Chances are, all you know about Turks and Caicos is that it’s somewhere in the Caribbean. But now you’re going on a cruise and wondering what there is to see and do with just one day on Grand Turk. While not one of the better known islands or cruise ports, Grand Turk pleasantly surprised me. There is plenty to do for one day.
About Turks and Caicos
First, some background. Turks and Caicos is made up of an archipelago of over 40 islands off the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic and is just a 90-minute flight from Miami.
Fun fact: Canada has tried multiple times to get Turks and Caicos to be part of their country, kind of like a Canadian Hawaii, but the British won’t give up this British Overseas Territory, and who could blame them?
In terms of logistics, Turks and Caicos is easy to get around because like many small Caribbean islands, the U.S. dollar is the currency and English is the official language. But one word of warning: driving is on the right side of the road. Some vehicles follow the British style and have a steering wheel on the right side, while some have them on the left side because cars are imported from North America.
These islands are known for their award-winning beaches and provide high-end luxury for those able to afford it. There is plenty of fine dining, but also hole-in-the-wall places for a quick bite. Here are some of the best restaurants on the islands.
Most of the luxury resorts are along Grace Bay Beach, on the larger island of Providenciales. However, if you come to Turks and Caicos on a cruise, the cruise port is on the island of Grand Turk, along with the capital city, Cockburn Town.
Grand Turk Cruise Port
The cruise port is modern, fun, and, like most cruise ports, laden with alcoholic drinks and sunburned tourists. It is literally right off the cruise ship pier. This is great for convenience, but your beach view is obstructed by cruise ships. The water here is deep and the beach has a very quick drop-off, so it’s not a great place to play in the sand. It is possible to walk down the beach a ways to find more space, if beach is what you are really after.
Instead of the beach, you may want to choose the free pool. The Margaritaville complex boasts a huge pool with a swim-up bar, bar food, and shops.
There is also a FlowRider surf machine for those adventurous enough to try it out. You start on a small board on your belly, but those who are more talented can actually stand up and surf. The tricks, belly flops, and nose dives make for some good entertainment.
Let’s be honest. The cruise port of any island is fun but offers pretty much the same thing. So what are you going to do on Grand Turk that is unique?
Grand Turk Excursions
What makes the island of Grand Turk interesting are its salt flats, remnants of the British Empire that used the island to produce this precious commodity. You can take an ATV or a number of other vehicles (cute mini Jeep anyone?) to go explore the salt ponds that are still here.
This was my first ATV 4×4 experience, and I loved it. The vehicles were all lined up right at the entrance to the cruise port, so it wasn’t necessary to take transportation to the excursion, as it so often is. Grand Turk is a good place for beginners to ride because there was minimal time spent on the main roads, and the paths that we explored were wide.
Our ride took us up to the highest point of the island and provided some good views of the area. Amongst the salt flats, there are also wild donkeys roaming the area that would love to eat your food!
Grand Turk’s claim to fame is that it was the island closest to where John Glenn’s space capsule landed in 1962 when he made his descent from space. The small, outdoor Splashdown Grand Turk exhibit at the cruise port tells all about his voyage and the space program. It also has some cheesy photo ops that you’ll love if you’re a space nerd!
In addition to beautiful beaches, Grand Turk has great water sports. Much of the beaches and water on the western side of the island are protected areas. It is a perfect spot to go diving or snorkeling because of its special coral reef that is close to the shore. This “wall” starts with depths of about 25-30 feet and then descends over 7000 feet, so there is a huge variety of marine life.
This deep water is also a whale migration route. From January to April, you can go humpback whale watching on Grand Turk and the nearby Salt Cay. Unfortunately, I visited in December, so all I saw was this guy on the beach. But, whale watching will be tops on my list if I’m ever in Turks and Caicos again!
If you stop at Grand Turk it’s likely you’ll also be heading to the Dominican Republic. Read about a unique excursion to a chocolate farm I did near Amber Cove.