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For wet and crazy family entertainment, cross the English Channel to Jersey, where the national costume is a wetsuit.

Jersey is one of the few nations where a wetsuit is the national costume and pier-jumping is the national sport.

At least, this is what Derek, the activity instructor, tells my son and me as he hands us our wetsuits and kayaks.

We verify his point minutes later as we paddle near the bay’s headland and a tall rock formation. Children wearing wetsuits are climbing all over it, and when they reach the top, they plunge off.

For wet and crazy family entertainment, cross the english channel to jersey, where the national costume is a wetsuit.

It is a common misperception that the largest of the Channel Islands is a placid, rich tax haven that draws individuals of a certain age. Gabriel and I are here to explore the fact that it is a paradise for outdoor activities, suitable for families and teenagers.

Jersey is a part of the British Isles, yet it is closer to France — precisely 14 miles from Saint-Malo in Brittany. And because it was ruled by Normandy until the thirteenth century, it possesses a French heritage. The street names are written in both French and English, and the capital, Saint Helier, boasts a boules court comparable to those in Paris or Saint-Tropez.

For wet and crazy family entertainment, cross the english channel to jersey, where the national costume is a wetsuit.
For wet and crazy family entertainment, cross the english channel to jersey, where the national costume is a wetsuit.

From its powder-white beaches to its brilliant blue oceans to its labyrinthine seascape of jagged granite rock stacks tinted every conceivable shade of red, the intensity of the colors in this region is particularly striking. When people view photographs of Jersey’s coastline, they assume they have been digitally altered, according to Derek. However, they have not. This is how New Jersey appears.

Take a two-hour kayak journey from St. Brelade’s Bay and you will explore this rugged seascape, sometimes passing through narrow spaces. Jersey boasts one of the biggest tidal ranges in the world; twice a day at low tide, the island swells to double its size, resulting in a completely different view upon your return.

Regardless of the tide, the water is so transparent that a tangle of sea spaghetti is always visible swinging from the seafloor. Derek pulls up a handful to sample. It is crisp, salty, and pairs well with seafood.

The Merton Hotel in St. Helier is a ten-minute walk from the beach, where we will be staying. It is family-friendly, with spacious rooms, a tennis court, and indoor and outdoor pools so vast that there is no reason to leave. It would be a shame not to explore this island, which is only nine by five miles and has nothing too far or too crowded.

Along the south coast, a former railway line has been transformed into a walking and cycling path, which is best experienced by renting an electric bike at the bus station opposite the capital. You’ll cycle by beautiful beaches, small fishing villages, and greenery so tropical (look for palm trees and birds of paradise) that you’d be excused for assuming you were in the Caribbean.

The Crab Shack near St. Brelade’s Bay is an excellent pit stop, serving tacos with crab, avocado, garlicky yogurt, and a spicy kick.

The greatest way to experience the island’s north, which is more rocky and windy, is via one of the many clifftop hiking trails that ascend and descend while waves crash against the rocks far below.

Inland, there are countless fields of Jersey Royal potatoes. And everywhere you go, you see signs advertising “Real Jersey Ice Cream.” To find the famed cows whose milk is used to manufacture the ice cream, however, is a different story.

The island boasts a population of 100,000 people, but nobody seems to know where the cows are until we visit the high Mont Orgueil Castle from the 13th century. Jersey has its currency, so the cashier pulls out a pound note from her pocket and points to the watermark on the note to indicate the whereabouts of a cow. You can guess its design!

This castle is steeped in history, and Sir Walter Raleigh is responsible for its continued existence. Elizabeth I ordered him to destroy it in 1600, but he resisted, deeming it too spectacular. It eventually became a favorite of Queen Victoria, and on a clear day, it is possible to see France from its battlements.

The island’s greatest draw is its variety. Landlubbers will enjoy kilometers of pristine beaches, while daredevils can engage in surfing, paddleboarding, pier-jumping, etc.

In addition, foodies are in for a treat, as restaurants use only the freshest local foods. BJ’s Brewhouse’s 12-hour slow-cooked beef brisket is particularly remarkable for its melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.

And it is imperative to visit the War Tunnels. The tunnels, constructed by the Germans as their headquarters during the Second World War, are now a museum depicting the lives and deaths of islanders during the occupation.

The greatest excitement is saved for last: a RIB speedboat marine safari. The boat creates spray as it speeds through the water, and the passengers cheer whenever the vessel banks suddenly. The safari travels by German forts and uninhabited islets known as Les Ecrehous, but the highlight is entering a cave that overlooks the frightening Devil’s Hole blowhole. It has been worn into Jersey’s coastline over millennia and, despite its ominous-sounding name, is ethereal in appearance.


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