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Channel Islands family holidays and breaks

Coasteering on Sark.Coasteering on Sark.@sarkisland
Braye Beach on Alderney.Braye Beach on Alderney.© Rhonda Carrier
Horse-drawn cart on Sark.Horse-drawn cart on Sark.© VisitBritain
Castle Cornet, Guernsey.Castle Cornet, Guernsey.© Rhonda Carrier
Corbière lighthouse.Corbière lighthouse.© @corbierelighthouse
Mussel-growers.Mussel-growers.© www.jersey.com
Seal near Herm.Seal near Herm.© Rhonda Carrier
Timezone GMT
Currency British Pound

Today

Overview

The Channel Islands – Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm – are great choices for a family holiday. Situated nearer to France than to Britain (and so benefiting from finer weather and, some would say, better 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.

In terms of choosing between the main islands, Jersey's wide range of beaches ideal for anything from swimming and sandcastle-building to watersports, surfing, coasteering, kayaking and Blokarting (land-yachting) make it a great place for teenagers as well as toddlers. Guernsey appeals more to families with younger children, in need of a relaxing holiday. The self-catering scene is great, so there are plenty of flexible places to stay.

Things to do with kids in the Channel Islands

Jersey

Head here for the ravishing beaches with the most fabulous sand – just the right texture for building sandcastles. 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 love Mont Orgueil Castle. Younger children should be impressed by Jersey Zoo, run by 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, and you can also stay in glamping tents on-site (see Accommodation tab).

Visit spectacular Corbière Lighthouse on the tip of the island. Britain’s first reinforced concrete lighthouse 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 rockpools, and the lighthouse itself is simply beautiful.

Check out the aMaizin! Adventure Park, open April to September but best in July and August, when there’s an excellent maze. All activities (including a great toboggan slide, crazy golf, go-karts, sandpits and the aMaizin! barnyard) are included in the entry price. 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).

Venture to Saint Helier in the centre of Jersey for the excellent shopping and lovely tea bars.

Guernsey

Again, make a beeline for the 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 Guernsey 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 and a sub-tropical garden. Oatlands Village 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.  And Guernsey is also a surprising spot to take the kids surfing.

Alderney

Discover the more off-the-beaten track delights of this smaller island, which is quite a bit more difficult to reach – you have to take a boat, a passenger ferry from Guernsey or Dielette near Cherbourg in Normandy, or a connecting flight from Guernsey in a  12- or 15-seater plane. Cycling, canoeing over Roman ruins, visiting the lighthouse for views of northern France, and exploring old forts and World War II remnants are all part of the fun here, but the beaches are bliss too.

Sark

Experience the unspoilt landscapes of this tiny island with its bays and caves, its green paths and valleys to roam, and its family-friendly cycle paths. Don’t miss a horse-and-carriage ride around Sark, or the child-friendly beaches at Dixcart Bay and Creux Harbour. The easiest way to get to Sark is by passenger ferry from Guernsey (look out for family discounts).

Herm

Make the ultimate escape from modern life with a trip to this car-free island occupied by just a handful of families. Pristine sands are the main draw, especially at Shell Beach, and rockpooling is a popular pastime. There’s a single pub, restaurant and hotel, plus campsites and self-catering cottages. Ferries from Guernsey take just 20 minutes.

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.

Don’t miss out on a Jersey cream tea – but make sure your huge scone and jam are accompanied by proper Jersey cream. Jersey chefs are also famous for making the most of local produce – the potatoes, tomatoes and strawberries are particularly delicious.

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. 

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.

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. Note that you are not covered by your NHS EHIC card while in the Channel Islands, so make sure that you have your own insurance.

By Rhonda Carrier

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