Travellers ranked Jersey as one of the top 10 European islands to visit in a TripAdvisor survey in 2013, and it is little wonder why. With a wealth of outdoor activities, Michelin-starred food, miles of sandy beaches and a relaxed island vibe, what’s not to like? Nicola Smith gives you the lowdown on how to plan a cool weekend break away from it all.
0700-0900. What better way to experience many of Jersey’s charms than with an early morning abseil down the 30-metre cliff at Grosnez, on the island’s northwest coast? Jersey Adventures (01534 873 074) welcomes beginners and experienced abseilers, and will equip you with the necessary gloves, climbing harnesses and helmets to enjoy a steady descent as the sun appears on the horizon and the beautiful azure sea glitters below. It offers an almost spiritual start to the day – and is an excellent way to work up a hearty appetite.
0900-1100. Just a few minutes’ drive from Grosnez is beautiful Plemont Bay, and perched on the cliff top is Plemont Beach Café (La Route de Plemont, St Ouen, 01534 482 005), refurbished in 2013 and serving arguably the best breakfasts on the island. From a hearty full English to American waffles – or any variation on the theme – all food is freshly cooked to order. Tuck in alfresco as you take in the bay below and the neighbouring islands in the distance. You might even spot a dolphin if you’re lucky.
1100-1300. A 20-minute drive eastwards along the coast is the Durrell Wildlife Park (La Profonde Rue, Trinity, 01534 860 000) founded over 50 years ago by author, naturalist and broadcaster Gerald Durrell. Even those ambivalent about wildlife will enjoy a couple of hours here, wandering around the sprawling 13 hectares of parkland and garden and being scared witless by the gorillas and entertained by the gibbons, not to mention charmed by the cute ploughshare tortoise – one of several endangered species residing at the park. Stop for a coffee at the Dodo Bistro, before marvelling at the loveable meerkats next door.
1300-1500. For a trip back in time, head 15 minutes south to the Jersey War Tunnels (Les Charrières Malorey, St Lawrence, 01534 860 808), which are fascinating and moving in equal measure. The underground labyrinth was constructed by the Germans using slave labour and was latterly used as an underground hospital. It is eerie and slightly chilling but compelling all the same. Allow yourself to be transported back to the present day with lunch at The Pantry, on the first floor of the Visitor Centre. Opened last year, this funky space serves delicious sandwiches and mouth-watering homemade cakes – think chocolate and hazelnut brownies and Victoria sponge. It also has a sizeable terrace which traps the sun.
1500-1700. A 10-minute drive west is the vast and inviting St Ouen’s Beach, offering miles of sand and a fair dose of the elements. If you fancy a surf lesson or want to try your hand at blokarting – being propelled along the sand at speeds of up to 145 kilometres per hour on a wind-powered go-kart – you can book a lesson and hire equipment (including wetsuits) with Pure Adventure (01534 769 165). Those who have eaten too much cake – or are simply unashamed petrolheads – may prefer to visit one of the island’s newest attractions, Nigel Mansell’s ‘Mansell Collection’ (La Route De St Aubin, 01534 880 606), a few minutes’ drive from St Helier, where adrenaline-fuelled video footage tells the story of how Mansell became one of the world’s greatest racing drivers. His racing cars are on display, and there is also a selection of pre-owned cars for sale should you fancy making a purchase.
1700-1900. Water babies can team up with Absolute Adventures (07829 881 111) to watch the glorious Jersey sunset from the sea. Set off from St Brelades Bay at 6pm and paddle round to Beauport – one of the island’s best beaches, accessible only by water or via a steep path. Here you can disembark your craft and perch on the rocks to watch the sun sink into the ocean as you sip a cold drink. Paddle back to St Brelades in time for cocktails and dinner.
1900-2100. The sun has passed the yard arm and it’s cocktail time on the island. Make a beeline for Moo Moo, a cocktail and champagne bar upstairs at Wildfire (14 Mulcaster Street, St Helier, 01534 625 555), serving a mind-blowing array of concoctions from ‘Red Hot Martinis’ to jugs of ‘Paradise Punch’. Or head to the recently opened Banjo (8 Beresford Street, St Helier, 01534 850 890), a very grand brasserie and bar set in a restored 930-square-metre Victorian gentlemen’s club. Enjoy a ‘Sloe Royale' under the huge skylights in the splendid roof bar before heading downstairs to the brasserie for chargrilled squid or Jersey Chancre crab cakes. If you are looking for something more formal – and pricey – head to the classy Michelin-starred restaurant Bohemia at The Club Hotel & Spa (Green Street, St Helier, 01534 876 500). Here you can also book the ‘Chef’s Table’, a behind-the-scenes experience in the kitchen itself. For coffee, climb up to the roof terrace which has its own sound system and table service.
After 2100. If the weather is inclement, try the chic Champagne Lounge at the Grand Jersey Hotel (Esplanade, St Helier, 01534 722 301), overlooking St Aubin’s Bay, or visit funky Chambers (5 Mulcaster Street, St Helier, 01534 735 405), which as well as boasting the longest bar in Jersey – not to mention a dedicated cocktail bar – is also renowned for its entertainment, from live bands to DJs and comedy. For something completely different, why not try a one-hour-and-a-half guided ‘moonwalk’ on the east of the island with Jersey Walk Adventures (077 9785 3033), looking at the sparkling bioluminescence and marine life on the seabed – a very other-worldly experience. You can always return to The Dolphin Hotel at Gorey for a warming nightcap, taking in the splendid Mount Orgueil Castle by night en route.
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Written by World Travel Guide.