Grand Turk Island
A real Caribbean destination since 1492
Many scholars are convinced that Christopher Columbus first
set-foot in the New World in the western shores of Grand Turk
Island in 1492. While the exact spot of the first anchorage of
the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria remain clouded in 500 years of
history, the prevailing winds, currents and ship logs makes a
convincing argument that Grand Turk Island was the first sighted
land and Columbus’s first stop prior to sailing south to
Grand Turk is the capital of the Turks & Caicos Islands and Old
Cockburn Town has been the seat of the government since 1766.
Originally populated by Bermudan Salt-rakers in the 1700’s, the
Island is a living museum of authentic British and Bermuda
architecture, with many of the building (made from ground-up
Conch shells) remaining intact.
The industry of Salt production
dates from 1678 when businessmen from Bermuda created the
expansive “salinas” in the center is Grand Turk Island where
they remain to this day.
Hundreds of descendents from the original horses and donkeys
remain on Grand Turk Island where they roam freely amongst the
Today, much of the Western shore of Grand Turk has been
designated as the “Columbus Landfall National Park”. The Grand
Turk area remained a frequent stop for the Spanish explorers,
and the nearby Molasses Reed shipwreck of 1515 is the oldest
European shipwreck in the new world.
The amazingly beautiful shoals and coral reefs are even more
spectacular during the rare “green flash”, a dazzling burst of
green light that occurs right at sunset against the western
shores of Grand Turk Island.
Turk can be a very pleasant experience or a nightmare if you
fail to take some basic precautions. Make sure to pack a
spray can of “Off”, antacid (Zantac) and an anti-diarrhea
treatment (Imodium) plus and a bottle of water.
||Some areas of TCI are mosquito infested
and just a few minutes of neglect can have disastrous
results. This picture is this author’s leg after a
half-hour at poolside at the Osprey hotel without a
When brushing teeth, make sure that you use
the bottled water to rinse. Also, be VERY CAREFUL about taking
ice from restaurants other than the Osprey or the Saltraker (who
buy their ice from a government-inspected provider).
Getting to Grand Turk Island
We recommend the flights from Miami to Providenciales (Provo)
primarily because of the spectacular aerial views of the Bahamas
islands reefs. On the flight to from Miami to Provo, request a
seat on the right-side of the aircraft (aisles D, E, F) and on
the return request left-side seating (aisles A, B and C).
||On the flight from Miami to Provo you will be treated to some of the most amazing
aerial beauty found anywhere in the world. The
flight skirts most of the Bahamas including Andros and
directly over spectacular undersea reefs and islands
where the ocean ranges in color from a pale line green
to a vibrant royal blue, in a collage of intense colors
and patterns found nowhere else in North America.
Provo is a relatively well-developed island with a full-service
airport and a short connection via Sky King to Grand Turk or
Salt Cay. When traveling to Grand Tuck, request a left-side seat
(the B aisle) to get a spectacular view of the Caicos Islands
during your short flight to Grand Turk.
The best place to rent vehicles is Tony’s car rentals (231-1806,
evenings 936-2934), and they can deliver a car, jeep, van or
scooter directly your hotel. (
Cabs are expensive on Grand Turk, and a
round-trip to the Pillory for six can cost over $50. Taxi
service on Grand Turk can sometimes be unpleasant with old
ragged cabs, with exhaust fumes and gasoline vapors permeating
the cabin. We recommend the cab service by Omaind Been
(649) 231-0934. Call ahead and Omaind will be waiting for
you at the JAGS McCarthy airport.
If you are planning more than
a few cab rides each day, rental cars or scooters are cheaper.
You hotel concierge can have a car delivered to your hotel.
Mavis and Eric Smith rent great cars and have reasonable weekly
rates. They can be reached at (649) 946-1042 or their cell
numbers at (649) 231-0167 and 231-1711. Call ahead and
Mavis will have you car at the airport.
Getting supplies on Grand
There are many stores on Grand Turk island,
each with their own specialties:
||The Do It Center
This helpful store is nearly the
Osprey and Salt Raker hotels and has a full-line of medicines, bug spray
and sundry items.
