Short breaks to the Channel Islands: 11 top things to do in Guernsey

St Peter Port town and harbour in Guenrsey

Guernsey is a beautiful island off the coast of France that has some incredible things to see and do. But if you’re planning a short break, it can be hard to decide what to prioritise.

To help you plan your trip effectively, I’ve put together this list of some of the best things to do in Guernsey. I hope that these suggestions will provide some inspiration.

Read on for my top 11 ideas for things to do in Guernsey and practical information to help you plan your break.

There’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking to focus on historical sites, relax on the fabulous Guernsey beaches, have a foodie break or do some walking and swimming.

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Where is Guernsey located?

Guernsey is a British Crown Dependency with the Queen as the Head of State. It is the second largest Channel island after Jersey. It sits in the English Channel, around 70 miles from the English coast and 30 miles west of Normandy in France.

The island is part of what is known as the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a collection of islands that include Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou and Lihou.

How to get to Guernsey

It’s really easy to have a short break in Guernsey: Condor ferries run a high speed ferry from Poole which takes just three hours. A ferry route also operates between Portsmouth and Guernsey, a journey of 7 hours.  A direct service to St. Malo in France also sails on Wednesdays and takes under two hours.   

If you fly, there are direct flights from London, Southampton, Exeter, Birmingham and Manchester in the United Kingdom. Flights times vary between around 45 minutes and an hour and a half.

How to get around Guernsey

At 24 square miles, the island is small so the main attractions are close to each other. This makes it easy to get around.

There are frequent, cheap bus services that connect to most parts of the island, so you won’t necessarily need to hire a car. However, if you do hire a vehicle, you’ll be able to see much more in less time.

You can check out the Guernsey bus routes here.

There are also lots of walking trails in certain locations. If you have more time and want to see some of the beautiful views on the island, you might prefer to get around using these.

This website provides a great selection of walking itineraries depending on the time you have and the degree of difficulty.

The best time to visit Guernsey

The best time to visit Guernsey is from March to September. This is when the weather is most pleasant, with mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine. The summer months can, however, get quite warm, so be prepared with things like sunscreen and hats.

Christmas is also a great time to visit Guernsey. The capital St Peter Port is a small, charming place and is lit up during the winter nights. A small Christmas market is held in the Market Square and there are carol concerts and ice skating.

Places to stay in Guernsey

There is a good selection of accommodation in Guernsey. To some extent, the place you choose will depend on the area you want to stay in and what type of break you’re looking for.

We stayed in St Peter Port which was ideal for sightseeing and for catching boat trips from the harbour. However, you may prefer to stay in other parts of the island, or accommodation that is more secluded.

Some options are below, all of which get rated highly on TripAdvisor.

  • The Duke of Normandie: We stayed here and would recommend it. It’s perfectly located – just a few minutes’ walk from everywhere in St Peter Port, has an onsite restaurant and bar as well as its own car park which is handy if you plan to hire a car to get around.
  • Les Rocquettes Hotel is also in St Peter Port. It has a beautiful garden, as well as a spa and swimming pool to chill out in after a hard day’s sightseeing.
  • The Duke of Richmond Hotel is situated near to the Candie Gardens in the capital. It has an onsite restaurant and bar, as well as an outdoor pool with sun loungers.
  • The Cobo Bay Hotel is perfect if you want to stay just steps from a wonderful beach. It has two bars and restaurants and a fitness centre. Some of the rooms have balconies and sea views.
  • The Old Government House Hotel and Spa is for those of you who are looking for a bit of luxury. It has a brasserie and restaurant, and a gym, spa and outdoor pool. The hotel also puts on yoga and Pilates classes. There is an outdoor terrace and beautiful garden.
  • La Barbarie hotel is situated in the St Martin’s area of the island. It has a bar and restaurant, as well as an outdoor swimming pool.
  • The Farmhouse in St Saviour is ideally located for walking to the Little Chapel. It has a bar and restaurant and an outdoor pool in a large beautiful garden.

Top things to do in Guernsey

For such a small island, there’s plenty to do here. Certainly enough to keep you occupied on a short break. Below is my overview of the top things to do in Guernsey.

And click here for guidebooks to help you plan your trip.

