Visitors to the Channel Islands, it can be said, have the 'best of both worlds' – a combination of being 'home' and abroad. For the Islands are an archipelago in the English Channel that, although are British Crown Dependencies with an allegiance to the Queen, are actually closer geographically to France than mainland Britain. And the Gallic influence is easily identifiable in the French street names and a different ambience.
Residents of the Channel Islands are full British citizens, with English as the main language and Sterling as the currency. But independent administration and judicial law comes under two Bailiwicks. There is the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which covers seven permanently inhabited islands (Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jetou, Brecqhou and Lihou) and the Bailiwick of Jersey, covering the largest of the Channel Isles. For caravan holidays in the Channel Islands you can only visit Jersey; caravans are not allowed on any of the other islands.
Situated in the Bay of Mont St Michel, Jersey is just 14 miles from France but 100 miles south of mainland Britain. The island occupies just 60 square miles of predominantly rural landscape with open fields, woodlands, cliffs, headlands and wide, sweeping Atlantic beaches. The French influence comes in the names of villages and streets, and farmhouses do indeed look very French.
With narrow, winding lanes, the island is a joy to discover at a slow and leisurely pace – in addition to a handful of main roads, mostly converging on the capital, St Helier, there's a 45-mile network of 'Green Lanes'. These are country roads with a maximum speed limit of 15mph, with priority given to walkers, cyclists and horseriders.
But that's not to say that the island of Jersey is living in the past. The Channel Islands are the only part of Britain to be occupied by German Forces from 1940 to 1945 and evidence of the occupation is all over the island. But today, in addition to the rural economy made from famous Jersey Royal potatoes and deliciously creamy Channel Islands dairy products, the island has a chic and modish reputation for shopping, with very much a continental café culture in St Helier.
Of course, one of the main attractions for caravan holidays on Jersey is its vast sandy beaches. While the north coast is predominantly made up of rocky headlands and coves, the south and east coasts are one great swathe of sand, with the crescent-shaped St Aubin's Bay coming right up to St Helier. One of the most accessible beaches is Grève de Lecq. On the west coast, the five-mile long St Ouen's Bay is considered the best for surfing.
Top five things to do in The Channel Islands
Visit Elizabeth Castle. On a rocky islet in St Aubin's Bay, this castle has defended Jersey for over 400 years and is an iconic symbol of the island. Once a battlement for Sir Walter Raleigh, then a refuge for King Charles II during the English Civil War, its bunkers were later re-fortified during the German Occupation in World War Two. The castle is accessible by ferry or on foot at low tide.
Turn caravan holidays in Jersey into history tours when you visit St Ouen for the Channel Islands Military Museum. The museum is housed in a former German bunker that formed part of Hitler's Atlantic Wall defences. Inside is a fascinating and poignant collection of artefacts telling the story of the Islands' occupation during World War Two.
Visit the Durrell Wildlife Park. Set up over 50 years ago on Jersey by Gerald Durrell, author (famous for his semi-autobiographical book, 'My Family and Other Animals') and naturalist, the wildlife park is sanctuary to more than 130 endangered species with an important rearing programme. The wildlife park is considered one of the best attractions to visit on Jersey.
Leave the caravan on one of the campsites in Jersey to go 'moonwalking' and spend a night in Seymour Tower, an 18th-century defence against French attacks one mile off the south east coast of Jersey. Jersey's 30 to 40 feet tides are among the highest in the world and, at low tide, they leave a bizarre lunar landscape teeming with marine wildlife that's ready to wander across. Stay overnight in the Tower, completely surrounded by 40 feet of water at high tide. It's also possible to do a daytime 'moonwalk', without staying overnight.
Take a boat trip to some of the other Channel Islands and see their own unique environment to that of Jersey. Ferries link all the Channel Islands. Boats sail from St Helier to Guernsey (where you can hop on another 15-minute boat ride to Herm) and Sark. You must visit Herm and Sark because they are so beautiful and traffic-free (except a farm tractor, bikes and horses). Go to Herm's Shell Beach, one of the best beaches in the Channel Islands. Visit Sark, which was featured in the BBC2 series, 'An Island Parish', and enjoy a spectacular walk via the narrow isthmus to Little Sark.
When to visit The Channel Islands
When spring is in full swing in May, Liberation Day is a major mark in the calendar commemorating the liberation of the Channel Islands from German Occupation on 9th May 1945. Many events across the islands take place.
Also in May is the gleaming Jersey Boat Show in St Helier and the Jersey Food Festival, with events taking place across the island to celebrate the Jersey Royal potato, seafood and dairy produce. And in August, one of Jersey's largest and most colourful events, the Battle of Flowers takes place in St Helier. The spectacular carnival has been running for over one hundred years.
How to get to The Channel Islands
Caravan holidays on Jersey require some planning. It is not possible simply to pitch up unannounced at a ferry port on mainland Britain and hop on a boat.
Condor Ferries operates a route to Jersey (St Helier) from Poole. There are also ferries from Normandy in France if you plan to add the Channel Islands onto your caravan holidays in France or the rest of Continental Europe. Condor Ferries sometimes provides special offers such as 'caravans go free' deals.
Before you go for caravan holidays on Jersey you will need to obtain a permit. When you book one of the three campsites on Jersey that welcome touring caravans, they will arrange it all. Your chosen campsite will make the booking for both your accommodation on site and the ferry crossing, and will obtain the permit. This permit, showing valid dates, must be displayed in the window of your caravan at all times during your caravan holidays on Jersey.
This permit allows two journeys only on the island while towing a caravan – effectively to and from the ferry port/campsite. Cars fitted with a towbar but not towing may travel around the island under general laws. Caravans are allowed to stay on Jersey for a maximum of one month, and you must have third party insurance and proof of ownership with you at all times.
Roads are small on Jersey and the maximum width of a car-and-caravan outfit allowed on the island is 2.3m. The maximum length of the caravan can be no more than 6.7m and the total unit (car and caravan) is 16.5m.
That said, Condor Ferries requires exact dimensions of no more than 13.5m total length or 6.5m in length for the caravan. Your unit should not exceed a maximum weight of 3.5 tonnes when fully laden and you can only carry one gas canister up to 5kg weight (you must turn it off prior to boarding). Outfits exceeding the dimensions provided upon booking are unlikely to be able to travel.
The regulations governing caravan entry to Jersey may sound slightly draconian, but it does allow everyone on the island to have a pleasant holiday without clogged roads and over-full campsites. It makes camping and caravan holidays on Jersey all the more special.