Why go now?
The largest Channel Island is gearing up for summer and it's well equipped with seaside charm, fine beaches, breezy strolls and a gastronomic flair that often goes unappreciated.
For the next month, it is also – along with its siblings Guernsey, Alderney, Herm and Sark – saluting the 70th anniversary of its liberation from German occupation via the Channel Islands Heritage Festival (bit.ly/CIHfest), a mixture of history, food and music which runs until 11 May.
You can travel by boat to the capital St Helier. Condor Ferries (0845 609 1024; condorferries.co.uk) has regular services to Elizabeth Terminal, at St Helier Port (1) from Poole and Portsmouth. Jersey Airport (2) lies in the west of the island (01534 446 000; jerseyairport.com), in St Peter. It has a good number of links to the UK. Flybe (0371 700 2000; flybe.com) operates direct flights from 14 UK airports. British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com) flies from Gatwick; easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com) flies from Newcastle, Belfast, Glasgow, Liverpool, Gatwick and Southend; Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com) flies from Leeds-Bradford; and Blue Islands (08456 202 122; blueislands.com) flies from Bristol and London City.
Get your bearings
The most southerly portion of the British Isles (though not part of the UK), Jersey sits 14 miles west of Normandy's Cherbourg Peninsula, and 38 miles south-east of Guernsey. It is nine miles from east to west, five from north to south, and can claim 45 miles of coastline. It is split into 12 parishes, with St Helier, plus other "urban" dots such as St Aubin and St Brelade, tied to the south shore. The north is quieter – even wild in areas.
Jersey's network of buses (01534 828 555; libertybus.je) comprises 24 routes (single ticket £1.50, one-day pass £7.50, two-days £14) – but to make the most of the island, you need a car. Avis (01534 495 000; avisjersey.co.uk) is among the rental firms with an airport office – two days' hire starts at £61.
The Jersey Tourism Visitor Centre (3) is at Castle Street and Esplanade in St Helier (01534 448 877; jersey.com). Until 30 April it is open on weekdays, 9am-5pm, and 9am-2pm Saturdays. From 1 May, weekdays 8.30am-5.30pm, weekends 9am-2.15pm.
The Pomme d'Or Hotel (4), on Liberation Square (0845 800 5555; seymourhotels.com), is one of the stalwarts of St Helier's harbour front – a four-star with an "aquadome" water complex and doubles from £129, room only.
St Brelade's Bay Hotel (5), on La Route de la Baie in the south-west (01534 746 141; stbreladesbayhotel.com), is an elegant four-star with an indoor pool and double rooms from £140, with breakfast.
The Prince of Wales (6) is a genteel three-star at Le Greve de Lacq in St Ouen (01534 482 278; princeofwalesjersey.com). Doubles from £65 (£90 in May), with breakfast.
Take a hike
Jersey Tourism has planned out a series of self-guided walks – including "A view, a village and a cemetery" (bit.ly/JerseyWalks), which charts St Helier's historic landmarks. This 2.5-mile route starts at Mount Bingham car park (7), and takes in Elizabeth Castle (8), a fortress built to protect Jersey in the 16th century (01534 723 971; jerseyheritage.org; daily 10am to 5.30pm). The castle perches on an islet in St Aubin's Bay, accessible on foot by causeway at low tide and by ferry from Elizabeth Terminal (1). Entry is £10.50, £13.05 with ferry. The cemetery in the walk's title is Green Street Cemetery (9) – an evocative slice of yore that opened in 1827, and where wildflowers flourish.
St Helier gets top retail billing. Central Market (10), at Beresford Street and Halkett Place (01534 488 180; jerseymarkets.co.uk) has 36 stalls of antiques, jewellery and food. King Street is the main pedestrian drag, where Voisins (11), at Nos 26-32 (01534 837 100; voisins.com), is a classic department store dating back to 1837. Liberty Wharf (12), on La Route de la Liberation (01534 720 033; liberty-wharf.com), is the modern version – a mall of fashion outlets and classy cafés.
Lunch on the run
Merchant House Brasserie (13) on The Weighbridge (01534 510 069; dolanhotels.com) is a modern St Helier restaurant where the Merchant Beef Burger with fried duck egg is priced at £12.95.