1. Visit Castle Cornet

Castle Cornet - this is one of the key things to do in Guernsey
Castle Cornet

The Castle Cornet is one of Guernsey’s most famous sites. Set on an island that is connected to part of the entrance to St Peter Port harbour, this is one of the best attractions in Guernsey and a perfect way to spend a few hours.

You can wander around inside the 13th century castle, learn about its history, and wander around individual sections like the Governor’s Garden, the barracks and the outside walls. There are also four museums: The Story of Castle Cornet, 201 Squadron (RAF) Museum, Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Regimental Museum and Royal Guernsey Militia Museum. These take visitors through 800 years of island history.

Visitors can enjoy guided tours, watch the noonday gun firing (a tradition dating back to the 19th century), and watch living history drama performances.

The panoramic views from the castle extend to St Peter Port in one direction and the sea in the other. You can see Herm and Sark in the distance. And you can walk all the way along the harbour wall at this end to admire a lighthouse.

The lighthouse on the harbour in St Peter Port in Guernsey

If you’d like to join an organised tour and enjoy the benefit of a tour guide outlining the history of the castle, this 3 hour tour will appeal.

2. Chill out on a Guernsey beach

If you’re looking for things that involve sun, sea and sand, there’s no shortage of gorgeous beaches here.

There are a number dotted around the coastline that you can visit. Some are wide and open sandy beaches that you can see from the roadside; these tend to be located on the west of the island and towards the north.

Others – particularly in the more southerly parts – take a bit longer to reach along smaller country roads and often necessitate a walk down cliff paths into more hidden bays.

Some of the Guernsey beaches worth a visit include Cobo Bay, Vazon Bay and Port Soif. These are wide horseshoe shaped bays with beautiful white sands.

Two of the beaches we visited in Guernsey
Guernsey beaches

They are absolutely stunning (more so than I expected) and provide ideal places to sunbathe and picnic on the sand. You can also swim and surf at some of these.

The smaller, more sheltered bays, include Portelet Beach and Petit Bot. Moulin Huet is also famous for its connection with the painter Renoir who apparently loved it so much here he painted it multiple times.

Petit Bot Bay that you can visit in Guernsey
Petit Boy Bay

Fermain Bay, which is relatively near to St Peter Port, is also a favourite and can be reached on foot from the capital (this is billed as an ‘easy to moderate’ walk that takes around an hour). In the bay, there is a popular cafe here where you can treat yourself to lunch after your efforts.

Again, you can swim in some of these bays and kids might enjoy rock pooling.

3. Marvel at the Little Chapel

The Little Chapel - one of the top things to do in Guernsey
The Little Chapel Photo  (c) Arndale/Dreamstime.com

At 16ft by 9ft, the Little Chapel is said to be the world’s smallest consecrated chapel. Originating in 1914, the intention was that the Chapel should imitate a basilica in Lourdes. However, it was demolished and rebuilt twice before ending up at its present size.

I have to admit that a visit here wasn’t at the top of my list, but I am so glad we made the effort to drive here. The chapel is bedecked with seashells, pebbles and broken china and is absolutely gorgeous.

And despite its diminutive size, it manages to pack a lot in. There are stairs that take you down to smaller rooms with shrines in them. It’s an utter delight.

The Little Chapel in Guernsey
The Little Chapel

4. Explore Victor Hugo’s House

French poet and novelist Victor Hugo is perhaps best known for his 1862 novel Les Misérables. He lived in exile in Guernsey for 15 years.

You can visit his house – Hauteville House – in St Peter Port.  This is a small museum with some beautiful rooms across several floors which you can walk around.  There are displays including books, drawings, letters and souvenirs that were related to the novelist.

Some of the rooms have stunning views.  There is also a pretty garden here.

5. Learn about the island’s wartime experiences

The German Occupation Museum

As with the other Channel Islands, Guernsey was occupied by German forces during World War 2. The occupation lasted for five years.

The German Occupation Museum tells the history of the island during World War 2. It recounts how things were during the occupation and how life was for the locals. The museum houses relics dating from the period, including old weapons, uniforms, communications, papers, photographs, maps, and other items.

There are parts of the museum that have been reconstructed to depict aspects of life at the time. This includes a kitchen and dining area during a time when residents were subject to a 9 pm curfew, and a street in St Peter Port.

