The Channel Islands are located about 14 miles off the coast of France and include (in order of size) Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, and Herm, as well as many smaller islands, each with its own distinct personality.
The islands are well served by air from London and many other English cities, and daily ferry crossings from Portsmouth and Poole in England, and Cherbourg and St. Malo in France, are available during the summer.
A good itinerary for visitors includes two days sightseeing on Guernsey, a day exploring Sark, a day in Alderney, and a three-day stay on Jersey.
A good time to visit is during the five-week Channel Islands Heritage Festival, which takes place from April to May. This well-attended festival includes special openings of historical sites, exclusive tours, and themed guided walks encompassing all five islands.
Check out our list of the best things to do and places to visit in the Channel Islands.
1.Jersey’s Big Island
Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands, stretching nine miles east to west and five miles north to south. This breathtakingly beautiful island has plenty of stunning scenery, particularly along its north coast, which features high cliffs, rocky inlets, and caves.
The flatter area to the southwest has excellent hiking trails. Walking the pleasant footpath that runs along the disused stretch of the old Jersey Railway from St. Aubin to Corbière Point is one of the best hikes.
St. Helier on St. Aubin’s Bay is a bustling town that has kept much of its Victorian charm. Tourist attractions in the harbour area include Liberation Square, La Collette Gardens, Charing Cross, and the Waterfront Centre, as well as Elizabeth Castle.
Built during Elizabeth I’s reign and situated on a small rocky island accessible by ferry or causeway, this is where Charles II sought refuge, as did the 6th-century apostle St. Helier.
Other notable attractions include Royal Square, which features a 10th-century Town Church, the Royal Court House, the States’ Chamber, and a gilded statue of George II.
Visit the Jersey Museum and Art Gallery, which houses interesting archaeological and historical art collections, to learn more about the island’s rich history.
Weighbridge Place, St. Helier, Jersey.
2.Gorey’s Many Attractions
Gorey is a charming little town with a row of picturesque houses along the harbour, about 10 miles from St. Helier along the beautiful coastal road (five miles if you travel inland through Grouville).
The annual Fête de la Mer, the island’s excellent seafood festival, takes place on the pier beneath the castle.
The formidable Mont Orgueil Castle towers over Gorey. This magnificent example of mediaeval military engineering, also known as Gorey Castle, dates from King John’s reign.
3.The Museum of La Hougue Bie
La Hougue Bie, one of the world’s oldest structures, is a large burial mound topped by Notre Dame de Clarté, a 12th-century Norman chapel, and the Jerusalem Chapel (1520).
Highlights of a visit include the chance to see the crypt, which contains a replica of Christ’s tomb found in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Excavation of the mound in 1924 revealed one of Europe’s largest passage graves, dating from 2000 BC and constructed with stones weighing up to 30 tonnes (the site itself was in use since around 3500 BC).
The command bunker built by the Germans during WWII occupation (which is open to the public) is a more recent addition.
After that, if you’re hungry and thirsty, don’t miss out on the delights of the site’s brand new tearoom.
Grouville, Jersey, La Route de la Hougue Bie
4.St Catherine’s Bay: The Ultimate Sleepover
Anglers love St. Catherine’s Bay, as well as secluded Rozel Bay with its narrow, sandy beach. Spend the night at Archirondel Tower for a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
This striking red and white tower, built in 1792 on a rocky outcrop overlooking St. Catherine’s Bay and used as a military garrison, has been modernised into luxurious accommodations for up to four guests and is ideal for families.
Archirondel Beach is located in St. Martin, Jersey.
5.Trinity: Jersey Zoo
Gerald Durrell, famous for his many books chronicling his adventures as one of the world’s most prominent naturalists, founded the superb Jersey Zoo (formerly the Durrell Wildlife Park) in 1958.
The zoo, which focuses on conservation, houses a number of rare mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles and offers a variety of fun educational programmes, such as talks with its zookeepers.
There is also a restaurant and a visitor centre on the premises. The Durrell Wildlife Camp is a new addition. This facility provides luxury “glamping” in the zoo grounds, with accommodations consisting of pods large enough to sleep families and couples.
Spend time exploring the romantic north coast around Bouley Bay, with its small sandy bays nestled between the rocks, after your visit.
The address is La Profonde Rue, Trinity, Jersey.
Les Platons is the highest point on Jersey, standing at 446 feet. From here, you can see the entire north coast, including Bonne Nuit Bay’s shingle beach and the Mont Mado granite quarries.
While you’re here, don’t forget to check out the many other nearby attractions. St. John’s Bay, La Houle Cave, and Sorel Point, the island’s most northerly point, are among them.
Almost the entire west coast of Jersey is made up of a single, broad bay called St. Ouen’s Bay. The area is popular with surfers because of the waves, and it is also popular with other visitors because of the nature, wildlife, and spectacular views.
