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Guernsey can boast of some truly stunning beaches, ranging from the broad dune-backed sands of the west coast to the cosy little coves of the south coast and everything in between. The Guernsey Beach Guide is an indispensable guide to twenty-nine of the island’s stretches of sand and shingle, written by locals Adam Bayfield, Tony Curr and Gordon MacRae and the result of a challenge between the three friends to try and swim at all of Guernsey’s beaches in a single day. These three truly love our local beaches, and we recently caught up with Adam and Tony to find out a little more:
What are your earliest memories of the beach?
Tony - Adam will tell you that I have a notoriously bad memory for some things, so this may only have happened last year! Some of my earliest memories include his birthday beach cricket parties at L’Eree; I’m sure these helped instill an association between the beach and ball games, and BBQs. I also remember going rock pooling for goby (small fish) with my aunties at Portinfer, and body boarding on the west coast.
What is Guernsey’s beach culture?
Tony - Guernsey's beach culture is quite different to other places I’ve visited. Our beaches are nothing like the narrow, steep sands of the Caribbean (nor as warm it should be said), they don’t have the boardwalks of the west coast of the USA; they’re intimate, invigorating, and charming. It’s all about quick swims in the morning or after work, days out behind wind breaks, disposable BBQs, kiosks, coffee and cake. Guernsey's beaches are very family friendly, in and out of the water. The shallows are generally gentle in the summer, we benefit from a wider sense of safety in the island, and most beaches are small enough to easily keep track of what’s going on.
Can you talk us through the day when the three of you swam at every beach? How thoroughly did you have to plan it to ensure that you managed each one?
Adam – Twenty-nine beaches is a lot to visit and swim at in a single day; we knew that the west coast would be easy – the beaches run one after another, all with car parks and straightforward access points. But many in the south and east entail long, demanding cliff path scrambles, down hundreds of winding steps and then, heartbreakingly, back up again. We started out at Fermain at 7am with fresh faces and ill-advised croissants, then headed south past Marble Bay and Divette to Petit Port, then on to Moulin Huet, Saints and Le Jaonnet.
Visiting every beach along the south coast took us six hours, but the sun was out and the sea dead calm; it was a beautiful morning. Halfway up the west coast the weather took a turn however, but we pressed on and leap frogged from beach car park to beach car park amassing sand and sea water in the footwell of the car. As we reached our final beach at Havelet Bay and flung ourselves in the sea for the last time that day, the first drops of rain started to fall. We staggered up the slipway to wrap ourselves in wet towels and drink a celebratory cup of tea offered by one of our mums.
Guernsey has some great kiosks, beach cafés and tearooms. Do you have any favourites, and what would you order from them? What are their signature dishes?
Tony - My favourites include the kiosks at Port Soif, Rousse, and Icart. Just great tea and cake. The Beach Cafe at Fermain serves a wonderful steak ciabatta which comes alongside one of the best settings in the island. Guernsey’s kiosks are also famous for crab sandwiches, and you could do much worse than trying a few, including from the kiosks at Portelette and Richmond, to find your favourite.
Adam - Rousse Kiosk do cracking fish finger sandwiches, and you can get an excellent veggie burger at port soif. But they're all great in their own ways. As long as there's ice cream, you're laughing!
Do you have a favourite beach activity, or would you rather lie on the sand and swim in the sea?
Adam - Given that I'm still essentially an 8 year old boy, my favourite things to do are all ball games. Football, frisbee, bat n ball, and above all waboba, the ball that bounces on the water, which is up there with the wheel and the internet as one of mankind's greatest inventions.
And finally, if each of you had to choose just one beach, which would it be?
Tony - I think we'd all say Petit Port, on the south coast. It's Guernsey's most dramatic stretch of sand, and one of its most rewarding. You have to descend and, on the way back, climb hundreds of steps to enjoy it. What can't you do at Petit Port? (Except buy an ice cream - there's no kiosk). The big, flat beach is a perfect playground, the way the sand falls away lends the water a beautiful, turquoise clarity, there are numerous natural dividers to tuck yourself away behind at low tide, and when there is a swell you can body surf, or even board if you’re eager enough to take one down.
All images courtesy Guernsey Beach Guide and copyright Chris Tostevin-Hall