La Valette Underground Military Museum

The La Valette Underground Military Museum is located just over 1 mile away from St Peter Port. It is where the Germans stockpiled fuel during World War 2.

The museum is a complex of interconnecting tunnels. It consists of two sections: the first section, which is above ground, acts as an introduction to the second part where visitors walk through the old secret tunnels.

The displays and artefacts in the museum cover both the occupation during the Second World War, as well those from World War 1.

6. Wander through a beautiful garden

The Candie Gardens, which are a few minutes’ walk from the heart of St Peter Port, are lovely. These Victorian Gardens are a peaceful place to spend some time and in parts offer views of the sea.

There’s a statue of Victor Hugo, as well as a cafe in a bandstand. A plaque notes that The Beatles played here in 1963!

The Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery is also located within the Candie Gardens. The Museum’s main collections include the story of Guernsey from prehistory to the present day, particularly focusing on island life.

Towards the north of the island, there is also Saumarez Park. With acres of formal gardens and things to do including a kids’ playground and Victorian Walled Kitchen Garden, it’s a perfect choice for families or visitors who have a bit more time on their hands.

7. Visit some of the island’s towers

Victoria Tower

The highest tower in St Peter Port is Victoria Tower which is just a few minutes’ walk from Candie Gardens. It was erected in 1848 to mark Queen Victoria’s visit to the island.

Victoria Tower in St Peter Port
Victoria Tower

The tower is more than 100 metres high and offers amazing views over parts of the island. However, the website cautions that the spiral staircase that leads to the top is steep so if you don’t fancy this, simply admire it from the outside in the tiny park behind it.

If you do want to climb the tower, entrance is free. However, uniquely, you have to collect a key to access it. The Guernsey Museum in Candie Gardens is the custodian of this.

Fort Grey Martello Tower

Fort Grey is an early 19th century Martello Tower, one of three such towers that were constructed as defences against potential French invasion. It is named after Charles Grey who served as the island’s Governor for ten years from the late 18th century and sits on the site of the earlier Chateau de Rocquaine. This is located on the west coast of the island.

Fort Grey in Guernsey - one of the things to do in Guernsey
Fort Grey

The tower was occupied by the Germans during the Second World War, but was then not used until its restoration. You can now visit the shipwreck museum that is based in the fort and looks out at the Hanois Lighthouse.

The Loophole Towers

In addition to the three Martello towers, Guernsey also had 15 loophole towers that were built earlier in the 18th century (12 remain). As with the later towers, they were built to provide a defence for the island.

The towers were apparently all built to a height of 30 feet with loopholes through which muskets could be fired.

You can see some of the remaining towers as you travel around the coastline of the island. For example, there is one at the top of the short steep pathway down to the bay at Petit Bôt Bay. There are others by the beaches and coastline at Vazon Bay, L’Ancresse Bay and Rousse.

A loophole tower that you can see in Guernsey - one of the things to do in Guernsey
A loophole tower

8. Explore St Peter Port

The capital of Guernsey is St Peter Port and where things like the harbour, Victorian shopfronts and local cafes can be found. It’s a picturesque area that is easy to walk around, although some of the town is pretty hilly!

We enjoyed strolling around and browsing in the more independent stores, particularly in the old town. In these shops you can find items such as handcrafted jewellery, artwork from local galleries, and mementos to take home. There are also the usual high-street retailers.

You’ll find a lot of the sights mentioned in this article here. I’d therefore recommend spending a day in the town if you’re not staying in St Peter Port.

You can also join this tour that will take you around some of the main sights.

9. Island hop

The boat to Sark that you can catch from the harbour in St Peter Port

Guernsey is part of a bailiwick that includes several other islands. This means that’s it perfectly possible to island hop as part of a short break here and this is definitely one of the key things to do in Guernsey.

The islands that you’re likely to visit are Sark, Alderney and Herm.

Sark

One of the beautiful bays in Sark
One of the beautiful bays in Sark

A trip over to Sark is one of the most popular things to do in Guernsey. It’s around a 50-minute boat ride from the harbour in St Peter Port.

It’s a quiet and tranquil island where there are no cars and where people get around on foot or by cycling. And because there are no street lights here, it is ‘Europe’s first International Dark Sky Community’.

