I'd contemplated visiting Jersey (or one of the other Channel Islands) a few times in the past, but somehow never got round to it. The beaches look glorious, there are stunning coastlines to explore, and with a flight time of just half an hour or so from the UK it's really easy to get to.
With a baby on the way in just a few months time, it became the perfect choice for our last holiday as a couple; far enough to feel like a break away, but with hassle-free travel and the security of English speaking healthcare should any emergencies occur.
We didn't plan to do anything too strenuous, but knew there were lots of options and places to visit if we wished. And we did do a real mixture during the week, choosing each day based on the weather and what time we'd got up.
We decided against hiring a car – it seemed expensive (especially when adding on the daily excess waivers), parking is limited in busy times and not free – and we could always change our minds when we got there. For us though, there was no need – the buses worked out perfectly and really do connect all the major sights door-to-door. A car would give you more freedom and you'd perhaps see more of the island if that is your preference, but we quite like being car-free in contrast to being at home.
After checking in to the Hotel de France in St Helier late on a Sunday afternoon, we explored the grounds and facilities and decided to ‘eat in' as it was getting dark and we didn't yet know our way around town, which was a 15-20 minute walk away.
The hotel's Garden View bistro restaurant was nice, certainly convenient, and although initially we thought the menu was limited we ended up eating there 4 times during the week.
Monday – St Helier
Exploring St Helier on the first day allowed us to get our bearings, and we caught the amphibious bus (which looked fun!) across the causeway to Elizabeth Castle. At low tide you can walk across, but otherwise the bus travels across the beach and then into the water to ‘sail' the remaining journey (takes about 10 minutes).
The castle dates back to Tudor times and has been used in the defence of the island for over 300 years. Climbing the battlements affords some glorious views, whilst inside there is lots to see including old military uniforms and the history of life in the castle.
Wear flat, non-slip shoes if visiting the castle and carry a waterproof/jacket/hat in case you're caught in the elements outside.
Tuesday – Durrell
The weather forecast didn't look great (dull and showers) so we thought the underground WW2 war tunnels would be a good choice. We should have organised ourselves earlier though, as the bus for this particular attraction didn't run too often (other routes are more frequent). We thought we could just about make it, but missed the bus by about a minute.
So we had a rethink, looked at the next buses leaving the central bus station (which links up all the routes on the island) and decided to head for Durrell, home of Gerald Durrell's wildlife park. I haven't visited a ‘zoo' since I was a child, but Durrell is home solely to endangered species which looked interesting, and there are also spacious grounds to explore.
The bus ride gave us a taste of some of the countryside, and despite the 40mph speed limit some of the narrow and winding roads are a bit hairy, especially in a large vehicle! Have to say that all the bus drivers were incredibly friendly and helpful, and always went the extra mile to help any passangers who needed extra assistance.
We really enjoyed the park, seeing rare Andean bears, gorillas, orangutans, lemurs, monkeys, macaques, lots of tropical birds, enormous fruit bats and more. There was lots of information about them, supplemented with interesting talks by the keepers. The large enclosures looked natural and fun (as much as they can be in captivity) and it's clear how important these places are to facilitate breeding programmes and hopefully the survival of the species.
Wednesday – Greve de Lecq
Wednesday looked like being gloriously sunny, so we headed for Greve de Lecq on the north coast of the island (again easily reached by bus). There we found a lovely beach, which is doubtless busier in the summer months.
We then took a walk up onto the clifftop paths for fabulous scenery and views across the ocean; it was bliss.
Returning back down to the beach we treated ourselves to Jersey dairy ice-cream, and contemplated that this may well be the ‘last day of summer' – there can't be many better ways to spend it.
We didn't take walking boots on this trip, and trainers were fine at this time of year although something sturdier would be recommended in winter/wet weather.
Thursday – Jersey War Tunnels
This was actually our wedding anniversary – where else would you go but a war tunnel?! But the weather forecast was miserable again, so going underground seemed a good option.
Jersey was occupied by the Germans during the war (as the local history reminds you at every turn) although saw very little active fighting as the island was surrendered without defence. The British didn't see it as a key location and made no effort to re-capture it. However the locals did suffer the authority of German rule, severe curbs on their freedom and austere shortages during the time.
The Jersey War Tunnels were commissioned by the Germans, and built by prisoners of war to form a hospital to be used in the event of a British re-invasion (which never came). Now they are a museum detailing the events and struggles of the occupation, with lots of artefacts and local interest stories.
Friday – Mont Orgueil Castle, Gorey
For our final full day, we went eastwards to the small fishing village of Gorey which is dominated by the medieval Mont Orgueil Castle. This castle was another key defence point of the island for over 800 years, and offers lots of exploring through the network of towers, steps and secret rooms.
On a clear day the views from the top are breathtaking, with the French coast seemingly in touching distance.
Comfy, flat, non-slip shoes are must here, as there lots of steps to climb (sometimes steep and winding). Waterproofs would also be useful on a wet day (though there is plenty to see indoors too).
Top tip: Both Mont Orgueil and Elizabeth Castles are run by Jersey Heritage, and if you buy a Heritage Pass you get admission to 4 attractions for the price of 3.
Saturday – Homeward Bound
We had some time to kill before our flight home so just pottered around St Helier, leaving our luggage in storage at the hotel where we returned for a Jersey cream tea in the afternoon.
We'd had a taxi from the airport on arrival – for speed and convenience – but now knowing the ropes and having plenty of time we caught the bus back; they leave the bus station every 10-15 minutes so it's really easy.
Top tip: The bus fares are a standard £2 adult single for any route on the island. You can also buy daily, 3 day or weekly passes which are good value if you're going to make several trips a day.
We found Jersey to be clean, safe and friendly – and highly recommended for a relaxing break.