Things to see and do in Turks and Caicos Islands
Attractions in Turks and Caicos Islands
Bask on the beaches
Powder-fine, soft and white, the sands of the Turks and Caicos Islands are the stuff of romance. Chill out on the beaches that line Providenciales' renowned Grace Bay, or seek out your own private spot; there's plenty of choice, with some of the best on North and Middle Caicos.
Dive on pristine coral reefs
Exquisite coral reef formations and excellent underwater visibility have brought diving fame to the islands, especially Providenciales, West and South Caicos, and the Turks Islands. Marine species that can be observed include turtles, spotted eagle rays and manta rays, as well as numerous colourful reef fish.
Escape it all on North Caicos
Known as the "Emerald Isle," North Caicos has miles of deserted white sandy beaches with gentle surf and excellent snorkelling, along which hotels providing luxurious accommodation… and all just a short ferry ride from Providenciales. Flamingos, ospreys, iguanas and various other wildlife can be seen at the island's nature reserve. The ruins of the Wade's Green Plantation, built in 1789 to raise cotton and sisal, are also a popular destination for visitors.
Explore Cockburn Harbour
The town of Cockburn Harbour on South Caicos is situated on a small ridge at the extreme southwest of the island of South Caicos. It was once the chief port for the shipment of salt from the islands. The town is a quiet and pleasant place to potter around in the evening, with some interesting remnants of the salt industry and a few local restaurants serving fresh fish. It's also a jumping off point to discover the island's excellent beaches and reefs.
Rare birds and butterflies are bountiful on the archipelago… and so are the twitchers who come to seek them. Visitors can see wild flamingos in Grand Turk, North Caicos and Provo, where there are designated birding trails. On Provo, Northwest Point National Park offers some of the best birdwatching opportunities and you may see ospreys, pelicans, egrets, herons, and more.
A few minutes from South Caicos by air, with the small metropolis of Cockburn Town, Grand Turk is the islands' seat of government and commerce, as well as their historic and cultural centre. Front Street has a number of colonial buildings, dating from the early 19th century. Visit the lighthouse overlooking North Creek on the north coast - it was shipped to Grand Turk from the UK in pieces in the 19th century and reassembled. Heritage walks and guided tours are available.
Kick back in Providenciales
Boasting luxury resorts, fine dining restaurants, coral reefs and beaches as pure as the driven snow, the island of Providenciales is the epicentre of the country's tourism industry. Most of the action takes place around Turtle Cove, with its peaceful yacht basin, and Grace Bay, which has a 19km (12-mile) beach. The island is also home to Princess Alexandra National Park, the Caicos Conch Farm (the only one of its type in the world) and the Bamboo Gallery (an arts centre).
Make friends with migrating whales
Between February and April, whale watching enthusiasts are able to observe large numbers of the North Atlantic humpback whale population passing very close to the western shores of Grand Turk and Salt Cay en route to their breeding grounds at Mouchoir Bank nearby. During this period, divers can listen to an underwater concert of whale songs; charter boats equipped with hydrophones also allow visitors to see and hear whales.
Pedal your way around the islands
A network of field-roads across North, Middle and East Caicos makes for great walking and cycling across these unspoiled islands, sometimes joining up the dots between plantations, beaches and other attractions. On Provo, the Grace Bay and Turtle Cove areas are the safest for on-road cycling, and Grace Bay has pavements for safe strolling. Of course, walking beautiful Grace Bay Beach is also very popular.
Relax on Middle Caicos
Also known as Grand Caicos, Middle Caicos is sparsely developed. The three main settlements on the island are Conch Bar, Banbarra and Lorimers. The island is blessed with a spectacular coastline, which is blessed with bluffs, small coves, limestone cliffs, sandy beaches, swampland and caves. There is a causeway linking Middle Caicos and North Caicos, so it's easily accessible for visitors.
Set sail to West Caicos
The westernmost island has an abrupt coastline leading to deep water that is ideal for fishing and scuba diving. Uninhabited, it is currently only visited by sailors, fishermen and thousands of seabirds. An ideal place to see a variety of birdlife is Lake Catherine. Ruins of Yankee Town, a railroad and a steam engine are remnants of the time when the island was habited; a more modern 'ruin' is that of the unfinished Ritz-Carlton Molasses Reef resort on the island's north end.
Step back in time on Salt Cay
The tiny Salt Cay is home to just 70 people, and a handful of self-catering villas for visitors. Uncluttered and unspoilt, its timelessness is accentuated by disused salt ponds and an almost total lack of motorised transport. Island Thyme makes a great venue for lunch or dinner.
Take a glow-worm cruise
Once a month following the full moon, the waters around the islands light up with glow worms as part of an elaborate mating ritual, and evening cruises are laid on to see this magical display.
Wander the ruins of cotton plantations
For a short time at the end of the 18th century, the cotton plantations of Cheshire Hall on Providenciales and Wade's Green on North Caicos were worked by numerous slaves owned by Loyalist refugees from the former American colonies. Now in ruins, the plantations remain evocative places to visit, and through a degree of restoration, their story lives on.
Turks & Caicos Islands Tourist Board in the USAAddress: 80 Broad Street, Suite 3302, New York City, NY 10004
Telephone: (646) 375 8830.
Turks & Caicos Islands Tourist Board in the UKAddress: 83 Baker Street, London, W1U 6AG
Telephone: (020) 7034 7845.