If you haven’t yet decided how to spend Christmas, why not choose something a little different and plan to spend the festive season on the beautiful island of Jersey? Although it may be best-known as an idyllic summer holiday hotspot, Jersey is arguably an even more rewarding place to discover in the colder months, with the lack of crowds and bracing weather conditions allowing visitors to experience its wild side at their own pace.
This guide will take you through a selection of things you can do on your holiday to Jersey this Christmas, ranging from traditional markets where you can soak up the cosy atmosphere alongside the locals to some outdoor beauty spots that really are at their best in the windswept winter.
Enjoy the great outdoors
Found at the island’s north-west corner, Plemont offers visitors the very definition of dramatic coastal scenery. A popular spot with locals thanks to its relatively secluded location, Plemont’s rugged cliffs, hidden caves and perfect beach all help to make it a wonderful year-round destination. For the intrepid winter traveller who is looking for a truly remote viewpoint to savour, however, we would recommend walking out to the nearby headland.
From the 1930s until 2001, the headland was dominated by a holiday park, which was finally demolished in 2015. Since then, the National Trust for Jersey and a team of volunteers have worked hard to restore Plemont to its natural glory, making it once again a haven for wildlife and an awe-inspiring place to visit, particularly when the wind gets up and the waves smash against the shore during the winter – as you’ll see, having the place virtually to yourself doesn’t mean it will be quiet!
Close to St. Brelade’s Bay, Beauport is a very popular spot in the summer months but, like all the places in this list, will be much quieter if you visit during your Christmas holiday. Unlike the headland at Plemont, Beauport is naturally sheltered by cliffs, meaning that those who want to avoid being subjected to high winds will be able to enjoy the amazing views from the beach in comfort.
This bay is accessed via a long, steep stairway, so will not be easy for everyone to get down to. However, those who can make their way to Beauport on a crisp winter’s day will be very pleased that they made the effort.
Bonne Nuit harbour
Found on Jersey’s northern coast, the small natural harbour known as ‘Bonne Nuit’ is another great place to spend time in winter for those who want to experience the wild outdoors without getting blown away! In fact, even the harbour’s name is derived from the shelter it provides from the natural elements; it was called Bonne Nuit (which translates to ‘good night’) because of the restful night’s sleep that travelling sailors could expect when they docked there.
The harbour is always buzzing when it holds an excellent, family-friendly festival each June, but those seeking a little peace and quiet are sure to find it here in the winter months.
St. Ouen’s Bay beach
The beach at St. Ouen’s Bay is extensive, spanning most of the island’s western coast. Unlike some of the island’s beaches, the land surrounding much of this stretch of sand is flat, meaning that there is little protection from the elements.
Nevertheless, if you wrap up warm before you set off, you will be rewarded with a wonderfully bracing walk along this seemingly endless shore. The view that you will enjoy of the 18th-century La Rocco Tower in the distance will add a fittingly dramatic atmosphere to your ramble across the beach’s vast, golden expanse.
If you can manage it, completing the entire walk along St. Ouen’s Bay (approximately three miles) on a wild winter’s day is an experience that will make you feel truly connected to the great outdoors and will stay in the memory for many years to come.
Late-night shopping is one of those things that make Christmas a special time of year. Making your way around the shops and markets when the decorations are lit up and lots of other families are out enjoying the festive spirit is a classic Christmas experience, and you’ll be pleased to hear that Jersey’s capital of St. Helier fully embraces this tradition.
This year, the late-night shopping will be taking place on Thursday evenings, with many of the town’s best shops (and its markets) staying open until 9 PM. In addition, Sundays – when trading hours on the island are usually strictly limited – will see the shops open until 5 PM. The 2018 extended shopping starts on 22 November and will continue every Thursday and Sunday up to Christmas. Here’s more information about some of the places that will be open, and what you can expect to find there:
16 New Street (National Trust gift shop)
Surely the most unique shop that will be offering late-night shopping over the Christmas period in St. Helier is 16 New Street, a National Trust-owned Georgian property that is well worth a visit at any time of year.
Recently saved from possible demolition, fully restored and eventually opened to the public, 16 New Street now stands as a tribute to the majesty of the Regency period. Its faithfully reproduced interiors (and the friendly resident cook) make visitors feel like they have travelled back in time, whilst the well-stocked gift shop offers a great selection of souvenirs and presents. During late-night shopping season, this is extended into two rooms, providing an even wider range of products to browse.
Central and Beresford Markets
The two markets that can be found in the centre of St. Helier have played a vital role in the capital’s community for over 200 years, with many islanders being rightly proud of their rich history and the fact that they remain bustling centres of home-grown commerce.
Whether you are looking to buy local produce, crafts or other goods, the Central and Beresford (the latter is commonly known as the ‘Fish Market’) buildings are home to plenty of stalls that will be of interest. Both markets have undergone extensive refurbishment in the last couple of years and will prove a pleasure to wander around during the late-night shopping dates.