Next to Merchant House Brasserie, Jersey Museum and Art Gallery (14) (01534 633 300; jerseyheritage.org; daily 10am-5pm; £9.30) where the key exhibit is a hoard of 70,000 Celtic silver coins, uncovered in 2012 and probably buried before the Roman invasion of Gaul in 57BC. This theme continues at La Hougue Bie (15), east of St Helier in Grouville, on La Route de la Hougue Bie (01534 853 823; jerseyheritage.org; daily 10am-5pm; £8.15) – a museum near the discovery spot where you can see a Neolithic tomb that's older than the Pyramids. Back in St Helier, at New North Quay, the Maritime Museum (16) (01534 811 043; jerseyheritage.org; daily 10am-5pm; £9.15) analyses Jersey's relationship to the sea.
The Boat House (17) overlooks the water at 1 North Quay in St Aubin – a stylish bar-restaurant serving glasses of pinot noir for £7 (01534 744 226; theboathousegroup.com).
Dining with the locals
Jersey can boast an admirable array of Michelin-starred restaurants – four in total. These include Ormer (18), at 7-11 Don Street in St Helier (01534 725 100; ormerjersey.com), where chef Shaun Rankin crafts delights such as ox cheek with pearl barley and onion-and-cinnamon purée for £30.
The similarly accredited Ocean Restaurant (19) is found at the Atlantic Hotel – which overlooks St Ouen's Bay at La Pulente in the south-west (Le Mont de la Pulente; 01534 744 101; theatlantichotel.com). Here, the three-course dinner menu (£55) – under maestro Mark Jordan – changes daily, but features such dishes as citrus-roasted cod with crab.
For something less haute-cuisine, the Old Court House (20) on Le Boulevard in St Aubin (01534 746433; oldcourthousejersey.com) has pan-fried venison for £15.95.
Sunday morning: go to church
Land reclamation might have robbed the Parish Church of St Helier (21) (01534 736 734; townchurch.org.je) of its waterside site, but this blocky building on Church Street is still an attractive part of the capital. Early-11th-century in origin, largely 15th-century in fabric, it sustained damage in the English Civil War. In this calmer era it has Sunday services at 8am, 9.30am and 11am. St Brelade's Parish Church (22), on La Marquanderie in St Brelade, is just as photogenic – another 11th-century relic (01534 742 302; stbreladeschurch.com) . It has a Sunday service at 8am.
Take a ride
Bus No 1 goes from St Helier to one of Jersey's prettiest outposts, Gorey. Here, Mont Orgueil Castle (23) rears above the village – a bastion piled up in the 13th century. On clear days, you can see France from the ramparts (open daily 10am-6pm; £11.95). Down at the shoreline, Jane James Coastal (24) (01534 858303; jane-james.co.uk) is an intriguing shop on Le Mont de Gouray – a boutique which deals in the arty quirkiness of shoals of ceramic fish (open daily, 10am-5pm).
Out to brunch
Also in Gorey, Jersey Crab Shack (25) in Route de la Cote (01534 850830; jerseycrabshack.com) revels in seafood from traditional fish'n'chips to crab linguine.
A walk in the park
Jersey shows its untamed side along St Ouen's Bay. La Mielle de Morville (26) is a vast nature reserve (01534 441 600; gov.je/Environment) that's accessible by No 28 bus from St Helier. It is a protected space of dunes and grass where lizards scuttle and orchids bloom.
Adjacent, on La Grande Route de Saint-Pierre, the Forgotten Forest (27) is another leafy enclave (01534 857611; jerseytreesforlife.org), an arboretum of unusual species.
Icing on the cake
Go north to St Mary and the hamlet of La Falaise, where La Mare Wine Estate (28) produces wine, potent apple brandy and a range of chocolates (La Route de Hougue Mauger; 01534 481 178; lamarewineestate.com; open daily, 10am-5pm). It runs six free guided tours (with tastings) every day – the last of them starting at 3.35pm. It also proffers the Vineyard Restaurant, where you can devour a Jersey cream tea – scones, jam, cream, tea or coffee – for £5.95.
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