Thinking about heading to Jersey? It’s the largest of the Channel Islands but, it’s still only five miles long by nine miles wide, so it’s perfect for a long weekend or week away as everything’s within a 30 minute drive or less.
Recently I visited for the first time and thought I’d share my top picks from my three day visit. Here are my must see attractions, top tips and travel advice that will help you plan your trip.
I rarely think to book long weekends, and when there are spare pennies I tend to focus them on truly big trips. It’s something I need to change. Three and a bit days in Jersey felt like a week and we fit so much in without feeling rushed or stressed.
My visit fell on the first weekend of June and it was glorious sunshine for the three days except for one afternoon. Everything is open at this stage of the year but, thankfully it’s before the summer holidays and peak tourist season so restaurants are easy to book and attractions relatively queue free.
Joining me on my travels is my partner in crime, the apple of my eye, my numerically minded partner…Henry!
In this post I cover…
- Things to do
- Elizabeth Castle
- Jersey Zoo
- Seasonal Events
- Things I wish I knew before we went…
- Things I wanted to do but didn’t have time for…
Read the whole thing or skip to the part you’re most interested in. I’ve littered top tips, specific to each section, all the way through to help you plan your own trip.
Things to do…
I couldn’t believe how much there was to do in Jersey. There was absolutely no way I could have fit everything I wanted to do into one weekend so I had to be a bit more selective and narrow down my top picks. It proved very fruitful as all of the choices were spot on!
As you arrive on the ferry in St Helier you are treated to the most spectacular view of Elizabeth Castle. It’s been there for more than 300 years defending the island and it looks like it’s straight off the pages of National Geographic. I had that buzzy feeling, the one I get when I can’t wait to explore – it all looked so magical.
The adventure doesn’t stop at just the aesthetic, when the tide is low a path along the seabed is revealed and you can walk along it. I know what you’re thinking, very Indiana Jones, and yes, of course I walked across at low tide!
Top tip – double check the tide times, because the tide comes in really fast, like within 10 minutes fast!
If you aren’t as lucky to catch a low tide, there are really cool amphibious vehicles to transport you there and back and they looked just as fun as walking. FYI it does make the ticket about a fiver more expensive.
Once at the castle I was surprised to learn how much history was in every nook and cranny. From Sir Walter Raleigh who was Governor or Jersey from 1600 until 1603, to the English Civil War and the German occupation in the Second World War.
Top tip – on the day we went it was roasting hot, and there is very little shade at the castle, so make sure you have water, SPF, comfy walking shoes and anything else you made need to survive the heat.
My favourite part was walking up to the very top for the stunning 360 degree view. Wow, I mean, just wow! It’s a fair few steps but completely worth it. When you reach the top there’s a tiny staircase up to a ‘crow’s nest’ made of stone.
We spent a couple of hours there but you could spend a lot longer if you’re really into your history. It’s a great place to explore and there’s characters dressed in period costumes doing reenactments and telling stories.
Oh, and a big shout out to the amazingly friendly staff who are crazy knowledgable about the castle but warm and welcoming. They all had a lot of time if you ask them questions.
‘This isn’t just any zoo, this is Jersey Zoo,’ said in my best mock Marks and Spencer voice. Do not skip over this absolute gem, it was such a highlight during my trip. We spent a whole day there from the time it opened until it closed, and it was just enough time to fit everything…just!
Henry had been read the books about adventurer Gerald Durrell when he was little. He absolutely adores the stories and, when we were picking which island to visit, this majorly influenced our decision.
Jersey Zoo is also known as Gerald Durrell zoo. The famous explorer founded the conservation centre after a lifetime of adventure to save, preserve and conserve critically endangered species. Gerald wrote many books about his experiences with some aimed at children.
Despite Gerald’s passing the zoo has managed to hold on to that wonderful family run feel. The staff are so invested and the keepers give the most fantastic talks.
We arrived not long after it opened and went to almost every talk throughout the day. If you go, don’t miss these, they really made our experience – it was immersive, engaging and we really learnt a lot about each animal.
