Jersey: The Ultimate Caravanning Guide
Looking for a fun and fabulous island holiday? Prepare to be tempted by Jersey! Brits need no passport to visit Jersey, the cream of the Channel Isles! Read our caravanners’ guide on how to get there, what to do and see, and where to stay.
Words by Helen Werin Pictures by Robin Weaver
One thing kept puzzling me during our entire time on Jersey; why, oh why, had we not been here before?
We had eight days to explore and, over the first day or two, I fretted I hadn’t allowed nearly enough time for our visit. Jersey’s just so gorgeous; I wanted to see everything on the island!
From the moment I’d seen Jersey from the deck of the Commodore Clipper (Condor Ferries — see more below), my anticipation had mounted. I leaned over the rail, pointing excitedly at an eye-catching bay of golden sands with a red and white tower in the middle.
“Wow, we’ve just got to go there!” My thoughts then were that my ‘must-see’ beach would be easy to seek out because of its distinctive tower. I was soon to discover it was to be the first of many fabulous bays and many similar towers.
Our 10-hour crossing to Jersey had felt like a mini-cruise, giving us the chance to see the appealing coast of Herm and Guernsey and — slightly farther off — Sark, along the way.
We quickly slipped into Jersey’s easy pace of life. Jersey is just nine miles by five and we were never more than about a 10-minute drive from its dazzling coastline. Our campsites, quiet early in the season, were top-notch and well-placed for making the most of our time there.
Beautiful beaches and bays
As it turned out, our lunch spot on our first day was at the beach that I’d spotted from the ferry — Ouaisne Bay. “It doesn’t get better than this,” I mumbled through mouthfuls of a Mexican spiced chicken burger and nachos with melted cheese and refried beans from the Kismet Cabana right on the sands.
We could even have had a free cuppa if we’d picked up a bucket of beach-litter, though I would have been struggling to find any.
Locals take great pride in their island. One after another they asked us, “It’s beautiful here, isn’t it?” with an ingenuous expression, confident that we couldn’t possibly disagree.
We thought ourselves lucky; sparkling sunshine every day enabled us to see Jersey in its best light. It’s so lush and colourful.
We worked up appetites by stepping out in landscapes varying from the dramatic north-coast cliffs to the sheltered bays of the south and east and across to the seemingly endless stretch of dune-backed beach that’s a surfer’s paradise in the west.
We scouted around a couple of famous castles (I have a thing about castles and Jersey’s are good ‘uns!) and learned about how the islanders coped with five years of German occupation during WWII, something that’s long intrigued me.
Our arrival at our first campsite, Beuvelande, was marked by the appearance of a military jeep, men in military uniforms and women in land girl garb. It was a Liberation Day event (for charity) and we joined in the spirit with other campers in Tilleys, the on-site bar and restaurant.
The wartime occupation of the Channel Islands is a constant thread, woven among the sensational scenery, a riveting and complex history and the wonderful food.
Jersey marked my first time in an amphibious vehicle. Charming Betty is one of two such ferries transporting passengers across St Aubin’s Bay at St Helier to Elizabeth Castle. It was such a strange feeling trundling across the sands like we were on a slightly rocking bus.
As ‘Betty’ drove deeper into the channel, the roar of her engine kicked in, and we sailed across to the islet on which the castle was built at the end of the sixteenth century. For 200 years Elizabeth Castle was the island’s principal stronghold.
It’s a compelling place, extended as events unfolded from being the last castle to surrender during the Civil War to a punishment camp during WWII. It was so hard to tear my eyes away from the panoramic views from its stocky towers over the wide sweep of St Aubin’s Bay but, in doing so, I learned fascinating snippets of castle life.
It’s actually another castle that takes centre stage in that iconic view of Jersey; Mount Orgueil Castle (aka Gorey Castle), on the east coast. A couple of miles after leaving Beuvelande we were on Gorey’s palm tree-lined prom, with the landmark fortress seen on all the ads and posters above the harbour.
All morning we trekked up and down steep steps, under arches and along stone pathways to the keep built on a rocky outcrop, interspersed with lingering looks across the Royal Bay of Grouville to the south, north across St Catherine’s Bay and to France, just 14 miles (22km) away.
I loved ducking through all the doors, peering into the dark recesses and investigating down steps into dim passages and up towers.
Flanked by four-storey residential flats built in the mid-sixteenth century and by huge walls, we experienced a wind-tunnel sensation at one stage — though moments earlier I’d been sunning myself in the tiny seventeenth century garden.
A long corridor leads to a medieval hall with an impressive Tree of Succession steel sculpture showing the intertwined royal houses of France and England throughout the Middle Ages.
Our afternoon walk south traced the extent of those earlier enticing views from the castle to La Roque Harbour along what’s known locally as Long Beach, popular with kite surfers, then onto a public path edging the Royal Jersey Golf Club and passing another of the many towers at Fort Henry (1758).
To cap another fulfilling day, our return to Beuvelande endowed us with the special treat of seeing St Catherine’s Breakwater sparkling prettily in the early evening light.
