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Channel Islands family holidays and breaks

Beauport, JerseyBeauport, Jersey© VisitBritain
View Of The Harbour, St Peter Port, GuernseyView Of The Harbour, St Peter Port, Guernsey© VisitBritain
Horse-drawn cart on SarkHorse-drawn cart on Sark© VisitBritain
Mont Orgueil Castle, Gorey, JerseyMont Orgueil Castle, Gorey, Jersey© VisitBritain
Timezone GMT
Currency British Pound

Today

Overview

The Channel Islands – Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm – are a great place for a family holiday. Situated nearer to France than to Britain (and so benefiting from finer weather and, some would say, finer food), they are very quick to get to, either by boat or plane, and very easy to get around once you are there.

The islands are part of the British Isles but not the United Kingdom, which means that they have their own government, taxes, stamps and currency. Although many of the road signs are in French, English is spoken everywhere, so you’ll have no language problems.  

All the islands are different, but they do all boast magnificent beaches. They also have a unique feel about them – a sort of old-fashioned Englishness without being dated. Jersey and Guernsey make the best holiday locations; from these you can take day-trips to the other islands – beautiful, unspoilt Sark is especially recommended.

Things to do with kids in the Channel Islands

Jersey has ravishing beaches with the most fabulous sand – just the right texture for building sandcastles, an indispensable part of all family hoildays by the seaside. Even the more touristy ones in St Aubin’s Bay are unspoilt, but one of the most glorious is Plemont on the north coast – it’s even gorgeous when the tide is in, when it becomes a mass of wild crashing waves.

As for man-made attractions, older children may enjoy the Jersey War Tunnels, which tell the story of the Channel Islands’ occupation during the Second World, and all ages will love Mont Orgueil Castle. Younger children should be impressed by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, founded by the famous author and naturalist to save endangered species – though it’s pricey, it’s a marvellous experience, set in a terrific location.

The Amaizin Adventure Park (Apr–Sept) is best in July and August, when there’s an excellent maze, but is very good family attraction throughout the summer, with all activities (including a great toboggan slide, crazy golf, go-karts, sandpits and the aMaizin barnyard) included in the entry price. Also worth a quick visit, despite its garden-centre location, is The Sandwizard – the first indoor sand-sculpture exhibition in the British Isles. The mind-boggling sand creations include a tremendous castle and all seven dwarves.

The Hamptonne Country Life Museum, a ‘living museum’ dating back to the 15th century, makes for another good afternoon out. You can explore the house, see how bread was cooked, play with traditional games and find out more from the guides, who are excellent (one does spinning on her own wheel).

Otherwise, St Helier in the centre of Jersey has excellent shopping and lovely tea bars, while the spectacular Corbiere Lighthouse on the tip of the island was Britain’s first reinforced concrete lighthouse. It can only be reached in low tide and is quite a long walk for small children, but it’s well worth it – it’s like stepping out into the sea, surrounded by truly delightful rock pools, and the lighthouse itself is simply beautiful.

Children love Guernsey’s wonderful beaches. The Marine Conservation Good Beach Guide recommends the very popular L’Eree on the west coast and Portelet in the south-west. Other Guernesy spots popular with kids include Castle Cornet, an ancient harbour fortress containing a maritime museum and other displays, and Hauteville House, where French writer Victor Hugo once lived.

Then there’s Saumarez Manor (parts of which date back to the 12th century), which has a pitch-and-putt course, an adventure playground, a sub-tropical garden and a dolls’ house collection. The Oatlands Centre in St Sampson has a craft centre, an excellent crazy golf course, a café and indoor softplay for little ones. And older children may find a trip to the German Occupation Museum both educational and fascinating.

Eat

Perhaps because of the French influence, food in Jersey and the Channel Islands in general is good, although chips and burgers are widely available if your family holidays aren't complete without them.

Don’t miss out on a Jersey cream tea – but make sure your huge scone and jam are accompanied by proper Jersey cream. Local ice-creams are excellent too; seek out black butter, a concoction made largely of apple and spices, available to spread on toast but also found in fudge and ice-cream.

Jersey chefs make the most of local produce – potatoes, tomatoes and strawberries are particularly delicious. In May and June try a Menu de Terroir, which features dishes that vary from restaurant to restaurant but make specific use of locally grown produce and celebrate the very best of the island’s ingredients.

When to go to the Channel Islands

The summer months are the best time for family holidays in the Channel Islands, from May to September, but you still need to be prepared for rain. Among the wealth of events held throughout summer are the islands’ Battle of the Flowers in August.

How to get to the Channel Islands

Take a train to Weymouth or Poole in Dorset then a fast catamaran ferry to St Helier (Jersey) and St Peter Port (Guernsey) in just 2-4hrs. When the fast ferries are not operating, for example in bad weather, you can take a train to Portsmouth, then a daily, all-year, all-weather crossing by conventional ship from Portsmouth to Jersey and Guernsey taking 9-10hrs. There are also many options for ferries between islands.

Jersey is served by various airlines, some 'low-cost', but prices can be high, so try to book early.  

Cost

Cheaper and easier to reach than many family holiday favourites, the Channel Islands can be a great-value location, especially if you choose self-catering accommodation for at least part of your trip.

By Sarah Ebner

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