice.
Revived by your dinner, it’s time to hit the town and mix with the locals. If it's high-flyers you want to rub shoulders with then head for the twinkling chandeliers and crushed velvet of opulent Ce Soir at Weighbridge (10 Caledonia Place, 01534 610 422). For a more bohemian crowd visit funky Chambers (5 Mulcaster Street, St Helier, 01534 735 405), which, as well as boasting the longest bar in Jersey – not to mention a dedicated cocktail bar –, is renowned for its entertainment: everything from live bands to DJs and comedy. For something completely different, why not try a one-hour-and-a-half guided ‘moonwalk’ on the east of the island with Jersey Walk Adventures (01534 853 138), looking at the sparkling bioluminescence and marine life on the seabed – a very otherworldly experience.