All information in this blog post is correct as of the publishing date, 29.05.19.
If you’re thinking of booking your Jersey holidays soon – whether you will be travelling alone, as part of a couple or with the whole family – you’ll probably want to know more about how you can explore the island’s famous natural attractions. Fortunately, the relatively recently established Jersey National Park has made this easier than ever, marking an area that is defined by its unique, unspoilt beauty.
In this guide, we will tell you everything you need to know before visiting the park, including what land falls within its boundaries, what you can do when you arrive, and the accommodation options available to you if you also want your stay to be based there.
Which areas does the park cover?
There are a host of long-established, state-funded national parks throughout the UK mainland, but the Jersey National Park does not fall under this jurisdiction and was instead the direct result of a passionate group of local campaigners demonstrating their determination to preserve their island’s historic natural beauty.
Due to the unique nature of Jersey’s National Park, the area it covers is not typical of the likes of the Peak District or Dartmoor, which tend to be one large swathe of the countryside and/or coast clearly separated from its surroundings. Instead, Jersey’s park winds its way around most of the island’s coastline, with only portions of the south and south-east coast not designated as part of it. This means that all but four of Jersey’s parishes have at least some land within the Jersey National Park, which should be a good indication of how stunning virtually the whole island is.
The story behind the park and its location is truly inspirational and a fantastic example of how residents who are passionate about safeguarding where they live can really achieve great things. In 2009, an incredible 7,000 people – not far off 10% of the island’s entire population – joined hands from Le Braye beach to L’Etacq on the west coast and peacefully protested a series of planned developments that threatened to significantly affect Jersey’s unparalleled beauty. The protests worked and, as well as the more controversial developments being stopped, this magnificent display of people power led directly to the creation of the Jersey National Park in 2011.
Since its formation, the park’s existence has played a major role in protecting Jersey’s beautiful coast and, just as importantly, the many sensitive flora and fauna it is home to. One example of the kind of worthy initiative spearheaded by the park is the setting up of a special seabird protection zone; running from the northern headland at Plemont to Le Douet de la Mer, this project, amongst other aims, is intended to prevent the island’s iconic population of Atlantic puffins from decline.
Covering around 16% of the island’s land mass, the park is mainly located on the coast but there are also significant inland sections that full under its jurisdiction in the western parishes of St Ouen, St Peter and St Brelade. You don’t even need to be on the Jersey mainland to continue exploring the park, though, with the offshore islets of Ecrehous and Minquiers also being classified as National Park land.
Despite its heavy focus on nature, it is important to note that there is much more to the park than its rugged coastline and diverse wildlife. As a truly inclusive project, the Jersey National Park works in collaboration with many local companies and voluntary organisations to provide a memorable experience to everyone – locals and visitors – who step within its boundaries.
You will find more detailed information about everything you can do in the park in the following sections but, to give you a quick idea of the kind of diverse place you can visit across its length and breadth, you could choose from the likes of the Channel Islands Military Museum in St Ouen, the legendary Mont Orgueil castle and the tranquil Val de la Mare reservoir.
You may not have time to explore every part of the incredible Jersey National Park but, wherever you choose to discover, you are sure to make plenty of wonderful memories – 18 of Jersey’s 23 beaches are covered by the park, which also boasts an extraordinary 13 ecological and 18 geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
With 250,000 years of island history covered in the Jersey National Park – from a Palaeolithic cave to various WWII-era occupation sites – there is bound to be something that will fascinate every member of the family here, whatever they are interested in.
For a visual overview of which areas are covered by the park (and a quick guide to the various activities that can be enjoyed in each), just check out this map.
What is there to do in the park?
As previously mentioned, there is an incredibly diverse selection of things to see and do in the Jersey National Park, ranging from exploring ancient monuments to simply relaxing on the beach. In this section, we will introduce you to some of the most popular activities usually associated with this beautiful area.
It goes without saying that walking opportunities abound throughout the Jersey National Park, which takes in much of the island’s famous coastline and other natural beauty spots. Visitors may also be pleased to learn that there are several active organisations that specialise in providing both guided and self-guided tours of some of the park’s most precious and unique areas on foot.
Perhaps the most exciting and illuminating way to take a walk in Jersey is by booking a tour with Jersey Walk Adventures, which specialise in exploring the island’s beaches at low tide, giving visitors the chance to explore all manner of fascinating rockpools and the wonderful wildlife that lives in then.
It should come as no surprise to learn that the waters surrounding Jersey’s epic coast are perfect for enjoying all manner of water sports and, along with surfing, kayaking is right up there as one of the most popular water-based activities among locals and visitors alike.
