Jersey, the largest of the Channels Islands which sit between the coasts of England and France, is a beautiful and tranquil destination doused in stunning coastline with white sands and azure seas.
With a flight time of around an hour, you can finish work on a Friday and be in Jersey in time for a late dinner by the sea.
Or, like us, you can pack the car up and take a road trip, sailing from Poole with Condor Ferries. Condor Ferries Poole Terminal is easily accessible and offers a range of facilities. Services operate between Poole and Guernsey, Jersey and St. Malo, Brittany.
The 4.5 hour boat ride is pretty relaxing and offers excellent coastal views whilst taking advantage of comfortable recliner seats and a glass of fizz to start your holiday in style.
A ten minute drive from the terminal and we are checking in to our home for the weekend. The Club Hotel & Spa is a Chic AA Red Star luxury hotel situated in the centre of St. Helier, Jersey’s capital. Only a few hundred meters from the main shopping street, and a short walk from the beach. The hotel boasts a luxury spa, indoor salt water pool, outdoor pool, Michelin Star & 5 AA Rosette Restaurant Bohemia and roof top terrace.
Whilst the hotel really does enjoy a central location, it almost feels like an oasis of calm, surrounded by botanicals and basking in glorious sunshine, the outdoor pool certainly made for a welcome sight after a long journey. The accommodation at The Club is just as attractive. Our large, open plan studio room was most agreeable, offering a super king Frette dressed feather bed, luxury granite bathroom with huge tub and separate shower and a fabulous view of the rather appealing terrace bar.
A quick freshen up and we were ready to hit the ground running. Despite being only 9 miles long and 5 miles wide, Jersey seems like a miniature world filled with rich heritage, laid-back, island culture and arresting landscapes. The mixed heritage of the island offers something totally unique – from the French street names to the English castles yet it seems to knit together in a quite frabjous way.
We enjoyed the criss cross of shopping streets in St Hellier, full of boutiques and local shops where you can pick up souvenirs – as in my case, the obigatory fridge magnet!
Friday evening saw us enjoy alfresco, harbour view dining at The Salty Dog. Set in the picturesque harbour of St. Aubin, this little hot spot of the village is the perfect setting to enjoy truly delicious food that is big on freshness, flavour, spice and an abundance of genuine Jersey produce. The Salty Dog Bar & Bistro is an institution, cherished by locals and sought out (or a lucky discovery) by visitors. Being surrounded by the sea, it’s no surprise that the seafood on Jersey is outstanding and as my pal got stuck into fresh local mussels with garlic, wine & cream, I was cursing my shellfish allergy.
I did however thoroughly enjoy my grilled halloumi with char grilled asparagus & zucchini. I followed this up with a Sri Lanken Curry packed with chickpeas, cauliflower and spinach – with just the right kick of spice. Again though, why did I have to be the one allergic to lobster, it looked pretty special. Put this bistro firmly on your to do list.
We finished the evening off with a couple of cocktails and made our way back to The Club where all the sea air finally took its toll.
After a pretty laid back breakfast in the hotel, we jumped in the car for a spot of sightseeing. With miles of cliff paths, beach walks and bays to explore, there are plenty of spaces to soak up the seaside atmosphere. Choose your island side – the north coast for its breathtaking cliff views and rugged wild beauty and the south and west coast for beaches that stretch for miles.
We got insta happy at Grosnez Castle, a 14th century ruin situated in Grosnez in the north-west corner of the island. Philippe de Carteret held it against the French when they held half of Jersey between 1461 and 1467, but it has been a ruin since the mid-16th century. The location of Grosnez castle offers fantastic views and is apparently incredible during sunset.