The best-stocked grocery store is “Dots Food Fair”, a
great place to get liquor, cigarettes, snacks and soda.
||Cee's - Your
first stop after arriving on Grand Turk Island should be
to Cee’s wholesale grocery where you can buy cases of
soda, beer, and snacks. Soda can cost $1.50 at the
restaurants and bars, and it is far cheaper to buy a few
Grand Turk has a full-service hospital and
offers full medical and pharmacy services. As a tourist you
enjoy low rates (less than $100 for an emergency room visit)
and less than $5 for prescription drugs.
Notable Grand Turk Island ex-pats
One pleasant surprise of Grand Turk are the
“gems” that come from exceptional ex-pats who prefer to live in
this tropical paradise.
||World renowned author and artist Tupper
Saussy is a frequent visitor to the Osprey Hotel, and
his amazing neo-realistic pen and watercolor works are
on-display at the Osprey hotel restaurant.
Saussy has a web site at
www.tuppersaussy.com and he has a museum in
The islands wonderful environment
also attracts world-class gastronomic talent, most
notably Zev Beak, a famous
cooking video author, and the new chef at the
Pillory Resort restaurant.
A 1978 graduate of the prestigious CIA
(Culinary Institute of America), Beck abandoned a lucrative
restaurant business in Vancouver to make his home at Grand
Dining on Grand Turk
While there are more than a dozen restaurants on Grand Turk,
these are our favorites:
||Pillory Hotel - An avid scuba diver,
Chef Zev Beck graces the Pillory with a world-class
Asian-Caribbean fusion cuisine, exceptional homemade deserts,
and wonderful fresh local seafood. With entrée’s for under $30,
it’s one of the best dining values in the Caribbean and a treat
not to be missed.
Grand Turk Hotels: Salt Raker - Secret Garden
colorful “Secret Garden” at the Salt Raker has
excellent food, offered-up with a distinctly-European flavor by
Erika, the German ex-pat proprietor of the ancient hotel and
Don’t miss the hashed
lobster and native treats such as braised oxtails and
Her famous deserts including homemade
key lime pie (made with Erika’s own lines, and the best
we have ever eaten), and homemade banana cake and bread
pudding with rum sauce.
The Osprey – The Ocean-front Osprey
has cook-out style grilling on Sundays and Wednesdays, with
great steaks and fresh local seafood. Food quality is sporadic,
from excellent to inedible, but grill nights are always safe.
Also make sure to spray with “Off” (available at the bar) or
your dining experience will be shared with hundreds of
Mookie Pookie Pizza has great carry-out
food, especially deviled eggs and wings.
Other Grand Turk dining favorites include:
The "gourmet burgers" (gooburgers) at the Waters Edge
The Poop-deck offers amazing fried
chicken, carry-out only.
The best breakfast spots are the Salk-Raker
and the Courtyard Café, where you can get fried tomatoes and
baked beans for that real gourmet British breakfast. For a real native
Caribbean experience, try the Fish & Grits at the Salt-Raker.
Communications on Grand
Hotels calls to the USA are $1.50 per minute, any daytime cell
calls at $2.00 per minute. However, incoming calls to your cell
phone are free. We recommend calling your party on a landline
and request them to telephone your cell number.
The best free wireless Internet is at the Osprey (near the
office area), upstairs at the courtyard Café, and the Hidden
Garden restaurant at the Salt-Raker.
Touring on Grand Turk Island
The scuba diving and snorkeling are world renowned, and second
only to the Great Barrier Reef. Any of the dive operators can
take you on an introductory “resort course” and get you scuba
diving in an hour. They can also certify you as a diver during
Don’t miss the lighthouse and the north coat area where flocks
of wild flamingos paint the azure waters with hot pink accents.
||The quaint Haitian neighborhood is
located directly north of Old Cockburn town.
Haitian refugees risk their lives to sail north from
Haiti in flimsy rafts, many finding refuge on Grand Turk
For golf, don't miss the Grand Turk golf
club, operated by Clifford Wilson (231-2515) and the cost is
only $26 for 18-holes. Reminiscent of the "real"
Caribbean, it is casual and informal, and you play the
nice-holes one-way, turn-around and then play them backwards for
the whole 18-hole experience.
The colors of the shallow waters at Grand
Turk change every hour, with the best viewing between 1:00-3:00
PM when the sunlight makes the most spectacular impression on
the azure waters.