Those interested in WWII history should pay a visit to the nearby Channel Islands Military Museum. Highlights include displays of weapons and artefacts from the occupation period, which are housed in a former German wartime bunker.
Despite being half the size of Jersey, Guernsey has nearly as many great reasons to visit as its larger neighbour.
The south coast’s spectacular cliffs rise more than 270 feet and are a big tourist draw, as are the island’s numerous restaurants, which have a reputation for delectable European cuisine (hence the island’s nickname, “Gourmet Island”).
St. Peter Port’s narrow streets and alleyways climb steeply from the harbour to the highest point in town, with commanding views. Many of the houses are in the Regency style, lending the town a pleasant old-world feel.
The town is well-known for its shopping district, historic sites, and leisure facilities, as well as active activities like cycling, surfing, diving, fishing, bird-watching, and sailing.
The 12th-century Town Church and Hauteville House, which served as a refugee home for French writer Victor Hugo from 1859 to 1870 (it is now a museum), are both significant landmarks.
Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, 38 Hauteville
Castle Cornet, located on a small island connected by Castle Pier, was founded in 1150 but is largely Elizabethan in its current form. The Story of Castle Cornet, the Royal Guernsey Militia Museum, the Maritime Museum, the 201 Squadron RAF Museum, and the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum are all housed in the castle.
The castle and its four historic gardens are open for guided tours. The daily noon gun salute by costumed staff, as well as the many pleasant trails that crisscross the castle grounds, are also highlights. There is also a café on-site.
If you can, try to time your visit to coincide with the annual Guernsey Air Display; if you do, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views of these aircraft flying over the English Channel.
St. Peter Port Harbour in Guernsey
There are several historic Martello Towers on Guernsey’s east coast, as well as the ruins of Vale Castle, an early Norman Vale Church, and a large passage grave.
The south coast is just as interesting and beautiful, with many magnificent cliffs and caves, the largest of which is the 200-foot-long Creux Mahie.
Corbière Point, on the west coast, is notable for the green veins in the pink and grey granite, as is Rocquaine Bay. Finally, the remains of a 12th-century priory can be found on the tiny island of Lihou, which is connected to the mainland by a causeway.
Alderney, which is only four miles long and one mile wide, has a mild climate, abundant wildlife, a rich history, and stunning secluded beaches. It is almost entirely devoid of trees and rewards the daring with beautiful sandy bays, indented cliffs, and rugged tors to explore.
St. Anne, which dates from the 15th century, has a distinctly French feel, with cobblestone streets, cosy inns, cafés, and shops. St. Anne has a pleasant climate, plenty of sunshine, and a charming harbour. Its visitors enjoy cliff walks, golf, fishing, and windsurfing.
The Two Sisters are two interestingly coloured rocks in Telegraph Bay, and the uninhabited Burhou Island is a bird reserve best visited by boat (except during nesting).
Direct flights from Southampton and Guernsey, as well as a seasonal ferry service from France and the other islands, connect to Alderney.
Sark, the smallest of the main Channel Islands, is often referred to as the “jewel of the Channel Islands.” It is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey and has its own parliament, with a population of around 600 people.
In the summer, boats from Guernsey and (less frequently) Jersey visit daily and return the same evening, landing at La Maseline on the island’s east side.
Sark’s main settlement, La Collinette, has a church, an old manor house, and a windmill on the highest point. It also has a number of guesthouses and inns for those who want to stay longer.
Car-free Sark is a joy to walk around because only tractors and horse-drawn vehicles are permitted on its roads. The most rewarding hike is to Little Sark across the rocky isthmus known as La Coupée.
Following the war, a new road was built across this narrow and rugged stretch of land, which drops steeply more than 250 feet to the sea.
The Little Sark path leads to Port Gorey and two well-known rock pools: the Bath of Venus and the Pool of Adonis, both of which are good for swimming at low tide.
The Gouliot Caves are located beneath the oddly shaped cliffs that overlook Brecqhou. The caves, which are teeming with sea anemones and other coastal life, are only accessible during low tide.
A path leads to Havre Gosselin’s former fishing harbour. Dixcart Bay, on the southeast side of the island, is another picturesque location and is home to the majority of the island’s holiday accommodations.
It’s also the location of Le Creux Derrible, a cave with a natural 180-foot cleft in its roof that’s only accessible at low tide via two rock arches.
Herm is a small island three miles east of St. Peter Port. Despite having a population of only about 60 people, Herm attracts up to 1,500 visitors per day during the summer.
There is a hotel on the island, as well as a number of old stone houses that have been converted into holiday homes and a campsite. Many rare flower and plant species thrive in the mild climate, and Shell Beach is famous for its more than 200 different types of seashells.