The largest of the Channel Islands, Jersey sits just 19 miles off the coast of Normandy in France. Islanders speak English and the currency is sterling and the Jersey Pound but there are distinct French influences all over this pretty island. From French road names to some of the architecture and the really, really wide sandy beaches that remind me very much of those in Northern France.
Just a 45-minute flight from London, no sooner had we ordered our drinks than we were on the descent into Jersey Airport. With an area of 119 km2, in order to make the most of your visit, hire a car, the coastline is 70km and every bit of it is worth seeing. Staying on the east of the island in the parish of Grouville, our hotel The Beausite Hotel (http://www.beausitejersey.com/) was just a short walk from those really, really wide sandy beaches and within sight of Mont Orgueil, just one of Jersey’s imposing coastal castles.
Waking up on Saturday morning with a banging head courtesy of a couple of islanders we met in the bar the night before, we were off for what turned out to be the perfect hangover cure – jet skiing! Having never jet skied before, the trepidation beforehand began to work its magic on my sore head and by the time I was in my wetsuit, had taken in the safety briefing and was perched on my jet ski – the hangover was gone and the adrenalin was pumping.
Our instructor Max, from Jersey Sea Sport Centre (http://www.jerseyseasport.com/) was just 18 but knew exactly what he was talking about. Feeling surprisingly safe on my steed, we left St Aubin and headed around the fort and out into the shipping lanes. This was the scariest bit, with swells big enough to hide my fellow jet skiers, the waves coming at you can be pretty daunting but it’s also where the jet skis come into their own, taking off and slapping down onto the next approaching wave. We were heading for Corbiere lighthouse, about ¾ hour away. It’s possible to see dolphins along this route but unfortunately we didn’t see any. Once we had made it to Corbiere, our return journey was a lot less frantic and we really got to see the beauty of the coast of this island.
Our first stop was Ouaisně Bay, a large enclave with beautiful clear turquoise waters and plenty of tourists and locals enjoying swimming, sunbathing, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and windsurfing but it was the next stop at Portelet Bay that stunned us all. This smaller cove is only accessible by foot and as such was much quieter. There were still kayaks and canoes paddling around Janvrin’s Tomb, a tiny island accessible on foot only at low tide where, legend has it, Phillipe Janvrin, having died of the plague in 1721 was forcibly interred by the authorities in order to contain the disease and keep it from Jersey’s shores. Surrounded by trees and rocks and with a single wood-fired pizza place on the beach, we made a mental note to come back here and spend an afternoon. With reluctance, we left the picturesque bay and headed back to St Aubin but not before doing a drive-by past a massive cruise ship and with our growing confidence, throwing the jet skis around a bit before bringing them back in to shore just as a banana boat headed out. The trip was an exhilarating hour and a half in total and on reflection, I loved every minute of it – even the scary bits and would most definitely go jet skiing again.
Jet skiing done (and hangover well and truly gone), we headed off to Creepy Valley Adventure Centre (http://www.creepyvalley.je/) for some land based thrills. Just past the airport, the centre is in a natural valley in amongst a thick wood and offers a whole host of activities for all ages. From climbing and abseiling, archery and Paintballing to Powerfan free fall jumping and aerial trekking but we had one thing in mind – the zip wire!
Once suitably attired we headed off up the tower in a group ranging from young kids to let’s just say, ‘older’ thrill seekers. There was no backing out after 3 or 4 kids had already thrown themselves off the tower and down the zip wire – no way can we be out done by a bunch of 12 year olds so up I stepped. Before I knew it I was attached to my trolley, lifted off my feet and down the zip wire. Another first for me, this was great fun! Building up a surprising amount of speed in a short time, I was flying over the assault course and heading for the pond, for some reason I lifted up my legs (totally unnecessarily as there was no danger I’d get anywhere near the water) and headed into the woods where I unceremoniously glided into a waiting instructor who steadied me and unclipped my trolley. Again please! And off I went, and again, and again. The sessions are based on an hour and a half and as much as I could have easily zip wired for an hour and a half, it seemed daft not to try something else so, to the King Swing it was.
One of the guys sold it to me as ‘oh it’s awesome you hit about 50 miles an hour in a matter of a split second and pull about 3G’ – as I looked at the 12 year olds the same feeling of refusing to be out done by children spurred me on. Climbing into what looks like a baby-swing seat attached to an RSJ, things are looking good and not too scary but then everyone not on the King Swing, grabs a rope and starts running with it and with that we get pulled backwards, up higher and higher. You can decide how high you want to go, whatever you’re comfortable with, but the 12 year olds come into my head once again and we go to the maximum. OK, all good so far and then it happens. The release. Definitely the scariest thing so far. It’s so sudden and so fast, utter fear is the only emotion I experience. My stomach lurches up into my mouth and a small wail escapes. 50 mph? Feels like so much more…and then you swing, backwards and forwards in an ever-decreasing arch. I survived – would I do it again? No bloody way – kids – you’re up!
Our second day was a lot calmer. After a great breakfast, and a quick swim, sauna and steam in the hotel pool, we ventured outside to our waiting bikes courtesy of Puffin Bike Hire (https://www.jerseybikehire.co.uk/) and went to explore the east and north-east of the island. We took the coast road through Gorey and on to the 800 year-old Mont Orgueil Castle. We didn’t go in but, by all accounts it’s worth a visit and is open daily between March and October. We headed inland briefly, then snaked back out to the coast stopping all too frequently at the pretty bays that dot the coastline. We stopped for lunch at Rozel on the north-eastern point of the island. Rozel has all aspects of lunch (and dinner) covered – there’s a pub for pub grub, The Navigator restaurant for something a little higher-brow and then there’s The Hungry Man – recommended to us by the islanders we met on our first night, we made a bee-line for the extremely popular food-shack out on the quay. It was rammed and served everything from fresh crab sandwiches to a dirty burger and all very reasonably priced. Fed and watered, we cycled on and turned inland towards the Queens Valley Reservoir and then back to base. The terrain is pretty easy going – no massive hills and there are plenty of bike trails to follow should you wish, ranging from a few miles to cycling the whole 70km coastal trail.
If walking is more your thing, head for the north-west of the island towards St Ouen. Park up and head into the hills and follow the pathways – you’ll get stunning views and if it’s a clear day, you’ll spot the other Channel Islands. After your walk, I would highly recommend a stop just down the road at Faulkner Fisheries (http://faulknerfisheries.co.uk/). A converted WWII bunker, this place is a hive of activity. Originally created to store the locally caught crabs, lobsters and oysters, ‘the Vivier’ has become just as popular for its Seafood BBQs. Choices range from char-grilled mackerel, calamari, king prawn kebabs, lobster and scallops to seafood soup, oysters and freshly made seafood sandwiches and you have to order a side of Jersey Royals with locally made butter – absolutely delicious and a fabulous reward after any activity!
Words by Caroline Penn