Every couple has their thing, that one thing that really defines them as a couple. For some it could be eating food together, for others it could be going to the cinema, but for Dan and I, it was always travel and a love of exploring the world. Our best times together were when we had our backpacks on, our passports in our pockets and an adventure before us. When the kids came along that took a major backseat. I wanted so badly to be like the mums you read about who use their maternity leave to travel the world but it just wasn’t our reality. When we would think about family holidays it became a flurry of questions and uncertainty. The types of trips we loved were the ones where we could just pack a bag, jump on a train or plane and go. But the holidays that were being advertised to us as ‘family friendly’ were all about the resorts and kids clubs and we just couldn’t get excited about it. That’s not to say we wouldn’t enjoy that type of holiday, but it was so far from what we knew that it was hard to know where to begin.
Last week we finally took our first holiday since becoming a family of four – to Jersey! We didn’t know much about Jersey but on the face of it, it seemed like an ideal destination for us. I knew about it’s beautiful scenery and interesting history and was also aware that it was known for being family friendly. Being easily accessible by a fast ferry meant we also didn’t have to face the unknown world of flying with kids and the fact that we could sail from Poole which is only an hour from our front doorstep pretty much sealed the deal.
Travelling To Jersey
We travelled with Condor Ferries on the Liberation Trimeran which is their fast ferry. The whole journey took us around four hours port to port, with a drop off at Guernsey. We upgraded to Ocean Plus which meant we also had the luxury of panoramic views from the front of the boat and reclining seats. I’m not going to pretend it was all plain sailing (sorry couldn’t resist the pun!) taking a two year old and a newborn on a ferry but on the whole it was a pleasant experience and definitely less stress inducing than catching a plane or going through security with the kids. We decided not to take the pram onto the boat as we weren’t sure how much room there would be to walk around with it, so I took Ernie in the baby carrier. In hindsight we could have taken the pram as there was room but I actually found it much easier to be ‘hands free’ with the baby carrier anyway. We ate lunch on the boat which was delicious, a definite step up from air plane food, and reasonably priced too.
When we arrived in Jersey it was a very quick and easy process to drive off the boat and head out of the port to find our hotel. Jersey is so small that really you could stay anywhere on the island and have easy access to the ferry terminal but our hotel was very close, and it was only a matter of minutes before we found it. We stayed at The Merton Hotel which was lovely. Our room was spacious and clean, the staff were so friendly and welcoming and to top it all off there was an Aquadome with the most amazing swimming pool, perfect for entertaining a toddler on rainy days. Not that we had many of those!
The Merton boasts many restaurants, bars and even a diner so we were certainly spoilt for choice and it was so convenient to have the luxury of that choice so close by. I was anticipating that dinner time could be one of the more stressful elements of our family holiday. Darcie has a general aversion to food and sitting still, but by eating our evening meal in the hotel it eliminated a lot of that stress simply by knowing that we were only two minutes away from our room if we needed to make a quick getaway. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried and she was an absolute star at dinner times, and Ernie actually slept through every meal in his pram while we were there too (I know, what a babe!!).
On our first night we ate at The Belvedere which is their buffet style restaurant. The food was superb and once again we were spoilt for choice! There was a special area of the buffet specifically aimed at children too, which meant we could easily choose foods that Darcie would eat. My favourite part of the restaurant was, of course, the desert table! I went for the most amazing Coconut and Vanilla Cake and to be honest, I’m still craving it now! The wait staff at The Belvedere really went above and beyond to make sure that we had everything we needed and that Darcie was happy and entertained. Breakfast is served at The Belvedere every morning and was also in a buffet style with an amazing array of cooked and continental breakfast foods to choose from. It’s safe to say we all ate way too much while we were there, but hey, that’s what holidays are for right?
Bonetti’s is the A La Carte restaurant that serves a delicious menu of Italian food. We actually ate there twice and all ordered almost exactly the same items both times because we had enjoyed them so much the first time. It was here that Darcie ate the most amount of food we think she has ever eaten, absolutely devouring her ‘Children’s Basket’ of chicken and chips. Dan, of course, couldn’t resist the steak and sung it’s praises while I went for a classic Spaghetti Bolognese which was absolutely the best I’ve ever tried. Again, the wait staff were so lovely to us and so good with Darcie. If you are looking for a hotel in Jersey that goes above and beyond for families, then I would really recommend The Merton
Family Fun On Jersey
Well, where do I begin? Honestly, if there is one thing that struck me about Jersey, it’s just the way it seems like it was made for families! As I said before, it is a small island but the attractions that there are for young families well exceeded my expectations. We had five days there and wanted to see and do as much as possible so we didn’t spend as long at some of the attractions as we would have done otherwise, but we could have easily of spent longer at each of the places we visited.
