Although a very small island
, Salt Cay has three main residential communities.
Balfour Town and
North District are adjacent to each other, and it’s difficult to tell exactly where one ends and the other begins. Much of the development and residences on Salt Cay are found in this central area.
The largely residential
South District is found about .6 of a mile (1 km) south of the two other settlements, across the expansive Town Salinas.
When arriving by plane on Salt Cay, it’s quite impressive how small the island actually is. Although an arid cay and offering only a fraction of the land that the other main islands in the country do, due to the all-important sea salt industry Salt Cay actually was the first island in the Turks and Caicos to see permanent inhabitants after the disappearance of the
pre-Columbian peoples from the archipelago.
The remains of the Windmills resort on Salt Cay, destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008.
At the time of the initial settlement, circa late 1600s,
salt was an invaluable commodity utilized in food preservation. The natural marine
salt marshes in the limestone bedding of the island were valued higher than fertile soil, fresh water sources, or the abundant fishing grounds of the Caicos Islands.
When the salt industry was thriving the island was a bustling place, supporting about 1,000 inhabitants at the height of the era. Today, that number is under 100, with most of the population being elderly retired persons.
As a low-elevation island with no sheltering hills, Salt Cay is highly susceptible to
hurricanes. Past records and modern storms prove the same story; Salt Cay is typically harder hit than any other island in the county.
Nearly all of the older and British Colonial buildings bear evidence of hurricane damage. Although once home to stone buildings, the long-abandoned
Taylor Hill and
Whale House Bay ruins have almost completely disintegrated.