Views into France
Jersey’s north coast beckoned, with its mesmerising vision of Guernsey and Sark. From our pitch at our second site, the superb Rozel Camping Park, we could clearly see the Cotentin Peninsula of Normandy and, in between, the tiny Écréhous islands.
Their much sought-after fishermen’s huts look like toy building bricks on specks of rock almost swallowed by the sea.
Driving slowly down leafy lanes, past doe-eyed, caramel-skinned cows and fields of Jersey potatoes, led us to the Priory Inn where we parked (free) for the Devil’s Hole. Despite the name and the legends — which had pulled us here — it’s paradisiacal; rather, the sensational view across azure waters to Sark and Guernsey is.
I stood, captivated by the seascape, for such a long time I almost forgot what I’d actually come here for; at high tide, water is forced through a tunnel and out of the hole, thus creating a ‘booming’ noise.
The Devil’s Hole is fenced off these days but, in weathered monochrome pictures displayed on the viewpoint, Victorian ladies in their ‘Sunday best’ long skirts and bonnets are standing deep within the rock-strewn hole which became a particularly popular tourist attraction in the late nineteenth century.
(I’m always amazed by such pictures; not least because I, in waterproof walking boots, which look to be far more suited to rocky terrain than those of the photographer’s subjects, can only peer curiously and enviously from above.)
Check for high tides
A particularly memorable afternoon was spent walking from Grève de Lecq westwards to Plemont Bay on a path which dips up and down and around the spectacular seaboard.
I’d begun to take things for granted on Jersey, expecting — and getting — fantastic scenery around every corner. Annoyingly, I’d forgotten to check the tide times, so when we arrived high above Plemont (there’s a long flight of steps to the beach), the water was up.
I was extremely disappointed, having so wanted to visit the caves here, especially as one of them has a waterfall running over it. It would have made such a great picture taken looking out from the interior.
My disappointment didn’t last long, swiftly assuaged by the pastoral scenes from Rozel to Fliquet Bay, dominated by another of the towers built in the 1780s to guard the east coast.
Along the way we stopped to see what’s left of the 5,000-year-old gallery grave, Dolmen du Couperon, before eating our picnic on the suntrap breakwater at St Catherine’s. We looked across the bay we’d stopped to admire earlier in the trip and to Mount Orgueil Castle — with yet another of those red towers in between.
We headed for the Driftwood Café near the tower for a cuppa and instantly regretted our picnic; the café was serving skewered prawns and fresh crab salads, scallops and mussels, but I confess to finding room for carrot cake. Just as well, because it was the best I’ve ever tasted.
As seemed to be the pattern of our explorations around Jersey, there were even more unexpected treats in store as we strolled along one of the green lanes back towards Rozel to St Catherine’s Wood Nature Reserve.
What a place! It’s like a fairy glen; stepping stones over streams, the air filled with bird song and the knocking of a woodpecker among the dense, tall trees through which the late afternoon light filters so exquisitely.
Welly-clad children squealed as they splashed in the pond and jumped over the stones. Back at Rozel, youngsters were splashing in the heated swimming pool, which they said was “lovely and warm” (Beuvelande also has a pool).
Encouraged by this tableau of fun, Robin (my husband) finally agreed to a (free) round of crazy golf; I won!
Jersey Zoo, famously founded by Gerald Durrell, was another highlight. Focused on protecting and conserving endangered and vulnerable species, it’s home to some amazing creatures, many of which I’ve never heard of.
As a group of tamarins munched hawthorn flowers inches from our heads — dropping the petals all over us —the keeper called; “Daisy, Joe” and off they shot at lightning speed like a bunch of mischievous kids.
In the reptile house I learned the tiniest brightly coloured frogs, like delicate porcelain figurines, are poisonous. Livingstone’s fruit bats with wingspans of 4.5ft dangled from nets in a humid enclosure and the butterfly house was a kaleidoscope of flashing colours among the exotic foliage; some Galápagos giant tortoises live in here, too.
Where did you go on holiday in wartime?
Wandering through the Jersey War Tunnels, built by the Germans using slave labour, the accounts and pictures of what life was like between September 1941 and June 1944 are astounding. Among the tales of bravery and incredible escapes are stories of defiance and espionage and the islanders’ agonies about whether to evacuate or stay.
I read the Germans “felt like tourists” on Jersey. Indeed, there are pictures of Germans sunning themselves on the beaches. What astonishes me is Jersey continued to advertise itself as a holiday resort; ‘the perfect retreat for a wartime break’.
Our excursions around the south and west take us from St Brelade’s Bay to Mont du Grouet, culminating in a magnificent outlook to Corbière Lighthouse. At St Ouen's Bay, we parked near Lewis' Tower with the bracing Atlantic’s spray misting the air.
Onwards to Brittany
Before we left for Brittany, we reflected on the joys of our trip in the tranquil gardens at Samarés Manor. The Japanese garden, rockeries and water features, great swathes of every colour imaginable here and heady scents of exotic plants there, left us in a blissful daze.