I loved Jersey Zoo! The main animals were bears and many different types of monkey, along with a good selection of reptiles and birds. My favourite thing about the zoo was just how green it was – there were big, leafy plants everywhere, how much space the animals had and how well looked after they were. This really was a delightful day out. Darcie was in her element running around and doing some commentary on the animals to rival David Attenborough. She was especially fascinated by a bear eating an orange and was very worried when he kept dropping it! There was a really good play park too which we would have definitely spent more time in if we weren’t enjoying looking at the animals so much.
The War Tunnels
This was Dan’s favourite attraction and is one that I’m sure would be a great hit with older children. However, Darcie wasn’t a huge fan of the tunnels and found them scary but I think if she were a little older she would have found them very exciting. The War Tunnels are absolutely fascinating and the exhibition is so interesting, even to someone like me who generally isn’t a fan of historical sightseeing. Jersey is steeped in history and this would be a fantastic day out for children old enough to benefit from the education side of it.
aMaizin! Adventure Park
This was hands down our favourite day out on the island. We nearly didn’t visit the park as it wasn’t as highly advertised as some of the other attractions on the island, but I am so glad that we did! The list of outdoor activities that they had on offer is endless and we could have easily spent much more than a day here and not been bored. I’ll never be able to list them all but some of Darcie’s favourite activities were the huge mud kitchen area, the toboggans, mini tractors, an amazing Teletubby House style dome with slides inside, and of course, the farmyard animals. There were also amazing bouncy castles, huge playgrounds, an inside play area and sensory rooms for younger babies. I wish we had something this amazing for kids near where we live in Southampton and I’m not exaggerating when I say it is the best place of this nature for kids that I have ever visited. It’s all family run too, and I can’t rave about it enough. If you go to Jersey, you have to go here!
Tamba Park was another great day out for Darcie. There is a large indoor play area, a dinosaur trail, a huge lake with mini boats and the option to buy fish food to feed the giant Carp, trampolines and mini golf. Darcie was thrilled at the dinosaur trail and made us stand and watch a baby dinosaur hatch out of an egg for a very long time! She loved feeding the fish and it was a lovely place to walk around outside with the pram too.
Mont Orgueil Castle
Maybe not one for the faint hearted if you have two kids, but we loved Mont Orgueil Castle. There are a lot of steps leading up to the castle and also a network of staircases and towers to explore once you are inside. I carried Ernie in the baby carrier and we were able to borrow a backpack carrier for Dan to use to carry Darcie. I thought it was brilliant that they had carriers to lend out to families as I’m not sure I would have wanted Darcie roaming free on all those stairs and I’d have been impressed if her little legs could cope with it all anyway! The castle overlooks Gorey Bay and the views from the top were just stunning! The day we went up was such a beautiful sunny day and we could see for miles and miles all over Jersey and the bay.
There are countless beaches on the island and they are all totally different depending on which coast you go to. I would have loved to have spent more time exploring them all because even in the Autumn they were so stunning. Some of my favourite moments of the holiday were ones we spent by the sea. Our favourite spot was Beauport Beach which had an impressive amount of stairs leading down to it, but the walk was so worth it when we made it to the bottom. It was the most beautiful bay, totally untouched by mankind and we had the beach all to ourselves. The beach was sandy but with stones along the base of the cliff which Darcie loved picking up and throwing into the sea.
This is probably one of the longest posts I have ever written, but I so badly wanted to do Jersey the justice it deserves. I think the Channel Island are such an underrated holiday destination but they have so much to offer. Jersey was the perfect destination for our first family holiday and has opened our eyes to just how wonderful travelling with kids can be. Given the mild climate and wide array of things to do, Jersey would be perfect for a holiday all year round. The Island also has a food festival called Tennerfest that runs from mid October to mid November which many of the restaurants on the island take part in by offering amazing deals throughout this time. The idea is to encourage visitors to make the most of the offers and to try the wide range of foods that there are on Jersey.
This holiday was the perfect balance for us. It was the type of trip we would have taken before having kids, but then there were also all the amazing family friendly days out thrown in too. If you are thinking about booking a family holiday and can’t quite decide between going abroad or staying in England, then the Channel Islands really are the best of both worlds.
Condor Ferries operates a year-round service to the Channel Islands from Poole with its fast ferry Condor Liberation, alongside a conventional ferry service from Portsmouth. To book and check current prices, visit condorferries.com or call 0345 609 1024.
*We were thrilled to be working in collaboration with Condor Ferries, Visit Jersey and The Merton Hotel for this post. As always, all opinions are my own and I would never work with companies or recommend products or services that I didn’t truly love.