Grand Turk Island

Overview

Introduction

Although Grand Turk Island (at the eastern end of the 40-island Turks and Caicos chain) is considered the chief island (the capital city is located there), its influence is surpassed by that of Providenciales, which is the primary tourism destination. Grand Turk does have an upgraded international airport and, in a partnership with Carnival Cruise Lines, cruise ships call at a terminal that boasts a visitors center, restaurants (including a Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville) and shops.

The capital, the only settlement of note on Grand Turk, is Cockburn Town (pronounced COE-b'n Town and frequently called "Grand Turk"). It consists of one main street following the coastline and a few cross streets (most of which are paved). The sleepy town offers only the most basic conveniences. The architecture is reminiscent of that of Bermuda, and most of the older buildings date from the beginning of the 19th century. Many of the buildings were severely damaged by Hurricane Ike in September 2008, but all of the tourist haunts (Osprey Beach Hotel, Salt Raker Inn, Turks and Caicos National Museum and the Botanical Garden) were repaired quickly.

The Governor's House and St. Thomas Church (built by early settlers) are recommended. The National Museum, a colonial structure that survived Hurricane Ike intact, houses the remains of one of the oldest shipwrecks in the region—the Molasses Reef Wreck is believed to be a Spanish ship that went down in the early 1500s. Besides fragments of the hull, the giant anchor, cannons and guns, the exhibit includes crude medical instruments and a sewing kit. Elsewhere in the museum, look for the Turks and Caicos postage stamp depicting Mickey Mouse in snorkeling gear. As you're poking about, stop in any shop you happen to come across, if only for the conversation.

Farther afield are the lighthouse and Governor's Beach (on the southern coast). The nature reserves of Gibbs Cay, Round Cay and Pennington Cay can be visited by boat.

In Grand Turk, as in most of the Turks and Caicos, the main attractions are out in the water. The snorkeling and diving in front of the beach hotels are excellent. The reef called The Wall is located 0.25 mi/0.4 km offshore and drops 7,000 ft/2,170 m straight down. Between the shore and the reef, the water is mostly waist deep—perfect for snorkeling (even for beginners). Other good dive sites around the island include The Library (excellent for night dives), McDonald's and The Tunnels.

For those seeking blue marlin and sportfishing, consider a visit in the summer for the wildly popular Grand Turk Heineken Game Fishing Tournament.

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