Don't Miss Jersey's surplus of World War II sites and exhibits includes the Island Fortress Occupation Museum, the Channel Islands Military Museum, and the amazingly restored tunnel complex of the German Underground Hospital (tel. 011-44-1534-863-442, www.germanundergroundhospital.co.uk). The burial mound of La Hougue Bie (011-44-1534-853-823) and its megalithic mysteries go back even further - to 3500 b.c. Victor Hugo's years of comfy exile on Guernsey are immortalized at Hauteville House, the author's eccentrically designed mansion-turned-museum (011-44-1481-721-911).
Take a Hike
Jersey: Gentle seafront jaunts in the south, rugged cliffside routes on the north coast, wooded inland valleys, and a vast network of "Green Lanes," which prioritize walkers over drivers. Jersey Tourism sponsors a year-round program of walks led by informative Blue Badge Tourist Guides (www.jersey.com/walking).
Guernsey: Milder nature trails stretch along the north and west coasts. Nearly 30 miles of more strenuous cliff paths can be found in the south, along with about 200 benches, lots of places to stop for refreshments, and such stunning destinations as Moulin Huet Bay, which Renoir painted.
Alderney: Nearly 50 miles of coastal paths ramble through headlands and a dozen 19th-century forts. Pick up a copy of Brian Bonnard's Out & About in Alderney for some local guidance.
Road Rules Locals get around by car except on Herm and Sark, where people walk, bike, or take horse-drawn transportation. On Jersey, a compact car rents for about $45 a day. (Keep left.) Public transportation is plentiful and reliable on the three larger islands. Taxis are readily available, too, but are more difficult to find in the evening. Aurigny Air Services (www.aurigny.com) is the swiftest interisland link connecting Guernsey, Jersey, and Alderney. Condor Ferries (www.condorferries.co.uk) and Emeraude Lines (www.emeraude.co.uk) provide car and passenger service to Jersey, Guernsey, and various ports in France and England.
Quest for Sand The islands offer a wide selection of beaches. On Jersey, St. Brelade's is one of the prettiest, St. Aubin's is for water sports, and St. Ouen's attracts surfers. There are more than two dozen choices on Guern-sey. Vazon Bay, a vast stretch of sand along the west coast, ranks high with families. Shell collectors are right in their element on Herm's Shell Beach, which is paved with tiny broken shells the Gulf Stream washes ashore.
Options: Thanks to its offshore banking culture, Jersey has the largest, most upscale selection of luxury hotels and beach resorts in the Channel Islands. Guernsey's options range from luxury properties to quaint seaside B and Bs and converted country manors and farmhouses. On tiny Alderney, you'll find a much smaller selection of cozy hotels, guest houses, and holiday flats. Book ahead.
What we liked: On Jersey, Longueville Manor is a quiet and luxurious Relais & Chateaux property set on 15 beautifully landscaped acres (about $320 and up, tel. 011-44-1534-725-501). Overlooking St. Ouen's Bay, the popular Atlantic Hotel has comfortable modern rooms and an award-winning restaurant, plus a championship golf course next door (from about $225; tel. 011-44-1534-744-101). Tucked away at the end of a country lane on Guernsey's south coast, Hotel Bon Port is surrounded by 19 miles of winding cliff paths, secluded beaches, and stunning coastal views that may look familiar - Renoir spent 1883 rendering them in some of his most famous paintings (about $100 and up; tel. 011-44-1481- 239-249, www.bonport.com). The Rose and Crown on Alderney is a homey 18th-century granite building (with a popular local bar) on the edge of St. Anne (about $45 to $70; tel. 011-44-1481- 823-414, www.roseandcrown. alderney.ws).
What's Cooking Channel Islanders have been known to eat beans and toast for breakfast, but their culinary tastes are generally more Continental than English. Highlights include locally caught brill and sea bass, wonderful local produce, excellent French wines, and some of the world's richest ice cream.
On Jersey, Suma's offers a delicious Mediterranean menu and spectacular views over Gorey Harbour. A leisurely cup of coffee, a glass of cabernet, or a meal - say, paupiette of sole filled with langoustine mousse - at Guernsey's seaside brasserie and wine bar Dix-Neuf is a tasty reminder that one can almost swim to France from here. Warm up at The Divers, one of Alderney's most colorful pubs and the proud home of the "corpse reviver" (a potent, brandy-based concoction), then for dinner, gravitate to The First and Last Restaurant to sample some of the island's best seafood.
Page Turners Insight Guide Channel Islands, edited by Brian Bell. This top guidebook to the area has excellent historical coverage. A Child's War (Molly Bihet) is a notable title among dozens that focus on the World War II German occupation of the Channel Islands. The Toilers of the Sea (Victor Hugo). The author's imaginative, mythical take on Guernsey and its people. The Book of Ebenezer Le Page (G. B. Edwards). A cranky, often hilarious memoir of a fictional old man on Guernsey.
For Jersey: www.jersey.com, www.jersey.co.uk
For Guernsey: www.islandsofguernsey.com (also covers Herm and Sark), www.ghata.com
For Alderney: www.alderney.gov.gg
For Herm and Sark: www.herm-island.com, www.sark.info
For links: www.britainexpress.com/great_british_sites/Channel_Islands.htm