We meant to visit here in 2020. But…well, you know. When our travels were shut down in 2020 we eventually got refunds for most of our reservations. But in Guernsey and Jersey we received vouchers from Expedia to be used at a later date for our hotels. And so, 26 months after our original booking we are visiting the English Channel Islands Guernsey & Jersey.
We came with few expectations, just a desire to see a place we have never been. We knew only a bit about these islands and arrived with an open mind. Our stay on both islands was very short. But we enjoyed a taste of these unique places.
Where Is Guernsey and Jersey?
Protectorate countries today, Guernsey and Jersey retain their association with the United Kingdom, despite the geographic location close to France. We flew direct to Guernsey from Gatwick Airport London, a flight that took about an hour. Our flight on to Jersey three days later was the shortest flight we have ever taken, only eleven minutes.
A Brief History
This islands separated from mainland Europe about 6000 years ago and prehistoric evidence has been found. Third century Roman occupation of Europe brought settlers fleeing to the islands and Christianity arrived in the 10th century. The islands fell under the Duchy of Normandy and then King John of England throughout the middle ages. Little changed in the next centuries as the islands were a disputed stronghold.
As Napoleon and the wars of modern times unfurled, the islands once again found themselves under occupation due to their strategic location in the theater of war. Following German occupation during WWII the islands recovered industry, and tourism began to boom in the 1960’s.
Today the people of Guernsey and Jersey are British nationals. The islands are known as Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey, self-governing but under the protection of Britain.
Guernsey Things to Do
Guernsey is very small, only about 6 miles long and 3 miles wide. However since it is very rural we decided to rent a car during our short three night two day visit. Driving in Guernsey is a bit nerve racking…tiny one lane roads dominate the island. If you aren’t up to tackling these roads, the island has a very well run bus transit system.
During our two days we enjoyed a handful of the highlights of the island, but there are many more places to see with more time available. You can learn more at Visit Guernsey.
German Underground Hospital – both islands are home to several museums, tunnels and sites related to the five year occupation of the island by the Nazi Germans during WWII. We chose to visit the German Underground Hospital site. It was fascinating. More than 70,000 square feet, hand dug tunnels that served for a very short time as a hospital and ammunitions storage during the war. Absolutely fascinating. Be sure and have a coat or sweater as the tunnel is very cold.
Little Chapel – In 1914 Brother Diodat began a labor of love to build this beautiful tiny chapel and cover every surface with pottery and tile. It’s a lovely thing to see and enjoy and I highly recommend a brief visit.
Jerbourg Headland Coastal Hike – as I’m sure you know, we love to walk and hike, and the island of Guernsey offers some lovely pastoral and coastal walks. We chose to do a coastal walk on the Jerbourg Headland. From the easy parking access at the start (with restrooms), we wandered the coastal trail with stunning views south east. It was a foggy morning and we saw a bit of rain, but still the views were great…I’m sure on a clear day you could see forever. Some steep parts but not a difficult hike.
Low Tide Visit to Lihou Island – at low tide you can make the trek on the causeway to Lihou Island. Be sure to check the tidal chart or risk getting stuck on the island. At low tide the path and causeway is exposed, though not completely dry so wear the proper footwear to make the trek. Enjoy a brief walk and maybe a picnic on the island before returning the way you came. No services on the island, except for a self-catering hostel for groups with advance reservation. A unique experience, a must when in Guernsey.
Saint Peters Port – on the east side of the island is the capital city of Guernsey St. Peters Port. A lovely little coastal town, with shops, restaurants and historic sites including the home of Victor Hugo and the historic Town Church – the oldest in the Channel Islands.
Guernsey Restaurant Recommendations
The Hook – the best meal we had on Guernsey hands down was at The Hook. In fact it was one of the best meals on our two week trip. The Hook is located right in St. Peter’s Port. Be sure to make a reservation for this popular spot. I enjoyed a lovely cod dish and my husband had the Beef Wellington.