During the short onward journey to St Malo (just under 1.5 hours on Condor’s Commodore Rapide), I started fretting again. We should have walked around far more of the coast and gone back to pretty Plemont to investigate Jersey’s largest caves and, especially, to get the ultimate ‘behind the waterfall’ picture.
Oh, and we should definitely have returned to Rozel’s scenic harbour for a few more of the Hungry Man kiosk’s massive breakfast buns and enormous, super-creamy, Jersey whipped ice creams.
Never have I known so many wonderful sights — and tastes — packed into such a small area!
How to get to Jersey with a caravan
We travelled with Condor Ferries (condorferries.co.uk) Caravan and two passengers Portsmouth-St Helier; from £253 each way. Caravan and two passengers St Helier-Saint-Malo; from £185 each way.
En suite cabins are available on Clipper, including two with wheelchair access, or you can choose a reclining seat or upgrade to Club Class lounge. Clipper also has a shop, brasserie, bar and a children's area.
Commodore Rapide has a bistro, bar/coffee bar, shop and children’s TV room. Seats on Rapide are in air-conditioned lounges, or you can upgrade to a private lounge with reclining seats and steward service.
Taking your caravan to Jersey
- You need a permit prior to arrival. These are supplied when you book through a registered campsite or contact the States of Jersey. Visit gov.je for more information.
- Caravans must remain on the site for the duration. You are restricted to one journey to and one journey from site to port.
- Maximum overall length of a towed caravan, not including the A-frame or tow hitch, is 6.7m (22ft) and maximum overall length of a caravan and its towing vehicle 16.5m (around 54ft), which includes any projection to the front and rear of the vehicle.
- Permits must be displayed in the window of the unit clearly showing the dates for which the permit is valid.
Top tips for travelling to Jersey
- Jersey has its own currency, including £1 notes. Ask for change in ‘English money’ (subject to availability). Barclays Bank in St Helier issues English notes (from a clearly marked ATM); other ATMs will give you Jersey notes. I suggest you pay by card as much as possible.
- Pick up a ticket for a free return visit during your trip to the botanic gardens at Samarés Manor; samaresmanor.com
- If you get a rainy day, visit the Jersey War Tunnels; jerseywartunnels.com Wear something warm.
- A Jersey Heritage Pass gives unlimited access to four sites for the price of three; jerseyheritage.org
- Take a Taste of Jersey culinary walking tour on this island famed for delectable seafood, meat dishes and fresh produce. There’s also a sweet tooth tour with pastries, ice cream, dairy products and confectionery; jerseyfoodtours.co.uk
Driving in Jersey
The maximum speed right across Jersey is 40mph. There are 20/30mph limits in built-up areas and 15mph limits on green lanes. Roads can be narrow and winding so drive with care.
Slow down and let your passengers enjoy the scenery!
If you do one thing on Jersey...
Walk the rugged north coast cliff paths with fantastic, far-reaching views, including across to other Channel Islands as well as France. You can dip in and out of the coast for shorter stretches by parking at or close to the best viewpoints.
If you are feeling energetic, you can walk around the circumference of Jersey, too! The island’s official tourism website is a wealth of information with walk suggestions for all ages and abilities in all parts of the island.
Best of all, it includes downloadable routes: jersey.com/self-guided-walks-in-jersey Pick up a copy of the Jersey Leisure Map (like an OS Map) on the island.
You can also take guided walks led by knowledgeable and enthusiastic locals on various themes; from fascinating marine explorations at low tide to name-dropping ‘rags to riches’ walks and walks that are themed around the occupation.
Cycling on Jersey
Jersey is fantastic for cycling. There are many well-signposted bike routes and the reduced speed limits make for greater enjoyment.
You are not allowed to ride on pavements unless otherwise signed and it’s the law to have a bell. Pick up a Jersey Cycle Guide from tourist information.
You can also arrange bike hire at Beuvelande Campsite: campingjersey.com
Where to stay
Rue de Beuvelande, St Martin JE3 6EZ
T 01534 853575
Open 1 April-30 September.
Price from £16.75
Beuvelande has a friendly and relaxed atmosphere and is popular with locals who like to come here on a break.
Tilleys, the on-site restaurant/bar offers tasty food with an ever-changing menu using local produce.
Children will enjoy the outdoor pool and play equipment. Pitches (including ‘super’) are flat and spacious and spread across four fields and the site is well maintained. There's a well-stocked shop here and laundry.
La Grande Route de Rozel,
St Martin JE3 6AX
T 01534 855200
Open 11 May to 5 September
Rozel is one of the best campsites that we’ve ever stayed on. Set over four fields, some pitches have views of France — pretty incredible when you're eating your breakfast!
There's a heated pool and separate paddling pool surrounded by a partly paved area and gardens with loungers.
If you want to stay in touch, there's free Wi-Fi across site. Plus, there's two well-maintained amenity blocks, a shop, laundry, TV room, lounge and play area, pool table, table tennis and free crazy golf.
The bus stop is just outside the entrance. The site is within walking distance of picturesque Rozel Harbour — and the Hungry Man.