Jersey Main

Before there was ever a New Jersey, there was ... Jersey, largest of the Channel Islands, home to Jersey sweaters and the Jersey cow - and an island full of surprises and pleasant contradictions.

British at the core (although it's a crown dependency and not part of the United Kingdom), its proximity to continental Europe shows up in subtle ways, including a French-influenced cuisine. It's warmer than England, so beaches are a prime attraction along the nearly 50 miles of coastline, including lovely St. Ouen's Bay, a sheltered strand favored by surfers as well as sunbathers. Given the British love of walking, the networks of scenic paths (and the six fine golf courses, headed by the Royal Jersey Golf Club) could be expected, as well as the superb collection of museums (the newest, an award-winning maritime museum). The landmark central market, with a cast-iron roof, has been selling island produce since 1882, while castles (one named for Queen Elizabeth I by the island's governor, Sir Walter Raleigh) and forts date back centuries. ** South-Side Elegance:** Stay at the Eulah Country House, an Edwardian-style mansion-turned-hotel that overlooks St. Aubin's Bay and the capital, St. Helier, on the island's south side. Rates from $190, including breakfast.

High Tide: At the nine-acre Jersey Lavender Farm, learn how oil is extracted from the plants and visit the Farm Shop for all things lavender, such as a jar of lavender-and-honey mustard. Admission is $4.50. Open from May 9 to September 17, Four miles north of St. Helier is the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, better known as the Jersey zoo, home to several rescued species, including the black lion tamarin and the Andean bear. The $14.50 admission supports Durrell conservation programs.

Low Tide: Discover Jersey's vast stretch of wilderness on a tidal walk, or "moonwalk," led by guide Derek Hairon, who is also known for his kayak tours. Due to fast-changing, 40-foot tides, no one should explore these areas without a local expert. Rates from $25 for a three-hour tour. Tours are scheduled according to the tides.