Grand Turk is the historical and political centre of the Turks and Caicos, and is the second most populated island in the country after Providenciales. Originally founded by settlers from Bermuda as a site for salt production in 1681, Cockburn Town on Grand Turk has been the official capital of the country since 1766. Many of the country's main government offices, such as the Supreme Court and Governor's Residence can be found here.
Several important historic events have taken place around this small island including being the likely spot of Columbus's first landfall in the New World, and the landing spot of American astronaut John Glenn after orbiting Earth in 1962.
Many of the older buildings on Grand Turk reflect the colonial and British-Bermudian heritage. This is best seen on Front Street and Duke Street in Cockburn Town. Donkeys, and horses, first introduced in the salt industry days as a means of transportation, can still be seen roaming freely.
The National Museum on Front Street, Grand Turk.
The Turks and Caicos National Museum on Front Street houses many fascinating displays. Notable amongst its exhibits are thousand year-old Lucayan artifacts and the extensive Molasses Reef Wreck collection, where remains from the oldest European shipwreck excavated in the Western Hemisphere can be seen.
Another famous landmark on Grand Turk is the country's only lighthouse, finished in 1852. This structure was prefabricated in England and was set up to burn whale oil for light. It was eventually converted to kerosene, and finally, electricity in 1971. The lighthouse is no longer operational, although tours of the surrounding grounds are offered.
Cockburn Town waterfront.
Grand Turk is also known for having some of the best diving in the world. What sets Grand Turk apart from other destinations is the exceptional coral wall diving. In places, it drops from thirty feet down to depths of more than seven thousand feet, usually only a few hundred feet from the beach. Many of the ship wrecks around Grand Turk are also popular dive sites.
A relatively recent addition to Grand Turk is the cruise ship centre on the southern end of the island. This facility was opened in 2006 by Carnival Cruise Lines as a mooring site for ocean liners and as a base of operations for cruise ship visitors. Many small jewellery and gift shops, restaurants, bars and attractions are located here, along with swimming pools for cruise ship guests.
Grand Turk has quite a few donkeys and cows wandering about, which are remnants of the salt days.
Also on Grand Turk is the Waterloo Golf Course. Built by a former governor, this 9-hole, par 54 course is open to the public.
Grand Turk is a great place to experience the traditional spirit of the Turks and Caicos, either for one day, or your whole vacation.
Front Street, Cockburn Town.
Front Street, Cockburn Town, Grand Turk. Circa 1900.