Columbus’ possible first landfall in 1492
Long History as a Place of Discovery and Refuge
When we describe our islands as “Beautiful by Nature,” take us literally. Crystalline turquoise waters and white sand beaches are trademarks of the 40+ islands and cays that make up the country. Dive, fish, golf, windsurf, and water-ski to your heart’s content in an intact corner of the Caribbean only 575 miles southeast of Miami, and developed with a difference. With 80% of the archipelago uninhabited and accessible only by small plane, ferry or boat, Turks & Caicos is where those who’ve got it, go.
TCI has a long history as a place of discovery and refuge: from Columbus’ first landfall in 1492, to the Bermudian salt rakers in the late 1600s to British Loyalist cotton planters fleeing the American Revolution in the late 1700s. The Islands also host migrating Atlantic humpback whales crossing the 22-mile wide Columbus Channel separating the Turks from the Caicos Islands. Our size, 193 square miles of land area stretching hundreds of miles west to east, located south of the Bahamas and east of Cuba, guarantees virgin beaches and waters and includes the third largest coral reef system on earth. Grace Bay Beach is one of the world’s ten best, but there are dozens of other pristine beaches here that rival it. Our shallow seas abound with countless species of colorful tropical marine life. Our lobster, conch, and grouper - cooked fresh and served in any local style – make for a perfect welcome.
“Belongers,” as TCI’s citizens are known, have good reason to relax. Mostly descended from African slaves and a turbulent history, they now enjoy enviably stable democratic government as a British Crown Colony presided over by Her Majesty’s Governor. Belongers and those who make TCI a home-away-from-home both enjoy all the guarantees of the rule of law and property owners’ and investors’ rights which TCI’s Crown Colony status provides.
Beautiful and historic Caribbean architecture
With no income, capital gains, or property tax, TCI offers a fiscal welcome for investors as warm as its weather. Venture beyond the resort center of Providenciales to Grand Turk, the seat of government and home to charming and historic Bermudian Colonial architecture. After a 20 minute flight from Provo, stroll the quaint, gated lanes to soak in the reminders of salt-raking and seafaring days in the past. Visit the well-respected National Museum, housed in 150+ year-old Guinep Lodge.
Islands that never feel crowded - Sustainable Development with a Difference
Many of our guests now arrive via the Grand Turk Cruise Centre, featuring an 18-acre recreation complex with two white sand beaches, swimming pool, Flow Rider attraction, duty-free shopping, and the Caribbean’s largest “Margaritaville” themed bar and restaurant. Yet even with the arrival of the cruise business, Grand Turk has not lost its quaint island charm. Neither will the rest of our islands, even as they attract world-class investment and development. In keeping with our sustainable development and environmentally friendly policies, all new development must undergo extensive environmental impact assessments to ensure that TCI remains “Beautiful by Nature.” And don’t forget, the country boasts 34 protected national parks, nature reserves, sanctuaries and historical sites.
Grace Bay Beach, voted one of the world’s ten best - Sustainable Development with a Difference
The most developed of the Islands, Providenciales (or “Provo”) is the gateway to our country. Our commercial capital and most populous island, Provo is home to many ultra-luxury resorts and spas lining its most famous 12 mile Grace Bay Beach - consistently voted one of the world’s best beaches by international travel magazines and travelers’ websites. For the more discerning traveler, Provo guarantees exclusive opulence and indulgence as well as serene solitude and pristine nature, and an easy escape from civilization. Covering 38 square miles, Provo boasts eight national parks, nature reserves and historical sites. Princess Alexandra Marine Park is home to JoJo, the famously interactive wild bottlenose dolphin. Here you will also find superb reef and wall diving and all varieties of water sports. At the Caicos Conch Farm, the only one of its kind in the world, see how Caribbean Queen Conch are grown from eggs to four year old adults ready for the local cuisine or export. In Northwest Point Marine National Park find deserted beaches and spectacular wall diving that the Turks & Caicos is famous for.
At Chalk Sound National Park you can kayak or paddleboard the turquoise inland lake with hundreds of cays and a large variety of bird species.
Sapodilla Bay in Chalk Sound and Malcolm’s Bay on Provo’s northwestern tip are fine secluded beaches. Mangrove Cay, Donna Cay, and Little Water Cay, all a short boat ride off the north coast of Leeward, are nature reserves which protect the native Turks & Caicos Rock Iguana (Little Water Cay), ospreys, pelicans, and other waterbirds. On Provo, Cheshire Hall is a historic site holding remnants of a cotton plantation built by Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution in the late 1700s. The Bight, Five Cays and Blue Hills are Provo’s oldest native settlements, each with a unique, authentic atmosphere.
The Migration of Atlantic Humpback Whales is one of Nature’s Great Sights
Our historic and political capital, seven square mile Grand Turk is home to Cockburn Town, a fascinating collection of traditional Caribbean architecture. Compact enough for a leisurely walking tour shaded by bougainvillea and yellow elder, Duke and Front Streets are lined with restored landmark 18th and 19th century Bermudian buildings of the salt raking era. The Governor’s residence at Waterloo, built in 1815, is located right on the beach in Columbus Landfall Park. Grand Turk offers divers one of the world’s greatest wall-diving meccas, with a drop of nearly 7000 feet. This “Mount Everest” of wall dives is just ¼ mile from the beach. The lighthouse, which once warned passing boats of the treacherous reefs, was shipped in pieces from the UK and constructed in 1852. A prized historic site, protected by the National Trust, it provides shade, a picnic area and an excellent viewing spot for the Atlantic humpback whales’ migration in the winter months.