Next we visited La Mare Wine Estate – established in 1972, La Mare Wine Estate is Jersey’s only working vineyard and comprises an eclectic mix of authentic Jersey buildings and beautiful gardens. We enjoyed a short tour of the vinyards, the cognac style distillery and of course sampled some plonk! If you fancy a spot of lunch here, the cafe terrace enjoys incredible views of the vines. I would highly recommend a visit, I love a ruin, but come on, a vineyard is always going to be much more fun…
What next? Back to The Club to ready ourselves for dinner at Bohemia, the hotel’s Michelin Star restaurant – in 2017 it became the first and only restaurant in Jersey to receive five AA rosettes and it has retained its Michelin star when Steve Smith took over the kitchen in 2013. The restaurant is chic, cool elegance prevailing, the muted brown and grey furnishings a surprising contrast to the anything but subdued food. Dining from the classic dinner menu again my guest chose seafood – when in Rome I guess. She raved about her Crab Tart & Custard with Mango & Coriander – it sounds rather odd but it looked fantastic, there is certainly a huge amount of artistry served up at Bohemia.
My stand out dish was the Baby Brittany Artichoke with with fine bean and fig salad and a hazlenut dressing. Nobody is overlooking vegetarians here, I could have easily been tempted by lots of dishes but the best option is to plump for the tasting menu – dishes include (sample menu) Butternut & Parmesan Velouté, Textures of Cevennes Onion with Parsley & Girolles Mushrooms, Barley & Miso Risotto with Jerusalem Artichoke with Apple & Coffee and Heritage Carrot with Local Sea Vegetables & Sea Buckthorn. Not an after thought in sight…
For the carnivores amongst us the Cumbrian lamb with atichoke and goats cheese looked particularly good, but if you’re more surf than turf, maybe opt for pan fried Brittany sea bass with heritage carrot and a mussels & Vadouvan sauce or push the boat out (pardon the pun) and dig in to lobster with heritage carrot fondant & purée, vadouvan spice & sea herbs.
I don’t think you could far wrong with any of the dishes on offer at this iconic restaurant, the much- accoladed destination is simply a ‘top of the bucket list’ gastronomic adventure you shouldn’t miss.
Another blissful night in the comfort of our suite rolled into a pretty lazy brunch with a poolside view. This hotel is actually one of the most relaxing places I have ever stayed. The service is impeccable, with nothing too much trouble and a discreet nod all that is needed for a top up on my Bloody Mary – well, I’m on my jollies, who doesn’t like a kick of vodka with breakfast….
Sunday afternoon saw us head for the The Botanic Gardens at Samarès Manor. Samarès Manor is a manor house with medieval origins in the Vingtaine de Samarès, in the parish of St. Clement in Jersey, and is the traditional home of the Seigneur de Samarès. The name Samarès is an old French word meaning salt-marsh, and much of the low-lying surrounding areas are or were coastal marshes. These unique gardens, which have always offered exceptional planting conditions, were created in the 1920s by wealthy shipping line owner, Sir James Knott. In recent years they have undergone further development and diversification, and by creating new gardens and introducing unique plant collections. We loved the bee garden and exotic plants in particular – oh and the Japanese garden, and the Heritage apples and pears……all of it infact. You can actually enjoy a relaxing stay at Samares Manor, in one of their cottages situated within a picturesque early Victorian courtyard close to the Seigneur’s horse and donkey stables. You may see the animals come and go throughout the day! There is access to Samarès Manor Gardens at all times where you will find the licensed café open seven days a week.
Back to base and we opted to have a farewell drink in the The Royal Yacht Hotel bar set in the very heart of St. Hellier. Full of locals and tourists alike, this lively hotel bar spills out into an outdoor terrace where a glass of champagne accompanied by a plate of oysters goes down a treat….
We loved Jersey, an island shaped by the sea where some of the most astonishing tides in the world circle the coast and feed the land. Jersey’s unique history has been moulded over time by Ice Age visitors, occupying forces, languages and local traditions. You can experience major historical sites dating back hundreds of years, which are now open to the visiting public. From World War II bunkers to ancient burial grounds, farm houses, castles and caves.
This island maybe small in size, but it is certainly huge on personality, where country lanes open to cliff top views and the sea is never more than ten minutes away. An island of rediscovery, packed with activities to experience and explore.
Pack your bags today. Tell them I sent you.
Words by Joanne Brook-Smith