Aside from experiencing a place without cars, Sark is worth seeing for its landscape. To say it is stunning is an understatement. I hope the couple of pictures I have included here convey just how much!

If you go for the day, the timing of the boats mean that you can expect to spend around five hours on the island. With the available time, I’d suggest prioritising a visit to La Coupee, the narrowest part of Sark that connects Big Sark with Little Sark.

The Seigneurie Gardens are also worth seeing and there is a cafe here where you can grab some lunch.

La Coupee in Sark
La Coupee Sark

Alderney

Alderney is bigger than Sark and so there’s more to do on this island. You may want to stay overnight if you have the time.

There are beautiful beaches to visit where you can sunbathe and swim. There are also places where you can hire kayaks and paddle boards, as well as a lake where you can go fishing. As with all the islands, there are a number of picturesque walks and hikes to ramble along.

For those more interested in historical buildings and artefacts, there are forts and batteries, wartime bunkers and an Iron Age site.

The Alderney Museum provides more information on the history of the island. The original Wombles toys are also here for those of us who remember them!

Trains buffs will love travelling on the Channel Islands’ only functioning railway. It was opened in the mid 19th century, but is now serviced by two London tube trains. For children, there is also a miniature railway which runs from May until the end of September.

Alderney is the furthest island from Guernsey and can be reached by boat from St Peter Port in about 60 minutes. You can also fly from Guernsey airport.

Herm

Herm is the nearest to Guernsey of the three islands. It is therefore a quicker (20 minute) boat ride and could be visited in just half a day if you are short of time.

It is a favourite destination for walking and its size (it is less than a square mile in area) means that you can see a lot in a short time.

If you book your trip from one of the booths along the harbour in St Peter Port, you’ll receive a map with several walks highlighted on it. These range in length and duration and explore various aspects of the island, including its interior.

There are a few cafes dotted around the island where you can stop off for refreshments. Or you may want to time your visit so that you can pop into the Mermaid Inn, which is near to one of the ferry ports, for lunch.

10. Try some amazing Guernsey seafood

Guernsey has a strong fishing tradition and boasts some of the best seafood in Europe. There is a wide range of fish available including brill, seabass and monkfish, but we were particularly impressed by the shellfish with really tasty lobster, crab and scallops.

As we were only in Guernsey for a short break, there was a limit to the number of restaurants we could try out. However, each and every meal was incredible.

The two notable places we ate at were Christie’s and Le Nautique. Both are in St Peter Port but when I was researching where we might go in advance of our trip, I found plenty of other options to choose from at various places on the island. TripAdvisor has good listings where you can filter restaurants and find what you are looking for.

Christie’s serves a range of food, from breakfast, to sandwiches at lunch, and afternoon tea. The main menu is eclectic with something to suit everyone.

We tried their scallops, dressed local crab, lobster and crab linguine and garlic, and thyme roast chicken. All these dishes were superb. They also serve some great cocktails!

We also ate in Le Nautique. We ordered scallops (again!), lobster ravioli, and brill and seafood ragout. My partner also ordered beef strindberg (beef with mustard and herbs in a Madeira sauce) for his main course. He said it was the best meal he’d eaten for a long time.

Le Nautique is only small so if you want try it out, I’d suggest reserving a table in advance.

An image of a fish and seafood meal we had in Guernsey
Amazing Guernsey seafood!

11. Go walking

Walking or trekking in Guernsey is an ideal way to appreciate the island’s stunning beauty. And the fact that it is a small island means that even on a short trip, you can enjoy some of the walking routes.

This website provides a variety of walking itineraries depending on the time you have and the degree of difficulty.

The site categorises them by category, so you can go through the ones that are most likely to appeal to you. The ‘sweeping bays and headland forts’ route, for example, covers part of the north west section of the coast. It begins at a restored gun station, goes past Cobo Bay and terminates near to Port Soif.

There are 20 routes in all to choose from.

You can also explore more trails across several islands here.

Other ideas for short breaks and UK staycations

I hope this post has inspired you and given you useful information on things to do in Guernsey.

If you are looking for ideas for other UK short breaks and UK staycations, see my following posts:

Lead image: ©  Delstudio/Dreamstime.com

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