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This gorgeous island towers over Cornwall – and is an hour’s flight away

GBeing stuck in a rut is often talked about in a job, a relationship, even a fashion style, but rarely a vacation. For a decade I loaded up the car for a week in Cornwall, first chosen all those years ago for its beaches and bays, child appeal and, over time, bodyboarding and surfing. Eventually, its attraction shifted (not for us) to the teenage hell that is Polzeath at night, so unruly and littered that the beach is now lit for patrolling police. The inevitable moment came when my husband and I looked at each other in an expensive rental, unpacking yet more groceries for yet more teenage meals, and said, “How is it a holiday?” It was this frustration that led us to book a hotel in Jersey instead for our next family holiday. We went out of our way.

Apparently we were invited to a family event by friends in Jersey, but it caused a to hell with Cornwall this year attitude and we extended our stay. Only 14 miles from mainland France and 85 miles from mainland Britain, the most southerly of the British Isles, Jersey looked like it had some great beaches. St Ouen Bay is famous for surfing and for its dune system, Les Blanches Banques, which has been designated a Place of Special Interest. I also ended up renting a house with all the attendant cooking and getting away. When was the last time you stayed at a hotel? Certainly before Covid. Jersey was close enough to warrant just a three-night stay, but far enough in geography and, as it turns out, in culture, with its French influence, to feel like we were on holiday abroad .

The journey to Cornwall often involves heavy traffic – particularly on the A303, a beast of a road in the summer. Jersey is less than an hour away by plane and also accessible by ferry from Portsmouth and Poole for anyone not flying or wanting the flexibility of taking a car. I flew from Gatwick, taking a taxi from Jersey Airport to the family-run Atlantic Hotel in the parish of St Brelade on the west coast headland, with stunning views of the Atlantic, a golf course and the vast St Ouen’s Beach . The bay — a wide, free landscape made after the storm of October 1987 hit the trees.

The Atlantic Hotel is located on the west coast of the island

The Atlantic Hotel is located on the west coast of the island

ANDY LE GRESLEY

The hotel had been a clue: a place that looked like it could be in the Mediterranean, with balconies overlooking the sea and palm trees, all lit up glamorously at night, but without the hassle of cross-border travel. I arrived on an early flight to find bright sunshine, a glistening pool and waiters in clean uniforms bringing ice-cold drinks to guests lazing around on lounge chairs. There was a Michelin-starred restaurant, its tables set for lunch with white table linen, a hands-down win over the search for an Ocado van. The rooms are as pampering as anything you could find in Nice.

Jersey’s proximity to Brittany and Normandy gives the island a distinctly French feel, historically in origin. When the Normans conquered England in the 11th century, Jersey remained part of the Duchy of Normandy, but when it broke away from the English crown in the 13th century, England kept the island. There are ancient ruins and Ice Age mammoths in the volcanic rock and three ancient castles. The capital is St Helier, with boutiques and many restaurants, but the beaches are the main attraction: the long stretches on the west and south coasts versus the smaller bays in the east and north.

Jersey Guide: When to go, what to do and why you’ll love it

A stay at Atlantic doesn’t require a car if you’re staying in the St Ouen’s region, a surfer’s paradise with the best waves on the island. You can drop off at the hotel, which we did while the teenagers signed up to Jersey Surf School, the island’s longest-running (90-minute personal lessons from £100; jerseysurfschool.co.uk). After their lessons, we reconvened at the family-run Le Braye for fish and chips, moules frites and Jersey crab sandwiches. It’s one of the few restaurants along the four-mile bay drive (food from £15; lebraye.com); others include El Tico Beach Cantina, Jersey’s original beach cafe – a restaurant, surf shop and surf school rolled into one, bang in the middle of the bay with a terrace overlooking the sea and great for breakfast (main from £16; elticojersey .com) — and Staks, at La Pulente at the southern end, which has a balcony from which to watch the sunset with an Aperol or milkshake in hand (both £4; staks.je).

Louise's kids at Jersey Surf School

Louise’s kids at Jersey Surf School

Bikes can also be rented or taxis can be booked for destinations beyond a walk. L’Étacq, at the northern tip of St Ouen’s, is a dreamy hidden bay with the bluest water accessed by steep steps (not for the faint of heart), and nearby Plémont is also great for a deserted swim. We have tried our best to choose locations that avoid the need for a car, although the Jersey War Tunnels, more than 1km of tunnels dug by slave labor, in the St Lawrence district are worth a visit to see the dark days of the German occupation during WWII (admission £19 adults, £11 children; jerseywartunnels.com).

In contrast, the Portelet Bay Cafe is not accessible by car; unless you’re lucky enough to have a boat, it’s down steep steps from the 12A bus stop between Portelet Common and Noirmont, but it’s worth the trek for authentic pizza and fresh shellfish, as well as breakfast (pizzas from £10; porteletbaycafe .com ).

The idea of ​​breaking a holiday routine is to rethink old habits: the forgotten pleasure of living in a hotel with meals provided; full breakfasts as thrilling as fine evening meals; changing road to sea, car to bicycle or boat. In that spirit, the highlight of our stay had to be the Rib trip with Captain Le Mourier Marine to Les Écréhous, a cluster of islands and rocks six miles to the northeast and a designated wetland of international importance (from £38 sterling; lemourier.co.uk).

We took the boat from Albert Pier in Saint Helier Marina, hooked on and raced through the waves. Les Écréhous is home to one of the largest tidal ranges in the world and all but the three largest islands were submerged when we arrived. Our coaster cruised around the reef looking for Atlantic gray seals and bottlenose dolphins before landing on Maîtr’Île, bumping into a shingle bank. The island is sparsely inhabited by only a few eccentric tourists who own houses there (owning the most basic fisherman’s hut is still a status symbol). We arrived at high tide, which gave the island a strange, desolate feel, as if it had been discovered for the first time. At low tide, it changes to become moon-like, with exposed strands of golden sand.

Les Écréhous

Les Écréhous

PORTEOUS MAT

In 2021, four areas of Les Écréhous were placed under the Jersey Wildlife Act to protect the breeding and nesting activities of wild birds, including cormorants, great cormorants and oystercatchers. We clambered up the salty windswept cliffs, our way often blocked by “no trespassing” signs, with birds nesting beyond the chain link barriers. Calls filled the air, lest we forget that they are the kings and queens of this island.

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Les Écréhous was unlike anything any of us had ever experienced before: a rocky anomaly that seemed to have been thrown into the sea, far from pollution and modern day; a paradise where nature was respected and cherished rather than threatened. In these moments savored of peace and quiet, on such a strange and unexpected archipelago, the simplicity of the natural world triumphed. Our reset is complete. Who knows what we will do this summer.

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Louise Carpenter was invited from Visit Jersey (jersey.com). Double B&B from £240 (theatlantichotel.com). Fly or take the ferry to Jersey

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