The third-smallest of the Channel Islands, Alderney is a haven for kayaking and other watersports, with some fantastic beaches and stretches of coastline. The island is one of the most unspoilt in the region, with the lack of human disturbance meaning you are practically guaranteed to have the coastline to yourself as soon as you get away from the main beaches.
Alderney is about 8 miles in circumference, and while this may seem small there is a lot to see within this distance. It is very possible to kayak right around the island in just a few hours, however if you take your time and do some exploring, there is enough to keep you busy on the water for several days or more. Kayaks, canoes and paddle boards can be hired from the Alderney Wildlife Trust, who also provide tours of the island.
The North-East Tidal Race
North-eastern Alderney is perhaps one of the most interesting places to head for on a kayaking trip. Here, the coastline is peppered with lovely little bays and white, sandy beaches. Saye Beach and Corblets beach are perhaps the most scenic, and are surrounded by small rocky headlands which are topped by numerous fortifications. These can be interesting to view from the water as you pass by, with an eastward direction of travel taking you towards the tip of the island closest to France.
On this spot I usually come across seals that are lounging on the rocks in this area. There are also a number of caves to explore if you’re feeling adventurous. This part of the coast can be especially exciting to kayak when the tide is turning, as the water at the Brinchetais Ledge – near Houmet Herbé Fort – rushes between the rocks. The tidal races peak twice a day, with the water effectively rushing ‘downhill’, creating conditions similar to river rapids. If you catch the tide at the right time, it can therefore be an exhilarating experience, though it is always wise to inspect the conditions prior to committing.
At the opposite end of Alderney, the south-west coast offers something entirely different. Here, the bays are smaller and rockier, and tend not to attract as many people, making the area feel much more remote. There are also a number of tall sea stacks and islets to explore, with the highlight undoubtedly being Les Étacs – a series of rocks situated about 100 m off the coast. From February to September each year, these rocks are home to the largest gannet colony in the Channel Islands, with around 6,000 pairs gathering to breed.
This can be an incredible sight to see, as well as hear, with the birds making a cacophony of noise. From Les Étacs, it’s just a short distance northwards to Fort Clonque, which sits on a tidal island. When the tide is in, kayaking is one of the few ways to reach the island and it can be a nice place to land and explore for a while. The north side of the fort extends into a nice rocky bay too, before the coastline begins to curve back around towards St. Anne.
Alderney has some fantastic beaches just to the north of St. Anne, with Braye Beach and Platte Saline being popular destinations when the sun is shining and the temperatures are warm. Braye Beach is normally where the Alderney Wildlife Trust’s kayak tours start out from, though some also start from Longis Bay.
All three of these beaches are beautiful and are great places for beginners who are just learning how to kayak, as the waters are very sheltered and the beaches slope gently out into the ocean. Longis bay has a small tidal island within it, named Raz Island. While normally accessible when the tide is low, the island and its little fort are cut off at high tide, making a kayak the best way to reach them.
Alderney Wildlife Trust’s tours can also be a good idea for beginners, as the guides will offer advice on kayak paddling and techniques. As all profits from Alderney Wildlife Trust’s tours are reinvested back into the conservation of the island, it is also a good cause to invest in.
Alderney has so much to offer! Explore other part of this small island in the following article: A seabird haven – Western Alderney