I’m so glad Henry insisted that we went. The zoo was wonderful and I would certainly go back if we went again. It’s not a traditional zoo, it focuses on protection of species and really it should be called a conservation centre. It does a lot of breeding programme work and animal species protection.
A great example is the bats which Gerald went over and recused himself after a cyclone hit the island they lived on and nearly wiped them out. Cyclones are increasing due to climate change so the species are vulnerable and the bats are now breed in captivity at the zoo as a back up to the main population.
There are so many highlights I don’t know which was my favourite – the bat enclosure, the orangutans, the gorillas, the macaques and the flamingoes are total must-sees. The butterfly enclosure is amazing too, don’t rush through this area as there’s so many brightly coloured butterflies to find.
Top tip – take comfy shoes for stomping around! Also, we found the cafe further into the zoo, the Dodo Cafe, had a bit of a better range of sandwiches and cakes for lunch. At Cafe Firefly in the visitor’s centre you could get proper meals if you wanted to sit down for longer and enjoy the surroundings.
The staff were fantastic and we chatted to the team in the visitor centre at the end of the day. They gave us a little insight into how Henry Cavill, yes Superman, is a big supporter of the Zoo’s conservation efforts. Look up the hashtag #CavillConservation for pictures on Instagram.
Our idyllic day out at the leafy green zoo was so relaxing, and I was so sad to leave. What a great day and a fantastic memory of Jersey!
Don’t forget to take a look around the little towns on Jersey. St Helier was so quaint and had lots of streets to explore with two covered markets, both on Beresford Street, one is aptly called Beresford Street Market and the other Central Market. They are opposite each other, so you can’t miss them! If you’ve been to the covered market in Oxford, this is very similar.
There’s plenty of murals and art work to see, as well as some gorgeous displays from the stalls occupying strange little spaces. My favourite were the ones selling homewares, and we picked up a couple of hanging plant pots to remember our trip once we were home.
From gorgeous peonies to giant prawns and fresh lobster there’s a lot of sights and sounds to take in. Its a lovely way to spend an afternoon and we wished we could have bought home some fish from the market.
Top tip – if you’re planning a trip to Jersey and have a kitchen at your accommodation take a cool bag with you, pick up some seafood and dine like kings!
Jersey isn’t short of glorious coastline, over 50 miles of it in fact! It’s not straight which means there’s a bay or a beach around every corner. Great if you’re going in peak season and want to find a less crowded spot.
When we were there I thought we went to every beach and bay on the map, but oh how wrong was I?
This handy list from Visit Jersey gives the whole list of beaches and I’ll also highlight the ones we went to below.
We went to St Ouen’s Bay, Havre des Pas, Portelet Bay, Ouaisne Bay, St Aubin’s Bay, Bonne Nuit, Plemont and Grouville Bay.
How did we cover so many beaches? Even though we were there for only three days, we spent the night of the incoming storm beach hunting, seeing the ominous skies and crashing waves. Some of the beaches we only saw for a fleeting moment but it was a great way to get around the island and see more of what it had to offer.
My favourite was St Ouen’s, gorgeous pale sand and big waves make it popular with watersports fans, and the island has developed a really cool surf scene. It definitely was channelling those Californian vibes.
Our hotel was on Havre des Pas beach, which has an Art Deco-style lido pool that is filled by the tide each day. If I knew the weather was going to be as good as it was, I’d have packed my swim suit! The lido is amazing and well worth a visit for a dip. That’s definitely the one regret of my trip!
Some of the beaches can only be accessed by steep and long flights of steps like Portelet Bay and Plemont beach. These are very beautiful but they have lots of steps and strong tides. When we visited Plemont the tide was already in and there was no longer any sand to stand on.
Top tip – check the tides before visiting these beaches, as when some of them aren’t accessible when the tide comes in!
At the tiny beach of Bonne Nuit we discovered a tiny restaurant right on the front. It was dinner time when we visited, the place was rammed, full of atmosphere and if we hadn’t just eaten we’d have definitely gone there – we will be back, I’m sure!
