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Ruins on South Caicos.

Exploring South Caicos

South Caicos offers a unique experience to visitors. Unlike the other islands in the Turks and Caicos and much of the Caribbean, South Caicos is essentially untouched by the tourism industry. There aren’t any established tourist attractions or watersports operators, or gift shops and large grocery stores for that matter.

South Caicos does have several scenic beaches, but they’re not as good for swimming as many of the other beaches in the country due to surf conditions and rocks.

The abandoned District Commissioners house, South Caicos.

It is possible to see much of South Caicos in one day, although two or three days will allow a much more relaxed pace. It will probably be necessary to have a car as some of the scenic areas can be as much as five miles from Cockburn Harbour. Below we list the main areas of interest to explore.

Cockburn Harbour

The main settlement of Cockburn Harbour really doesn’t offer much to do other than chatting with residents or taking a tour of the Caicos Seafood processing plant.

Due to being one of the oldest settlements in the country and unchanged much by recent development, Cockburn Harbour has remnants of many buildings from the past days of salt production and plantations. The most scenic cemetery in the country is found off the southeast side of the town on Tucker Point. Another spot that has excellent views and is definitely worth the visit is the small light tower near the Ocean & Beach Resort.

Streets of Cockburn Harbour, South Caicos.

The diving around South Caicos is excellent, although unfortunately the island’s only dive operation was completely destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008. At this time, the only option for diving the reefs of South Caicos is the costly arrangement of a custom excursion from Grand Turk or Salt Cay. The deep sea, reef and bone fishing around South Caicos is also quite good, but as no recreational fishing businesses exist, excursions have to be made through local fisherman.

Today, the main income for South Caicos comes from the fishing industry, and the harbour infrastructure that supports it is the busiest part of the island. Later in the day, small fishing boats bring in fish, conch and lobster, which are processed at the Caicos Seafood Fish Processing Plant.

Exploring

Other than simply relaxing, exploring the beaches, sea cliffs, salinas and streets of South Caicos will probably be the main occupation of visitors.

Due to various ups and downs in the economy in South Caicos over the last century, many abandoned buildings and ruins can be seen. Theses vary from colonial era residences and warehouses to more modern constructs.

Along with Grand Turk and Salt Cay, South Caicos had been a salt producing island. Miles of small stone dividing walls and channels fill the central salina, along with remains of windmills and water gates. The Boiling Hole formation is also located in the main salina. This underwater subterranean passage connects to the ocean and was used to fill salt pans during the salt production days.

The Boiling Hole, South Caicos.

Another interesting South Caicos feature is the abandoned US Coast Guard LORAN Station on the north end of the island. This site was constructed in 1959 and was part of the low frequency radio signal navigation system that was eventually replaced largely by satellite GPS. Spectacular views of the uninhabited cays north of South Caicos can be seen from high ground here.

Nature

South Caicos offers some truly breathtaking landscapes. Much of the eastern coastline of South Caicos consists of soft dune–like cliffs, a little different from harder limestone cliffs of the other Caicos Islands.

Tri-coloured herons at the Town Salina, South Caicos.

Salt Ponds

The salinas and salt pans are another interesting feature. More extensive than the salt gathering infrastructures on Grand Turk and Salt Cay, South Caicos has miles of low dividing walls, gates, windmills and the unique Boling Hole.

The remains of the salt works are best accessed from the Cockburn Harbour area, and it’s possible to walk along the top of the walls out to the remains of windmills and other features.

The salinas also tend to have many of the larger wading birds such as Tri-colored Herons and Reddish Egrets. Feral donkeys are also on South Caicos, although they tend to be shyer than on Salt Cay and Grand Turk.

The East Coast

The six mile long east coast consists soft stone cliffs and bluffs with interspersed small beaches. Ospreys and pelicans can be seen gliding by and during the winter, Humpback whales can be spotted migrating through the Turks Island Passage between South Caicos and Grand Turk.

The most visually impressive part of this coast is the southeast High Point. Reefs can be seen clearly below and the rugged Long Cay makes a beautiful backdrop. The iconic abandoned Highlands House also stands in this area.

Long Beach, South Caicos.

Plandon Cay Cut

Off the north point of South Caicos is some of the most impressive scenery in the Country. Here at Plandon Cay Cut is one of the most breathtaking vistas in the country, with the shallow Caicos Banks to the west, and small cays and East Caicos to the north. If you look carefully, you can see the walls and chimney of a plantation house on the distant Hog Cay along with a sunken sailboat. Also at this point is the derelict US Coast Guard LORAN Station. Before modern satellite GPS, these bases would radio wave navigation signals for ships and aircraft.

The Plandon Cay Cut area on the north peninsula and High Point on the southeast end probably offer the most impressive vistas. From High Point, Long Cay and Dove Cay can be seen, along with clear views of coral in the water below. The abandoned colonial era Highlands House can also be seen in this area. The scenery at Plandon Cay Cut is a little different, with the shallow Caicos Banks, small cays, and East Caicos in the distance.

Getting to some of the coastline can be a little difficult in areas due to limited and poor condition road access. Be prepared to walk a bit and bring plenty of water.

Wetlands of South Caicos, with the ruins of the Highlands House in the distance.