Ah, the Turks and Caicos. Just thinking about the islands brings a big smile to your face. It’s easy to escape to the British Overseas Territory, since it’s so close to Miami and the East Coast of the U.S. In less than two hours, you can be relaxing on Grace Bay, eating conch at a waterfront restaurant, and being pampered at a luxurious resort. And that’s just on Providenciales. There are lots of other islands in the Turks and Caicos you haven’t even seen yet.
So this time, you’re going to leave your plush beach cabana—don’t worry, you can come back—to start exploring more of the Lucayan Archipelago. There are two groups of islands: the Turks Islands and the Caicos Islands, as the name suggests. You’ve only seen the larger Caicos Islands, where Providenciales is located. The Turks Islands are across the deep Turks Passage. Most of the islands here are barren and windswept. Only two, Grand Turk and Salty Cay, are inhabited.
You’re heading to Grand Turk, the largest of the Turks Islands. The seven-mile-by-one-mile island was first colonized by Bermudians and became a big salt producer. Cockburn Town was named the capital of the islands in 1766. Not much has changed over the years. Grand Turk Lighthouse, built in 1852, sits on the island’s northern tip. Green bluffs line the northern shores. Wild horses and donkeys stroll freely through town. White-sand beaches ring the island. And thriving reefs are just offshore. Add a laid-back vibe for the perfect island escape.
Start in Cockburn Town in the center of Grand Turk. It’s quiet here today, since a cruise ship hasn’t docked near Boaby Rock Point. Duke and Front Streets, the long and narrow main streets, are lined with Bermudian architecture, red-shuttered churches, and old street lamps from the 18th and 19th centuries. The houses are made of wood and limestone. Bougainvillea dangles from picket fences in front of them. Plus wet suits are hanging out to dry. Everything, including the Turks and Caicos National Museum, feels rustic and a bit sleepy.
But you didn’t come this far to wander through the streets, no matter how much it feels like you’re stepping back in time. Ride a boat just ten minutes offshore to reach “the wall,” where a vibrant reef plunges into the deep water. Swim among soft white sand and queen triggerfish munching on sea urchins at the Amphitheatre. See reef ridges, boulder star coral, sponges, and green sea turtles in the Aquarium. Squeeze through nooks and crannies with manta rays in the Tunnels.
Then return to dry land to relax on the nearly deserted beaches. Governor’s Beach, near Waterloo (the Government House), is protected by casuarina trees. White Sands Beach is more secluded and home to small fishing boats. While Pillory Beach is the perfect spot to the watch the sun set. Grab a table on the deck at Ike & Donkey Beach Bar, sip a rum punch, listen to the ripsaw band, and watch for the elusive green flash. You’re no longer in a rush to return to your Grace Bay beach cabana. There are more perfect spots in the Turks and Caicos than you ever expected.