Top 15 Things to do in Jersey
Jersey is a small island off the coast of France, in Mont St. Michel Bay and is the largest of the Channel Islands and strangely enough seems only the radar of the British who flock there for vacations. Jersey has been an island for over 8,000 years and is home to some amazing scenery, thought provoking historic sites and is known for its green practices, of which it was the first holiday destination in the world to be awarded Green Globe destination status for their green ways. Jersey is full of charm with narrow, tree lined streets, tons of walking trails and a wealth of history which is seen in this top 15 things to do in Jersey!
Set in St. Helier’s St. Aubin’s Bay the Elizabeth Castle has defended Jersey for over 300 years. At low tide you can walk there across the bay and at high tide can catch the Castle Ferry, making for two extreme sights that make it seem like two different castles! The Elizabeth Castle has seen its fair share of action, from the 1590’s to the German Occupation during WWII making for a wealth of history that is laid out in the various exhibitions in the castle complex. Explore the turrets, descend into its bunkers and creep up the narrow stair way of the Hermitage where legend has it St. Helier lived around 550 A.D.
2. Take a Walk
Jersey is known for its walking trails and even hosts Around Island Walk, a marathon around the island which has been in existence for 25 years. But if a marathon isn’t your taste, don’t fret, Jersey has a plethora of walking trails and something to suit everyone’s interest, from short day walks to longer ones that will take you around the coast, atop its wild cliffs, through Jersey’s small towns and even into the heart of the green island. You can pick up a walking guide to the trails at the information centre or even sign up to take a guided walk.
Jersey is definitely a great place for all the foodies out there. Probably the most famous are Jersey cows, with their smaller frames and pretty appearance, help to create some of the best dairy in the world. Jersey dairy produces a wide array of high quality dairy products from Jersey milk to delicious Jersey dairy ice cream, and going along with Jersey’s green ways many of Jersey’s dairy farmers have converted to organic. Another top product is Jersey Royal potatoes (which you can even purchase at the airport), these have a unique taste probably due to the rich soil and sea air. The best time for fresh potatoes is during the summer months. And of course, surrounded by the sea it’s no surprise that seafood is plentiful in Jersey. Some of the best include; shellfish, chancre crab, spider crab, hand gathered scallops and oysters from Bouley Bay. If you’re looking to dine in checkout St. Helier’s Beresford Market, a fish market for almost 175 years, for a great selection. In Jersey you’ll find some great local produce and whether you’re looking to eat out or dine in your taste buds will thank you!
4. Explore the Coast
With 48 miles of coast line Jersey is home to some stunning scenery. From beautiful bays to small fishing villages and castles dotting the coastline to majestic cliffs Jersey has a diverse coastline. While exploring the coast you’ll notice Jersey’s extreme tides, 30 to 40 foot tides of which are among the highest in the world, that drop approximately 20 feet in 3 hours. Jersey doubles in size when the tide is out! So make sure while you explore this small island’s impressive coast you head out at low tide for an enchanted time exploring the sandbars and reefs on foot.
5. La Hougue Bie
Known as Jersey’s Stonehenge, La Hougue Bie is one of the largest and best preserved passage graves in Western Europe. A visit to La Hougue Bie is a great day out to explore some of Jersey’s fantastic history, with a medieval chapel sitting atop a prehistoric mound and dolmen, a burial chamber dating from around 6000 years ago – of which you can even enter. There are also geology and archeology museums on site as well as one of Jersey’s many German occupation WWII bunkers. La Hougue Bie offers a peaceful setting for a picnic or to delve into the long and interesting history Jersey.
6. Dolmens & Menhirs
Scattered around Jersey are an assortment of mysterious prehistoric remains including dolmens, which are burial chambers and menhirs that are large upright stones. These sites were once sacred places and home to pagan temples as well as burials. Menhirs are frequently associated with fairies and magic, probably due to the wonder of who else could have moved such massive stones. Where in Jersey should you seek out these ancient sites? Check out; La Pouquelaye de Faldouet, Dolmen de Mont Ubé, La Hougue des Géonnais, Les Monts Grantez and La Sergenté to name a few. To find out more and where to find them visit Jersey Heritage here.
7. Mont Orgueil Castle
Another of Jersey’s castles, Mont Orgueil Castle sits atop a hill on Jersey’s south-east coast looking down on Gorey and has protected Jersey for 600 years against French invasion. Here you’ll learn more of Jersey’s history, exploring its staircases, turrets, hidden treasures, towers and artwork. You’ll also discover a stranger side with an exhibit on witchcraft as well as the odd Wheel of Urine. But Mont Orgueil Castle offers stunning views of not only Jersey’s small seaside village of Gorey but on a clear day you might even catch glimpse of the French coast only 14 miles away.