Jersey has a lot going on and you absolutely must check online calendars ahead of your trip or the guide books when you arrive.
Henry discovered a free surfing festival called Good Vibrations simply by flicking through a local arty-surfy publication called Free Vibe. Hosted at Water Splash, a beach side bar and restaurant, it happened during the Saturday we visited and neatly fitted into our itinerary when the tide was too high to enjoy Plemont Beach.
We happily whiled away a few hours watching the surf competition, sat on St Ouens beach, listening to the bands play. It’s like we’d fallen straight into a Billabong surf film – dreamy!
It also helped us discover the huge water sports scene on the island and find out that paddle boarding is very popular. We’ll be back with our boards Jersey, you wait and see!
Things I wish I knew before we went…
- Attraction and places in Jersey have short opening hours and close on odd days, check them before you go!
- Also make sure you clock the seasonal open times of places too, it’s different between summer and winter.
- The coastline is tidal and it moves very quickly. Be safe in and out of the water – check the tide times.
- The Jersey Heritage Pass – you can save a lot of money by picking one of these passes up, it offers entry to a lot of the main attractions.
- Always carry some cash – loads of farms have fresh produce on the side of the road and honesty boxes and trust me, you’ll want to pick up some of the famous Jersey potatoes, they are usually picked from the farm that morning, and will be the best potatoes you have ever eaten!
- Most places and attractions surprisingly have card machines – a total win, as I rarely carry more than a few pounds on me.
- The bus routes are all over the island and run regularly
- I didn’t realise how good the Visit Jersey Website is! It’s a great resource for planning your trip.
Things I wanted to do but didn’t have time for…
As I said previously there is a lot to do in Jersey, and it’s all really well advertised and easy to seek out. As the weather was so beautiful while we were there we focused on outside attractions to make the most of the weather. I’m really pleased with what we managed to squeeze into our short trip.
Here are the things that I’d have liked to have also visited…
- Passage Grave at La Hougue Bie Museum – One of the ten oldest buildings in the world, it’s neolithic!
- Mont Orgueil Castle
- Jersey Museum and Art Gallery
- The Orchid Museum
- Jersey War Tunnels
I’m still glad there’s lots to do as we’re going to try and head back another time to visit them all.
Travel to Jersey
My travel to and from the Jersey is all thanks to a freebie ticket from Condor Ferries which I won in the Big Ferry Fortnight ballot.
The ferry has its pros and cons. Outweighing absolutely every other factor is the fact you can take your car, making travel around the island incredibly easy and there’s no luggage allowance. We’re seriously thinking of packing our paddle boards next time!
Other pros are definitely that it gives you a real break before starting your actual break and as I struggle to unwind on holiday being forced to do nothing for a long period of time was a good thing. Plus, unlike a plane you can get up, walk around, go out on the deck and take in the sights as you float past them.
Having had a little look at prices it’s fairly cost effective and when you can take a car too, it’s excellent value for money.
If, like me, you’ve got long legs, need a plug socket and generally want a bit of a nicer journey to survive the time onboard you need to upgrade to either the private Horizon Lounge or Club Class. It was worth the money just to spare my limbs for the eight hours there.
However if you’re time poor this isn’t the way to go! Eight hours there and five hours back. Flying is a lot quicker, apparently around an hour.
While mostly impressed with the ferry don’t get me started on the lack of free internet, half an hour or 100mb is no where near enough and it’s unbelievably expensive to buy further chunks of time.
Also, take snacks to avoid costly food purchases and beware that the faster services can be pretty choppy – I never get sea sick and I felt awful on the leg back between Jersey and Guernsey. Thankfully the journey calmed down after that and it was great.
Three days in Jersey
What a jam-packed wonderful trip! We totally fell in love with the island and enjoyed every minute. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go but never thought of booking and we will certainly be heading back to do all the things we didn’t get round to.
There’s so many perks to visiting the Channel Island, having your car and not having to change currency, are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s ultimate convenience but still gives you that feeling that you’re truly abroad and getting away from it all.
It’s like France and the UK had a baby and blended the best of both cultures into this island – we will be back!