If you’re interested in trying out kayaking whilst exploring the Jersey National Park, you won’t be short of options, as there are plenty of providers who specialise in both tours and equipment hire. One example is Absolute Adventures, who offer sessions for novices and experienced kayakers of all ages and also provide the option of adding some rock climbing, cliff jumping and coasteering into your experience!
Despite its modest size, Jersey has an extraordinarily rich and varied human history which spans hundreds of thousands of years. Much of this heritage is centred around the island’s coastal areas, so visitors to the Jersey National Park can be sure of discovering plenty of interesting stories.
There are loads of history tours to choose from in the park, with highlights including self-guided walks exploring the island’s myths and legends, ancient passage graves and WWII bunkers. Whatever era you’re interested in, there’ll be a piece of the past for you to discover in the National Park.
If you are a yoga enthusiast who is looking forward to truly relaxing during your time away, the Jersey National Park will be an absolute pleasure to visit. Largely based around beautiful St Brelade’s Bay, there are several well-established yoga tutors who offer outdoor lessons for yogis of all abilities to participate in, many of which take place on the island’s loveliest beaches.
For something a little different, why not try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding yoga? A wholly unique experience which is recommended for those with at least some yoga experience, this amazing session will see you paddle out into the beautiful waters off Ouaisne and Bel Croute and attempt some basic poses whilst balancing in the sea! SUP yoga is offered by local practitioner Jennifer Moore.
There are surely few more thrilling ways to get to grips with the Jersey National Park’s epic cliffs than by abseiling down them! Once again, there are several groups who encourage visitors to take on this exciting activity, and those who do so will be rewarded with some truly spectacular views across the sea as far as France.
For a truly unforgettable experience, get in touch with a provider like Jersey Adventures to arrange an abseil either down a cliff or a manmade local landmark like Mont Orgueil castle.
All this activity is great fun, of course, but it can also work up quite an appetite! Fortunately, Jersey is well-known for the high quality of its restaurants and cafés (many of which specialise, unsurprisingly, in locally-sourced seafood), and wherever you go in the National Park will be just a stone’s throw away from some excellent eateries.
From the extraordinary views over St Ouen’s Bay at the El Tico Beach Café to the Crab Shack at Gorey, from which you can see Mont Orgueil castle and across the sea to France, the various restaurants within the Jersey National Park will provide a dining experience that is like no other and about so much more than the food.
This is just a small selection of the almost endless activities that can be sampled throughout the park, so don’t worry if your favourite outdoor pastime isn’t listed above – the chances are that there will be ample opportunity for you to enjoy it amid the area’s incredible scenery.
Where can I stay in the park?
Due to the Jersey National Park’s largely coastal setting, it is inevitable that the area would also host much of the island’s most popular and sought-after accommodation, ranging from budget-friendly self-catered choices to indulgently luxurious hotels. If you think the idea of falling asleep with the waves whispering in your ear sounds like something you’d enjoy, take a few minutes to look at some of the properties we’ve highlighted below:
The Barge Aground is one of the only accommodation options in Jersey that has also become a local landmark in its own right. Built in the 1930s in an inimitable art deco style, the boat-shaped building is located on the Five Mile Road at St Ouen’s Bay and offers all the amazing, unobstructed ocean views you would expect.
An excellent accommodation choice for exploring different aspects of the Jersey National Park, the Barge Aground is located right in between a tranquil area of grassland and one of the island’s most popular beaches.
La Crete Fort
If you want to be immersed in even more history during your stay in the National Park, consider booking a stay at the incredible La Crete Fort, which – like the Barge Aground – is of such historical significance that it is managed by the Jersey Heritage Trust.
Built in the 1830s to bolster Jersey’s sea defences, La Crete Fort is located right out on the headland in the beautiful Bonne Nuit Bay and is surrounded by the sea on three sides. This is undoubtedly one of the park’s most secluded and tranquil accommodation options.
Also managed by Jersey Heritage, the Radio Tower is a reminder of how the heady days of the Barge Aground’s construction were swiftly followed by one of the island’s darkest periods when, in the 1940s, occupying German forces built a number of lookouts to help them fend off any potential Allied attacks.
One of the stranger accommodation options you will ever stay at, the Radio Tower also provides some incredible views, with a 360-degree panorama giving guests the most amazing outlook towards the nearby La Corbiere lighthouse and beyond.
The Atlantic Hotel
As wonderful as all our above choices are, we know that some visitors want nothing more once their busy day exploring the National Park ends than to be pampered in the lap of luxury! If you fall into this category, you need to check out the sumptuous Atlantic Hotel in St Brelade.
A member of the exclusive Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, the only feature of the Atlantic that is more impressive than its incredible restaurant, health club and rooms is its expansive views over the west coast.