Guernsey travel with kids: 'A home away from home - but still an adventure'
By Kimberley Barber
A mini-break while pregnant and with a toddler in tow might seem like an impossible task. But we wanted to make the most of our family still being a trio, so we headed to the Channel Islands.
Living on the south coast provides many benefits - easy ferry connections being just one. So instead of packing everything into a small case and going through the stress of an airport, we loaded the car up and set off for Poole, where Condor Ferries runs daily services to Guernsey.
A meal, some playing with the toddler and several hundred laps of the ferry later, we had docked at St Peter Port.
Our hotel - Les Rocquettes - was just a short trip from the port, within walking distance of the town centre and with plenty of parking. We were greeted in the stylish reception by a friendly staff member, who helped us up to our clean and well presented room, which had a balcony looking over the hotel's garden.
Tired from a full day’s excitement on the ferry, we opted to stay close and ate in the hotel’s well-sized restaurant, which has a bar/pub attached, before hitting the sack early so we could make the most of the next day.
A thriving town
I’m not sure what I expected from Guernsey - perhaps rural villages where everyone spoke French while smoking Gauloises and drinking Ricard, but that’s not true of St Peter Port. It’s a thriving town, and Saturdays are actually quite busy.
There was a cruise ship in dock, with hundreds of tourists adding to the hubbub, plus a large football game - the Muratti Vase between Guernsey and Jersey - taking place that afternoon.
However, we found some tranquility at the Candie Gardens - a beautiful 19th century park that looks out over the town towards the sea. The gardens are award-winning and were once part of a private estate. It is beautifully kept, on two levels, and is also home to the Priaulx Library, art gallery, museum and a wonderful cafe set in the old Victorian bandstand. After refuelling on some of the largest, most delicious slabs of cake I have ever seen, and letting the toddler out of his pushchair for some activity, we head into the town to explore.
Like I said earlier, St Peter Port is busy. There’s a real buzz. It’s quite far removed from the image I had in mind, but still beautiful with cobbled streets that look like they should be in central France, the only difference being the brands are all British. Yes, there’s even an M&S, Boots and WHSmiths.
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Candie Gardens Museum and Victor Hugo statue
We take a stroll along the front, before hopping on one of the island's cheap and frequent bus services back up the hill to the hotel.
Once at the hotel, we head to its large indoor pool and jacuzzi to relax - before retiring to our room with room service for dinner.
Family days out
The next day, the toddler insists on the pool again, so after another swim, we pack up and head out across the island to explore. We drive its coast road and marvel at some of Guernsey's gorgeous beaches, before heading to Saumarez Park.
This place has been billed online as the best free family day out - and it doesn’t disappoint, with a huge play area to explore.
It’s the largest public park in Guernsey, and there’s free parking too. There is a nature trail that links the park with nearby Cobo Bay, making it a great destination for a picnic and a walk with the family.
It is also home to The National Trust of Guernsey's Folk and Costume Museum, which we can explore as part of our National Trust membership. This gives a fascinating insight into life on the island, and it’s eye opening to see just how much the place has been developed and evolved.
La Vallette bathing pools
There’s just time for us to squeeze in a quick trip to the aquarium, which is tiny but enjoyed by the toddler, plus it is near to the most impressive outdoor pools called La Vallette. These have magnificent views and would be wonderful on a hot summer’s day.
A home away from home
A quick pit stop to refuel sees us scoff Guernsey Gache at a quaint ramshackle cafe called Fishy Tales Tea Room at the harbour (a great glimpse of local life) while watching model boats on the boating lake.
Then we call in for flying visit to the castle before boarding our ferry home. We only wish we’d left more time for the castle, as there’s so much to explore.
For this ferry crossing the toddler is exhausted so he sleeps, and we relax in our reclining chairs - thankful for the experience and curious to explore the other Channel Islands.
Guernsey feels like a home away from home for a Brit - but just far enough away and beautiful to make it seem like an adventure.