Crabby Jacks – Much more casual and on the west side of the island facing Vazon Bay; we stopped for a late lunch early dinner at Crabby Jacks after our low tide walk. Lots of fried fish, burgers and salads, my husband had authentic fish and chips while I really enjoyed a delicious fish pie topped with cheesy mashed potatoes.
Jersey Things to Do
We arrived Jersey via a very short flight from Guernsey and had two nights and two full days here. This island is bigger than Guernsey but not by much, coming in at nine miles by five miles. The main city of St. Helier is very cosmopolitan and quite beautiful. We chose to stay close to St. Helier and not rent a car. But with a car, or on a island tour bus (all were full so we couldn’t do this), you can easily see the sites of the island that includes multiple castles and forts as well as WWII tunnels.
Jersey Museum and Art Gallery, Saint Helier – this small but very interesting museum in the heart of the port city is a great place to start and learn the history of this fascinating island and its people. Run by the Jersey Heritage Foundation, we particularly enjoyed a very well done film with a great historic story told through today’s residents. A must in St. Helier.
Elizabeth Castle – Also run by Jersey Heritage visiting Elizabeth Castle is fun and interesting. Don’t miss it. Access to the island castle just off shore is by amphibious boat, or at very low tide you can walk to the island. We enjoyed the boat ride and a self-guided tour of the Castle on a beautiful sunny day.
Saint Aubin and Portelet Bay – on our second day in Jersey the sun shone bright and we decided to do a very long walk from St. Helier to Portelet Bay. This walk took us through the tiny seaside hamlet of Saint Aubin and then up and over the hill to Portelet Bay on the other side. A total round trip on foot of eleven miles; we enjoyed ocean views, pastoral fields, cows and crops and forests. This route would be very easy to do with a car. From St. Helier to St. Aubin you can enjoy Le Petit Train, a 35 minute ride in the summer months. I highly recommend it.
Jersey Restaurant Recommendations
La Taverne – we booked this restaurant in advance, a highly rated small space not far from our hotel. I enjoyed Dover Sole (a favorite of mine) and my husband had veal and oysters. Very good and the service was great.
Quayside – our taxi driver from the airport told us this restaurant was his favorite on the island, but highly recommended getting a reservation no matter where we planned to go as Saturday’s could be very busy. So we were happy to find online an early dinner opening. Covered outdoor seating with a view of the marina, the food was really delicious although our waitress seemed distracted. I enjoyed fish again and Arne had a ribeye steak.
How to Get Here?
If you are in the United Kingdom or France flights are easy to either island. You can also take a ferry from Saint Malo, Brittany, France which is what we did leaving Jersey and going to France. The ferry was huge and it was also packed on a sunny Sunday. Many people make the trip as a day trip and turn around and go back the same day. Try to do this on a weekday instead to avoid the crowds. You will need to pass through passport control as United Kingdom is no longer in the EU.
We flew between the islands, but there is also a ferry. The flight was only slightly more expensive and took ten minutes as opposed to two hours so we decided flying was better for us due to our tight travel schedule.
A Few Other Things to Know
Weather can be windy and rainy anytime of the year. We experienced, sun, rain, wind and fog all during our short visit. The British pound is accepted on both islands and credit cards are used everywhere. Wifi service is strong and reliable. Driving on Guernsey is not for the faint of heart but doable, Jersey roads are better. Transit and taxis are widely available on both islands.
Both Guernsey and Jersey are known throughout the world for the quaility dairy produced by the Guernsey and Jersey Cows. The cows and the cream are highly prized
Additionally both islands produce cider from locally grown apples. Both alcoholic cider and non-alcoholic I had the cider several times and it was very refreshing. On the island of Jersey the grown the world famous Jersey Royal potato. We were served the potato at most of our meals and it is small, tender and very delicious.
Visiting the English Channel Islands Guernsey & Jersey
Thanks for reading our post this week Visiting the English Channel Islands Guernsey & Jersey. I hope you will come back next week to read about our visit to Monet’s Gardens in Giverney.
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