Noteworthy for knitted sweaters, cows, beaches, intriguing locals, and pleasant weather, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, one of the main Channel Islands, makes an interesting side trip for Americans visiting southern England or northwest France. The British Crown dependency is closer to the latter, but is inherently British with an attractive countryside strewn with historical relics.
Guernsey’s west coast and its capital city St Peter Port are the main attractions. The pleasant weather draws visitors to the likes of Vazon Bay, where there is good swimming and surfing, but many beaches are hemmed by cliffs and present great hiking opportunities and land activities with fantastic views. Sailing is hugely popular and St Peter Port has an enviable marina, presided over by Castle Cornet. The streets of the capital are narrow and winding and feature period buildings, traditional pubs and pedestrianized shopping thoroughfares.
Accommodation options range from resorts, guesthouses, and bed and breakfasts to cute cottages dotted around the countryside and at the beaches. Guernsey is relatively expensive for hotels and food, though is a good value for car rental and shopping. There is some excellent eating with a meld of British and French favorites, and a good deal of fresh seafood like spider crabs and mussels. Guernsey also churns out its own cider and traditional ales, bottled beers and wines are widely available in pubs. The locals enjoy visitors, since it is the bread and butter industry for many residents and are naturally welcoming.
Guernsey is small enough to explore by bicycle and the roads are typically uncongested and sedate. Car rental is also popular and it is nice to drive to the ancient monoliths, German bunkers, churches, stately homes, and secluded coves located all around the island. There are several other islands just a few minutes away and many visitors choose to jump on a ferry and take in the neighboring Sark and Herm. These are car-free and best explored by horseback.
Public buses run to all attractions on the island between St Peter Port and the beaches and villages, as well as to the airport. Metered taxis are also on hand, but are pricey. Guernsey is small and can be crossed by rental car in 20 minutes. The roads are easy going and there is a coast orbital with routes heading inland to all noteworthy sights. Guernsey Airport mainly receives regional flights from London and Frankfurt, while fast ferries serve both the French and UK mainlands.
- Soak up the sun at Pembroke Bay or enjoy the surf at Vazon Bay
- See neighboring Herm or Sark islands via horse and buggy
- Enjoy the period gardens and museum at ancient Castle Cornet in St Peter Port Harbour
- Sample tasty produce of the sea at Fermain Beach Café (Fermain Beach) or snack at Crabby Jack’s (Vazon Bay)
- Shop for a Guernsey sweater or local crafts along the pedestrianized High Street
- Cram into the world’s smallest cathedral, The Little Chapel
- Discover old forts, castles, and German bunkers amid pretty, rolling countryside