The Islands of Guernsey have it all: sandy beaches, rocky coves and tidal pools. Take time to explore in all seasons
The Islands of Guernsey, with their tapestry of golden beaches, hidden coves and tidal rock pools, should be on every wild swimmer’s bucket list. Whether you’re a seasoned winter swimmer ready to thrill to the chill of winter waves or a curious first-timer keen to dip your toes for the first time, the Islands offer a year-round aquatic playground for swimmers of all abilities.
Each of the five islands – Guernsey, Herm, Sark, Alderney and Lihou – boasts its own unique charm and swimming spots. But wild swimming is not just about beautiful swimming locations, it’s about community and shared experience – and the Islands of Guernsey also have a strong and welcoming outdoor swimming community ready to share their favourite swims with you.
“It really doesn’t matter if you’re into your sandy bays or your rocky coves – we’ve got it all in Guernsey,” says Jayne Packham, who swims all year round with local group the Mental Tentacles. “I would recommend getting in touch with some of the local swimming groups. We have a wide variety of swimming groups in Guernsey. There’s nothing like a local for knowing their own water.”
With a warm welcome assured – whatever the temperature of the water! – all you need to do is choose from the variety of outdoor swimming options across The Islands of Guernsey. Whenever you plan to visit the Islands, you can be sure of adventure and wild waters – along with plenty of cafés and beach kiosks for post-swim treats. Here are just a few of our favourite swimming locations on the Islands.
Moulin Huet Bay
On Guernsey, the crown jewel is undoubtedly Moulin Huet Bay. Sheltered by towering cliffs, its shallow waters and golden sands beckon even the most cautious paddler – including impressionist painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who fell in love with the secluded cove while visiting Guernsey in September 1883. During his time on the island he painted 15 famous works inspired by the landscape and swimmers of the Islands. “Here I find myself on a charming beach, quite unlike our Normandy beaches,” wrote Renoir to his Paris art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel. “Here people bathe among the rocks that serve as cabins, since there’s nothing else; nothing is more attractive than this mixture of women and men crowded on these rocks.”
Join modern day swimmers and recreate Renoir’s famous paintings, taking to the water or lounging on the rocks. Moulin Huet is one of the most popular swim spots on the Islands, with a gently sloping access to the water. Perfect for a winter dip or a long and leisurely summer swim. After your swim, the new Garden Café in Moulin Huet is the perfect place to refuel and relive your swim adventures. You can also follow the Renoir Trail – a walking trail highlighting some of the famous views painted by Renoir.
La Vallette Bathing Pools
The safest place to swim on The Islands of Guernsey is La Vallette Bathing Pools. The Bathing Pools have recently been renovated following a community campaign and now boast new changing rooms and a café – perfect for a hot drink and a piece of cake after your swim! The saltwater pools are topped up by the sea at high tide, creating a safe and contained environment perfect for your first experience of wild swimming. It’s great for swimmers of all ages but particularly good for younger or less confident swimmers.
One of the most popular beaches on Guernsey, this long, sandy beach is perfect for longer distance swims without having to swim too far out to sea. In the summer it is thronged with families and groups of friends but has a different vibe in winter when wild swimmers claim it as their own. With Mim’s Kiosk and the Cobo Tearooms, it also has welcome options for post-swim refuelling!
“One of my favourite swims for a sunrise is Marble Bay,” says Jayne Packham. “It’s really off the beaten track. You’ll really find peace and quiet.” This secluded cove near the south east point of the island is reached by a network of small paths meandering along the clifftop from St Peter Port. With beautiful views towards Herm and Sark it is worth the effort of the walk, whatever the season.
The Venus Pool, Lihou
Lihou is the smallest of the Islands and a wildlife sanctuary ideal for birdwatching and rockpooling. The Venus Pool is perfect for cooling off on a hot summer’s day – and for an invigorating plunge on any day of the year! Naturally filled at high tide by the sea, it is deep enough to safely jump in. A real wild swimming adventure! On Sark, the Venus Pool’s sister awaits, offering a sheltered haven amidst the island’s dramatic cliffs.
Saye Beach, Alderney
Saye Beach (pronounced Soy Beach) is a sandy, curved bay in Alderney perfect for swimming. Here you might even be lucky enough to swim with the resident grey seal! As well as seals, you might spot oyster catchers on the shore. Rocky headlands lend privacy and shelter, making this swim spot a great choice for swimmers of all ages.
Shell Beach, Herm
One of the most beautiful beaches in the Channel Islands, the strand is covered in millions of tiny shell fragments that give the beach its name. The beach stretches for nearly three-quarters of a mile, perfect for a longer, summer swim. There is also the all-important beach café for post-swim snacks and drinks!
As with any wild swimming adventure, planning and preparation are key. Make sure you have the right kit to keep you safe and seen, and make sure you always check the tides. Guernsey’s tidal range of 33 feet is one of the largest in the world, transforming the beaches and coves with every turn of the tide. Check the Guernsey Tide Table or swim with a local group if you are unsure. Local swim groups include the Mental Tentacles, Guernsey Swim Adventures and Guernsey Open Water Swimming.
Make sure you download the free VisitGuernsey app to make the most of your trip to the Islands. Its new ‘Sea Swimming’ feature not only highlights the Islands’ renowned wild swimming spots, but also gives users current swimming data (including temperatures and tides), swim difficulty ratings, ease of access rating, best swim times for a particular day, live weather updates and listed facilities nearby. Plus, its ‘Great Right Now’ feature will recommend you the perfect swim based on current weather and tide conditions!
The Islands of Guernsey will embrace you, not just with the cool caress of the sea, but with the warmth of their swimming community, the beauty of their landscapes, the chance to reconnect with nature and the promise of countless adventures to come – whatever the season. So, why not take the plunge and experience the magic of wild swimming in Guernsey? It’s an adventure you won’t soon forget.
The Islands of Guernsey are just 3 hours away by ferry from Poole or Portsmouth or 40 minutes by plane, with flights departing from destinations including London, Southampton, Dublin, East Midlands, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter. New flight routes also launch this year from Edinburgh, Newquay and Liverpool.
For more information see visitguernsey.com