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Family travel: Channel Islands

From puffins to prawns, ice-cream cornets to Castle Cornet, the Channel Islands are near enough to feel homely and far enough to still feel like a trip abroad

Family travel: Channel Islands
Old Government House. Image: Jo Fletcher-Cross

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Wild times: Durrell Wildlife Park, Jersey
The bear cub throws itself at the cage, scrambles as high as he can go before racing back down and suddenly falling asleep in the corner. I swear I can see his mother breathing a sigh of relief. Raymi, an Andean bear who arrived at the park in January 2016, is as full of energy as a toddler after a pack of Smarties. Durrell Wildlife Park is no ordinary zoo — set up in Jersey by naturalist Gerard Durrell in 1959, it concentrates on rare species and the baby bear is the latest in a long line of conservation breeding programme success stories.

Also worth a visit: Puffin Patrol RIB Cruise, Guernsey 
My five-year-old squealed with delight for most of the RIB voyage from Guernsey’s St Peter Port: every time she saw a puffin or when the boat zoomed up to its highest — very fast — speed. “Why are you closing your eyes, mummy?” she yelled, as the captain made the speedboat do tight loops. Terrifying, but good fun.

Pure shores: St Brelade’s Bay, Jersey
It’s the busiest beach on Jersey, but it’s also huge. Even on a busy, sunny afternoon in half-term we had an enormous swathe of golden sand to ourselves. It’s south-facing and sheltered: we had to give up on another beach as the wind was whipping sand into our faces. A short drive to St Brelade’s saw my daughter splashing in the sea, leading to a considerably more relaxed afternoon for everyone. There are a few car parks around, which do fill up quickly on fine weather days, but the beach is also served by the number 8 bus. 

Also worth a visit: Cobo Bay, Guernsey 
A safe, wide beach with lots of parking nearby, Cobo Bay is a very nice place to spend the day with children. We also had a lovely evening here playing on the shoreline while watching the most spectacular sunset, before heading to nearby Vazon Bay to eat seafood and pizza at noisy, cheerful family-friendly restaurant Crabby Jacks.

Past times: Castle Cornet, Guernsey 
Looming over Guernsey’s capital, St Peter Port, Castle Cornet is formidable: it’s guarded the harbour for 800 years. Battling up there on a rainswept day, it felt like we had made a mistake, but my daughter was soon clambering up battlements, imagining knights and princesses. We were fascinated by the history: from the garden kept by Sir John Lambert, imprisoned there for his part in the English Civil War; to the German Gothic script on the walls from when the Nazis commandeered the castle during World War II. In one of five museums, we found dressing-up clothes and a toy castle and nobody else at all. We spent an hour being kings, dragons and soldiers. It’s the castle all castles will be held up against by our family. 

Essentials

Who
Jo Fletcher-Cross, Tim Nelson, Rowan (five) 

Best for
Beach, food, history, good for small children

Highs 
“I loved the prawns, they were delicious and I ate them all.” Rowan

Lows
“We didn’t swim in the pool much at the end because mummy said it was too cold.” Rowan

How to do it
Costs from £2,764 per family with Prestige Holidays, including return ferry crossing with Condor Ferries to Poole and internal ferry Jersey-Guernsey (including one standard car). Also features four nights at the Atlantic Hotel; two nights at the Duke of Richmond and two nights at the Old Government House (theoghhotel.com) all on a bed and breakfast basis. Price is based on travel in March 2017 for 2 adults and 2 children under 12 sharing. 

More info
visitguernsey.com  jersey.com

Published in the 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller Family (UK)