Jersey Island, just a few miles off the coast of France and the only part of England occupied by Hitler during the Second World War, this southern ‘sunniest place in Britain’ has become an increasingly attractive tourist destination.
Here are five reasons to visit.
Several diverse museums offer an exceptional history of the island. Start with the Jersey Museum, Art Gallery and Merchant’s House. Comprehensive. Located in St Helier, the island’s capital, it covers 250,000 years since the first inhabitants arrived. Here you’ll find archaeological treasures, a restored 19th century gas-lit merchant’s house and a display about the intriguing life of actress and producer Lillie Langtry whose love relationships with Royalty titillated English people throughout the 20th century. There is also a special exhibition celebrating the work of island artist, Edmund Blampied. You’ll also hear Jersey-French being spoken and learn about the famous Jersey potato and jam.
With no location being more than a few miles from the water’s edge, the Maritime Museum beside the harbor of St Helier is a must-see. Such is its interactive nature, you can see, touch, hear and even smell the exhibits – feel the force of a gale, understand the tides and even learn how to design and float a ship.
Unique among the museums is the ‘War Tunnels,’ a mile-long underground bunker dug by prisoners-of-war after the Nazis occupied the island in 1940. Dug deep into the hillside by slave workers from nations across Europe, the tunnels contain an underground collection of thought-provoking galleries that detail Jersey’s war history from resistance, through starvation and eventual liberation in 1945. Upon arrival, each visitor receives an ‘identity card,’ a facsimile of a real card issued to an island resident during that era. At tour’s end, the person’s fate is revealed on a giant display board. Prepare to be shocked. At the entrance to the tunnel stands a Stug tank named ‘Hedwig’ – a replica of Germany’s most produced armored fighting vehicle. The so-called ‘Escape Tunnel,’ a separate attraction, allows groups of four to eight people to use their sleuthing skills and teamwork to escape within 60 minutes.
Scenic Drives & Walks
With such a long, winding coastline, Jersey, the biggest of the Channel Islands, offers some startling scenery.
In the south is the 16th century Elizabeth Castle as well as the promenades and sweeping sands of St Aubin’s Bay with land and sea activities such as cycling, jet-skiing, wakeboarding and even family-fun with banana boat rides; the eastern coast features the medieval fortress of Mont Orgueil castle with its torture chambers and the fishing ports and harbors of Gorey, St Catherine’s breakwater and Rozel; the west can be an adrenalin-filled rush with the zip wires of Creepy Valley to toboggan rides at the aMaizin! Adventure Park and wave-riding at the surf spots of St Ouen; and the north is home to Durrell Wildlife Park named after naturalist and author, Gerald Durrell, comprising rare and endangered birds and animals from Mauritius kestrels and Vietnamese pheasants to Sumatran orangutans and slender tailed meerkats. Jersey’s latest attraction, Tamba Park, is also located in the north, with activities including a dinosaur trail, boating lake, adventure playground, ‘Birds of Prey’ center, an indoor rain-forest themed playzone and an ‘African Sculpture’ walk.
One way to enjoy the island’s attractions is to join a walking, cycling or mini-bus tour. Try friendly and knowledgeable, island-born Arthur, the blue badge guide, who hosts a wide variety of trips, long and short, private and public, to sites as diverse as farms and castles.
Being in the sunny south, Jersey boasts a wide diversity of flora and displays it generously at the mid-August ‘Battle of Flowers’ carnival with wonderful designs crafted from thousands of individual flowers dyed in an array of stunning colors. ‘Tennerfest’ is a six-week long celebration of food, with most restaurants on the island offering special menus at affordable prices to give people a chance to enjoy culinary creations from local produce. That and the annual five-day ‘Jersey Festival of Words’ literary event are just three of many island festivals.
With no place more than a few miles from the water’s edge, seafood is plentiful, often enhanced by island delicacies such as Jersey Potatoes and Black Butter, made from apples, local cider and spices. Best restaurants include the sea-fronting Grand Jersey Hotel and Spa for succulent steak; the stately Longueville Manor to enjoy a leisurely ‘Discovery’ tasting menu with paired wines; Ormer restaurant, home to Michelin–star chef Shaun Rankin; No 10, one of the newest gourmet eateries in Saint Helier; Bohemia at The Club Hotel & Spa where chef Steve Smith has created a nine-course tasting menu; as well as casual and relaxed Le Braye Café on St. Ouen’s Bay, with outside benches and tasty seafood served in paper baskets.
From bedrooms with ocean views to those facing lush gardens, Jersey offers an abundance of sophisticated, lavish accommodation.
Want to feel like a local? Rent a suite at SACO apartments in the very center of the island’s capital, Saint Helier. Yearn for a bucolic, Turner-esque setting with outdoor pool and gardens? Choose the elegant Longueville Manor. Searching for somewhere trendy, modern and buzzing with activity? Try the centrally located Club Hotel & Spa with spacious swimming pool and sauna, bar and fine-dining restaurant. Wanting to combine an urban stay in Saint Helier with beach activities? Split your time between Hand Picked sister hotels, Grand Jersey and L’Horizon Beach Hotel & Spa, with locations that are hard to match.
Be sure to check out the Jersey Heritage Pass, which grants access to many of the island’s attractions and it could save you quite some time.