The Turks & Caicos National Museum includes well-done exhibits that tell the tale of the Islands from their Lucayan roots through to modern times. Collections include Taino artifacts, a presentation on maritime excavation centered around the Molasses Reef wreck (the oldest known shipwreck in the Western Hemisphere), relics from the Colonial era, a coral reef re-creation and an exhibit on space exploration, detailing John Glen’s splashdown off Grand Turk’s shore. Grand Turk has only 70 hotel rooms, so reserve early in high season.
Immerse yourself in our history, marvel at our wildlife - A Group of Islands as Diverse as our Visitor’s Interests
The lushest of all our islands, North Caicos is known as the “garden island.” Located a short trip from Provo by ferry, boat or small plane, North’s greater rainfall allows forests of Caribbean hardwoods to flourish in the island’s interior. Among the lush vegetation are sugar apples, guineps and the sweetest of sapodillas, a cross between a kiwi and a fig. As a sanctuary for wildlife and protected wetlands, North Caicos and its five national parks and nature reserves are a unique eco-tourism destination for nature and water sports lovers. North was originally settled by Wade Stubbs, a Loyalist refugee from the American Revolution. His Wades Green cotton plantation did not last long, but the haunting and well-preserved ruins can now be toured.
While the village of Bottle Creek is the geographic and commercial center of North Caicos, the settlement of Whitby, on its main highway, is home to most of its guest houses and hotels. With miles of deserted white sand beaches to enjoy in solitude, Whitby is also home to one of TCI’s natural wonders -- the hundreds of flamingoes at Flamingo Pond Natural Reserve, an internationally protected RAMSAR site. Sandy Point is named for the beautiful white sand beach. It is also home to Cottage Pond, a submerged sinkhole that connects to the ocean and which local cave divers have mapped to a depth of 255 feet. This easily accessible phenomenon is home to numerous perching bird species.
At North Caicos’ east coast find Bottle Creek, a shallow passage of shimmering turquoise connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Caicos Banks. Paddle down the creek, beach your kayak and then float lazily with the current from the passage’s shallow waters to where the channel’s mouth opens to the sea.
Now accessible from North Caicos via causeway, Middle Caicos is another favorite for heritage and ecotourism. Sample local food at Daniel’s Café or choose handmade local crafts at the Middle Caicos Artisans Co-op. Arrange to take a shoreside bike ride to a picnic at spectacular Mudjin Harbor. Visit with the friendly residents of Bambarra and Lorimers, or explore the awe-inspiring Conch Bar Caves in the nearby national park. Once a safe haven for the Lucayan Indians, the cave’s corridors and caverns are home to bats, stalactites and stalagmites. Middle Caicos is also home to an 18th century cotton plantation and remnants of this can still be seen today.
The south shore is a major portion of the protected RAMSAR “wetland of international important.” Just offshore is Ocean Hole, a huge marine sinkhole now frequented by turtles, sharks and other marine wildlife. Middle Caicos is the TCI’s largest island, yet has only 200 inhabitants.
In the Islands that Time Forgot, You can Forget about Time
Commonly referred to as “The Big South,” South Caicos is TCI’s fishing capital. The main attractions on this approximately 18 square mile island are fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving. Go bonefishing in the shallows of Bell Sound Nature Reserve or dive and snorkel straight off the beaches. Favorite dive sites are Amos’ Wall, Eagle Nest, The Arch, Shark Alley and the vertical wall which wraps around the island’s southern edge and drops to an astonishing 7000 feet.
TCI’s first hotel, Admiral’s Arms Inn, is now home to Boston University’s Center for Marine Resources Studies program. The salt ponds, wandering donkeys and Boiling Hole testify to TCI’s status as one of the major salt production centers of the world in the 17th to 19th centuries. Today, the Sailrock residential/resort project is well underway, with developers restoring the historic downtown and dock area. At the far west of the Caicos Islands, lies 11 square mile West Caicos which has remained uninhabited, except for a brief period when it was a sisal plantation. Today you can still see remnants of the old community of Yankee Town, with its sisal press, railroad, and steam engines. With the pending opening of a five star hotel and villas, West Caicos will return to its heyday. West Caicos is a great location for sport fishing and snorkeling and is considered an underwater photography mecca. A wall running two miles along the western shore offers some of the finest diving in TCI. This is where live-aboard dive boats often stop for the views of brilliantly colored wall formations and thriving marine creatures. Lake Catherine Nature Reserve, on the west coast, is a scenic habitat for flamingoes, ospreys, ducks, and waders.
The tiny one square mile isle of Salt Cay guarantees visitors a secluded escape from civilization to the world as it ought to be. Donkeys and cows have the right of way and transport is by golf cart. Whaling was once an industry here, and, from December through April, you can see one of nature’s great spectacles: the migration of Atlantic humpback whales through the Columbus Passage to their winter breeding grounds on the Silver Banks. Although Salt Cay is the smallest island in the Turks and Caicos, the warmth and hospitality of its residents are matchless.
Uninhabited East Caicos is large, at 18 square miles, and has a 17 mile beach on its north coast used only by sea turtles to lay their eggs. Once home to cattle rearing and a large sisal plantation, East Caicos has the evidence of railroad tracks and petroglyphs which testify to earlier settlement.
We hope you have enjoyed this magical journey through the Turks and Caicos Islands. Now it is easy to see why these “Beautiful By Nature” islands are the “Most Beautiful By Far.”
Turks and Caicos Tourist Board