The water visibility is incredible, and you can clearly see
scuba divers and fish more than 25 feet under the surface.
Grand Turk Wildlife
Also, don’t miss the semi-wild horses and donkeys who roam
freely about the island. Descendents of the original Spanish
Conquistador horses, the horses are of clear Spanish heritage
and have remained uncontaminated by outside bloodlines for more
than 400 years.
On occasion the herds will venture into downtown
Cockburn town where stallions will often charge at passing cars,
protecting their mares.
Potcake dogs roam the islands and many do the “rounds” at the
local restaurants, begging for handouts.
Dogs, cat and chickens are common
on the island, and you should be prepared to share your
restaurant with animals. The term “potcake” refers to
the traditional feeding for island dogs where they were
fed from the “cake” scraped from the daily stew pot.
It is not uncommon for chickens to join you at breakfast, and be
careful if you have a laptop computer because the chickens will
peck on your keyboard if you leave your computer unattended.
Crime on Grand Turk
This is a very short section because crime is very low on TCI.
Out of the 25,000 belongers on TCI, less than 25 are in prison
at any time, a rate more than 10x lower than the USA. We once
forgot a $2,000 laptop computer at the Waters Edge Restaurant at
lunch, and it was still there when we returned at 4:30 PM, right
where we left it.
There is some petty crime however, and most of
the perpetrators are well-known to the locals. One day we were
notified by a business owner that someone had broken their
windows, reached-in and taken a copy of a credit-card charge
slip with our card number on it. “Don’t worry”, she said. “It
was probably just Peter the Crack-head, and he won’t know what
to do with it”.
Grand Turk Island Hotels
While there are many hotels on Grand Turk, these are our
|Salt Raker Inn
The 180 year-old Salt Raker
inn was built by Jonathon Glass, a wealthy ship builder
from Bermuda, and the hotel still retains its original
19th century charm and many original fixtures and the
rooms have a distinctly Victorian feel.
A protected TCI
national landmark, the Salt Raker’s original kitchen has
been converted into a reception area, and the original
The Garden is amazing, with a riot of colors and the
hidden Garden restaurant is both beautiful and
The Pillory Resort is a gorgeous and secluded area
located on the northwest coast of Grand Turk. A perfect
honeymoon getaway, the Pillory is separated from the
downtown and beachside businesses, and has its own dive
shop and a great restaurant.
The Osprey Hotel
The Osprey hotel is a favorite
among the tourists and scuba divers, with 100%
ocean-front rooms, full air conditioning and television.
Night Life on Grand Turk Island
|TCI Belongers enjoy the
nightlife, and even the local horses like to party.
Almost all of the local nightspots are populated after
dark, with the most popular nights being Friday and
The night spots features local
Caribbean drinks, local bands and hoards of very nice
Grand Turk’s young folks favorite night spot
is “Nookie Hill” or just “the hill” as it is referred to in
Surrounded by a panoramic view of the ocean on three
sides, "the hill" has a spectacular view.
Other popular night spots include the
Osprey, the Salt Raker, “A taste of the Island” and the “Waters
Edge”, where you may be treated to live bands with a distinctly
Belongers play native instruments (such as a
cross-cut hand saw), bending it and hammering on its surface
with a mallet to produce the perfect bass accompaniment for the
||Mitch Rollings (of Blue Water Divers)
is an excellent musician and plays a skilled acoustic
guitar with the local bands.
You can even get a copy of Mitch’s music CD at the
Blue Water Divers shop.
Grand Turk Casino
The “A taste of the Islands” restaurant has the only
Casino on Grand Turk Island, complete with a change
machine, three slot
machines and a video poker machine
Get There Soon . .
Sadly, much of the native charm of Grand
Turk Island may soon be spoiled by the
Cruise industry, where Carnival is building a massive dock
on the southeast shore of Grand Turk Island, complete with a
But by November 2005, Carnival Corp.
expects to complete construction of a cruise terminal on the
south end of Grand Turk that can berth two ships. . . . The
terminal will be used by ships of Carnival Corp.'s lines,
which include Carnival, Princess, Seabourn, Cunard, Holland
America and Costa. None of the lines currently visits Grand