8. The National Trust for Jersey Wetland Centre
Located on Jersey’s west coast, the Wetland Centre overlooks St. Ouen’s Pond, the largest natural body of water on the island. The Centre acts as a bird hide and education centre with access windows to catch sight of the many birds and other wildlife that call the reserve home. The Wetland Centre offers a unique and great way to watch birds act naturally as you are under cover in the centre looking out. Even the roof of the Centre is green to fit right in with its natural surroundings. Here, in the reserves reed bed and wet meadows you’ll encounter various ducks, waders, lapwings, warblers and buntings of which it is an important breeding ground for, as well as barn owls and kestrels.
9. Durrell Wildlife Park
A leader in the “zoo” world, the Durrell Wildlife Park was created by Gerald Durrell, writer and conservationist, as a sort of ark to help save species from extinction and continues to work hard along with organizations and others zoos around the world to protect endangered species and their habitats. Home to various species that are endangered and even some that have gone extinct in the wild, the Durrell Wildlife Park is unlike many other zoos as it is all about the animals and providing a healthy and happy home for their residence in realistic natural enclosures. The park also provides a pilgrimage for many of us who have been inspired by the great man behind the park who grew up reading his many novels about his wildlife escapades and the beginnings of the zoo. A visit to the Durrell Wildlife Park is a must for the animal lover in all. Plus you can even stay onsite with a few different options, one being staying at the Durrell Wildlife Hostel.
10. Eric Young Orchid Foundation
Located in the parish of Trinity, the Eric Young Orchid Foundation was established in 1958 by gifted horticulturist Eric Young and has one of the world’s finest collections of orchids. The display house is home to various species of these stunning and unique flowers, of which can be found all over the world and in varying environments, and in a wide array of landscapes which will surely delight the senses. Even the Eric Young Orchid Foundation website boasts, “a visual enchantment and unique experience.”
11. Enjoy Liberation Day
The Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans during World War II and was the only part of the British Isle to be so. And every May 9th they celebrate their Liberation Day, the date marking their liberation from the German forces back in 1945. The island is all a buzz with nostalgia as many dress in 40’s attire and all come out to attend the festivities, from the re-enactment to the marching band and the grand parade to fireworks over St. Aubin’s Bay. Even a light drizzle of rain doesn’t dampen the spirits as everyone waves their flags proudly, sings along to their anthem and smiles as street entertainers perform. The true spirit of Jersey shines through during Liberation Day, making it a must experience!
12. The Gardens of Samarès Manor
Created in 1920 by Sir Johns Knott, the Gardens of Samarès Manor is home to a gorgeous assortment of gardens; a rock garden, water garden, Japanese garden, and formal gardens. They also have an amazing herb garden of which was listed as ‘the most spectacular in the UK’. Among the gardens you can also wander the fields full of Jersey’s wild flowers and tour the Manor House and the Rural Life and Carriage Museum. If it’s a place to stay while in Jersey you are looking for, you can even stay on site in one of their farmhouse apartments or cottages for rent. With a serene atmosphere you’ll be enchanted by the sights and smells of the Gardens of Samarès Manor.
13. Howard Davis Park
Located in St. Helier, Howard Davis Park was named after Howard Davis who lost his life in WWI. With a sprawling lawn, beautiful trees and a walled-in rose garden that is home to over 1,600 roses of 80 varieties you’ll fall in love with this park. Pack a picnic and sit on the lawn enjoying a beautiful clear blue day, wander its paths lined with fragrant and colourful flowers or you can enjoy a spot of tea and a delicious snack at the Rose Garden Tea Rooms, a visit to Howard Davis Park is definitely time well spent.
14. St. Matthew’s Glass Church
The original St. Matthew’s Church began in the 1840’s but the generous gift by local resident Florence Boot lead to what it is today, a stunning achievement of astounding beauty. She wanted to honour her late husband and commissioned Parisian artist René Lalique to decorate the church. The wow factor is not in the tradition sense of old churches but in the magnificent and unique white glass the Lalique created and used in not just windows but in the font, jaw-dropping angels, communion table and more. And so in 1934 it became known as St. Matthew’s Glass Church, and while it is still a functioning church there are times set aside and tours of this amazing piece of art.
15. Explore St. Helier
St. Helier is the capital of Jersey and covering roughly 4 square miles (10 square kilometres) it is a very walkable town to explore. Set on picturesque St. Aubin’s Bay, you can start your tour with a walk around the bay, a visit to Elizabeth Castle, and work your way inward. St. Helier is full of amazing architecture, beautifully coloured buildings, great restaurants, various museums, fabulous shopping and serene parks. There are also two historic markets, the Central Market (opened in 1882) and the Beresford Market (opened in 1841), with stalls selling everything from gifts to local produce and all in Victorian buildings. St. Helier is full of charm and a great place to start or end your visit to Jersey.
Have you been to Jersey? What’s your favourite thing to do?