From puffin-spotting and strawberry ice cream to rocky descents and churches dotted with shells, Sophie Barling explores Jersey’s finest beaches.

Jersey may be the biggest of the Channel Islands, but it’s only nine by five miles, which means you’re never more than a 10-minute drive from the sea. French road signs are a reminder that it was once part of the Duchy of Normandy – the most southerly of the British Isles, it lies much closer to our Gallic neighbours than to the English coast. Sheltered by France’s Cotentin Peninsula and warmed by the Gulf Stream, the island enjoys a temperate climate, helping to make it something of a summertime idyll.

The rugged north coast provides plenty of opportunities for rock-pooling, puffin-spotting and spectacular cliff-top walks, and the south-west has a particularly good clutch of golden bays that specialise in magnificent sunsets. Dotted all round the island, picturesque ports offer good places to throw yourself into the water first thing in the morning, followed by breakfast at a harbour cafe. With surfing, scuba diving, kayaking and jet-skiing all on offer, there’s no shortage of water-based activities. Pick up a cone of ice cream made with milk from Jersey cows (a scoop of Minioti’s award-winning strawberry would be a good bet) and the conditions are set for bucket-and-spade bliss.

St Brelade’s Bay

Nestling in a sheltered spot in the south-west, St Brelade’s is probably the island’s most popular beach – and for good reason. It’s perfect for swimming, as well as sailing, surfing and windsurfing, with no shortage
of golden sand for castle competitions. There are good places to eat – the Crab Shack is a local favourite for freshly caught fare, or there’s the Oyster Box for something smarter. The ancient church that gives the
bay its name sits at the western end and is definitely worth a visit – spot the limpet shells in the stonework
and medieval frescos in the little Fishermen’s Chapel.

Beauport

Jersey’s most beautiful beach, certainly for locals and those in the know, is Beauport (the clue’s in the name). Those seeking somewhere a bit more peaceful than nearby St Brelade’s will make the steep descent by foot to this south-facing, hidden bay, where crystal-clear waters are explored only by the odd snorkeler. There’s good swimming at both low and high tide, rocks for jumping off and dolphin spotting if you’re lucky.

St Ouens

Stretching all the way down the west coast of the island, St Ouens is a wonderful beach for surfing
and sunbathing. Buy supplies at Faulkner Fisheries – which is housed in a former Second World War
bunker – to make up a picnic or an evening barbecue, which you can eat watching a brilliant sunset as the waves crash against the sea wall. St Ouens backs on to Les Mielle de Morville Nature Reserve, with its
many scenic walks, and the award-winning Ocean Restaurant at the Atlantic Hotel is nearby. Teenagers
can enjoy some après-surf at The Watersplash bar and nightclub.

Plemont

A secluded, sandy cove on Jersey’s north-west shore, Plemont beach is reached by a long descent with lots of steps, which makes it more suit-able for adults and older children than babies and toddlers. At the
bottom, rock pools and a network of caves await exploration and the waves are often strong enough for surfing or boogie boarding. The cafe at the top, which also sells buckets and spades, has fantastic views.

Grouville

Mont Orgueil Castle stands guard over the wide sweep of Grouville Bay

This wide sweep of sand on the south-east coast pleased Queen Victoria so much that it was renamed The Royal Bay of Grouville. Shallow waters make for safe, warm swimming and there’s plenty in the way
of watersports, shops and places to eat. The Moorings restaurant in the picturesque harbour was
a favourite haunt of Gerald Durrell, author of My Family and Other Animals, and is overlooked by the medieval Mont Orgueil Castle.