Back in 1492 Columbus was one of the first Europeans to set foot on Grand Turk. His visit opened a floodgate and, today, more than 600,000 holiday makers cruise into the island’s port every year. Some come here for the diving – there’s a coral reef with an 8,000 foot drop just off the island’s coast. Others come for the colonial architecture – Cockburn Town has some of the best examples in the Caribbean.
• The oldest shipwreck in the western hemisphere was discovered just off the coast of Grand Turk. You can find out more about it at the Turks and Caicos National Museum.
• Take a boat trip to Gibbs Cay. This uninhabited island is a great place for a picnic. Plus, stingrays swim right up to the shore and hand-feeding them is as easy as feeding the birds outside St Paul’s Cathedral.
• February marks the start of whale-watching season in the waters off Grand Turk. Humpback whales migrate in groups, singing mating songs to each other as they swim.
SHORE EXCURSIONS► View all EXCURSIONS
Grand Turk By Trolley Train►
You’ll get a healthy dose of Grand Turk’s culture on this trip. From your seat on a quirky open-sided trolley train, you’ll listen to your guide as they go through the ins and outs of the island’s history. You’ll also find out more about the climate, wildlife and plant life that the island fosters. The train will take you along Duke Streek in the island’s capital, Cockburn Town. This thoroughfare is lined with some of Grand Turk’s oldest buildings, including the Turks Head Inn, which has been serving drinks for more than a century. You’ll have chance to hop off the train on Front Street. Duck into the shops to pick up souvenirs or pop into a café to try a traditional conch fritter or, if there’s a time, a larger plate of peas and hominy – ham soup with black-eyed peas.
Dune Buggy Fun►
This is a pedal-to-the-metal tour of Grand Turk. You’ll see the largest of the Turks Islands from the bucket seat of a dune buggy. Leaving the port behind, you’ll follow the clay tracks that trace their way along the beach. Your first break from being behind the wheel will come at a coastal bluff, where you’ll get out to take in the views of Gibb’s Cay and the other islands in the chain. Back in your buggy, you’ll score your way through the countryside, passing salt pans. A flash of pink will alert you to the appearance of the Salina Salt Ponds, where flamingos graze the day away. You’ll also pass the airport, where you’ll clock a replica of the space shuttle Friendship, which splashed down off the coast of Grand Turk after astronaut John Glen orbited the earth. After negotiating the streets of the island’s capital, Cockburn Town, you’ll drive to North Wells, where wild horses roam. You’ll get another chance to stretch your legs around North Creek, at a cliff that commands infinity views of the Atlantic Ocean. Then, with your fuel gauge finally leaning towards the red, you’ll steer back to port.
SNUBA is a way of cheating at scuba diving. You don’t need to spend hours studying for a certificate to take part in this underwater activity. In fact, you can learn the ropes during a 30-minute safety briefing. Then, you’ll get into the Atlantic Ocean to explore. The only equipment you’ll need will be a mask, fins and a breathing regulator. This regulator is attached, via a flexible pipe, to an air supply which floats above you on the surface of the sea. You can swim around, unimpeded by heavy air tanks, to depths of 15 feet. At this depth you’ve got a good chance of swimming with barracuda and spotting sleeping nurse shark in the rocks. After your dive, there will be time to relax with a drink before you head back to port.