Liberty Wharf shopping centre
Opening in 2010, Liberty Wharf is the only covered shopping arcade in Jersey, so may well get busy in December if the rain starts to fall! Spanning 58,000-square feet and occupying the site of St. Helier’s former railway station, the shopping centre boasts an impressive mix of independent and high street retailers.
Royal Square Christmas market
Given its modest size, Jersey is home to a remarkable number of highly talented, niche professionals who are experts in everything from growing organic produce to handcrafting sustainable furniture. For nearly 20 years, Genuine Jersey has been dedicated to bringing together and showcasing the very best of what the island’s most creative people have to offer, and one of the ways in which they do this is by holding a wonderful seasonal market called ‘Simply Christmas’.
This year, the market is being held in the new venue of St. Helier’s Royal Square and will consist of two four-day events, with some of the dates coinciding with the capital’s late-night shopping. Be sure to head to the square between 6-9 or 13-16 December to find beautiful gifts, sample delicious food and listen to fantastic live music. To give you a flavour of the unique stalls you can look forward to browsing at the Simply Christmas market, here are just a few examples of the many skilled artisans Genuine Jersey currently represent:
La Mare Wine Estate
La Mare Wine Estate is a great place to visit as part of any holiday to Jersey, with its picturesque vineyard offering visitors everything from tasting tours to the chance to explore beautiful gardens and even a children’s play trail.
The estate’s excellent produce can also be bought online, so you can easily find that perfect Christmas gift for the connoisseur in your life, even if you don’t have time to take a trip there during your holiday. Everything that La Mare offers, from its wine and cider to chocolates and preserves, is guaranteed to be of the highest quality.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a little indulgence, and those with a sweet tooth will love the delicious range of confectionery available from Sue’s Fudge. The winner of multiple gold stars at the 2017 Great Taste Awards, Sue Le Gresley’s classic yet unique selection of fudge is renowned both locally and way beyond Jersey.
With flavours including Jersey black butter, ginger, rich chocolate and classic vanilla, there is something to suit all tastes at Sue’s Fudge, which is made from a secret recipe and uses butter, milk and cream from Jersey’s own Classic Herd Dairy. A word of warning, though – these particular treats are so moreish that you may find your ‘presents’ for friends and family somehow disappear before you get them home!
One of Jersey’s most enchanting features is, of course, its coastline. You may not be able to take the island’s stunning beaches and the waters that lap them home with you but, thanks to the beautiful handmade ceramics of local artist Jane James, your memories of the wild winter seas will stay fresh for years to come.
Exquisitely handcrafted using speciality glazes and mounted on reclaimed coastal timber and driftwood, Jane’s fabulous decorative ornaments, jewellery and homeware items are all inspired by the charm and character of Jersey’s coast and will bring the island’s awe-inspiring sea and shore right into your home.
Christmas is the most important time of year when it comes to spending quality time with our families, and you will be happy to hear that there is plenty going on in Jersey over the festive season that will be perfect for the little ones and parents alike.
Ice-skating at Fort Regent
As the premier leisure centre in Jersey, Fort Regent in St. Helier is ideally placed to host the island’s fantastic indoor ice rink. With the skating running from 7 December until 13 January (every day except Christmas Day), there will be plenty of time for you to include a visit to the rink as part of your holiday.
Beginners and experts alike are welcome to skate at Fort Regent, and there will be a dedicated children’s area (with penguin skate aids) to ensure your family can enjoy exploring the ice in complete safety. There will also be a professional coach on hand for those who want to enhance their skills, whilst a party atmosphere will descend upon the rink every Friday and Saturday evening when a resident DJ takes to the turntables!
For more information, including pricing details, click here.
Christmas Tree Festival at St. Peter’s Parish Church
What would the festive season be without Christmas trees? This year, the parish church in St. Peter will be holding its 14th annual Christmas Tree Festival, which sees this ancient place of worship filled with trees beautifully decorated by a wide range of charities, businesses, schools and other local organisations.
Anyone who happens to be in St. Peter between 8-16 December is welcome to visit the church to enjoy its unique display (open daily from 9 AM to 7 PM). The festival will also begin with a special celebratory concert, whilst the final day will be marked with a candlelight Christingle service.
‘A Victorian Christmas’ at Jersey Museum and Art Gallery
For those who love the traditional aspects of Christmas, make sure you go along to the Merchant’s House (adjoining the Jersey Museum and Art Gallery in St. Helier) for their Victorian Christmas event, which will be taking place on 1 and 2 December.
For just a £1 entry fee (free for under-6s), you can travel back in time and discover what Christmas was like for people in the 1800s. Set in a majestic and fully restored 19th-century townhouse, the event will feature artisan stalls, carol singing, craft workshops and plenty of traditional food and drink.
For more details on Jersey Heritage, the group who will be running A Victorian Christmas, click here.