Port Review: Grand Turk

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This charming island is the largest of the Turks and Caicos archipelago, which are not strictly part of the Caribbean as they are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. But it appears on Caribbean itineraries for a lineup of good reasons. 

The Facts 

Location: The North Atlantic Ocean, 48 kilometres south of the Bahamas.

Language: English, with some Spanish and Creole.

Currency: US dollar.

Docking/Anchoring: Docking at the new cruise pier on the southwestern tip of the island, about five kilometres from the centre of Cockburn Town.

Transport: There are usually taxis outside of the pier, or you can rent a car, scooter or bicycle. 


Grand Turk is home of the territory’s capital, Cockburn Town. It was first colonised in 1681 by the Bermudians who established the salt industry on the island, but it’s claim to fame dates back to 1962, when John Glenn’s Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft splash-landed nearby. Until the last ten years or so, Grand Turk was regarded as somewhat of an off-the-beaten path destination, only frequented by smaller or luxury cruise ships. All that has changed, however, with the opening of a new cruise terminal which has put the island firmly on the mainstream cruising map. This new terminal can handle two ships at a time, and is a destination in its own right with shopping and a recreation area including a huge pool on site. 

Don’t Miss

Cockburn Town has two main streets lined with historic buildings embracing pastel coloured Bermudian architecture, and some dating back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is easy to navigate on foot, with sights to see including the governor’s house, churches, the public library and the Columbus monument. 

Besides the John Glenn landing, diving and snorkelling is what the island is mainly famous for. Its white sand beaches, and the world’s third largest reef make for top quality marine exploring, with two of the main spots being Grand Turk Wall and Columbus Landfall Marine National Park. 

The Turks & Caicos National Museum is worth a look. Besides an exhibit dedicated to John Glenn, the two-level museum tells the quite fascinating story of the islands. 

The cruise terminal is a destination in its own right if don’t fee like charging around in the heat, or you feel like getting off ship but not venturing very far. There is no charge to use the pool, the beach or sun loungers, and you can hire equipment including snorkel gear, or rent a private air-conditioned pool cabana.

Best Photo Op

If you have time to travel to the northern tip of the island, the Grand Turk Lighthouse is over 150 years old and faces back towards the cruise terminal. The building itself is attractive, but moreover the location offers a panoramic view of the ocean.


This isn’t a great island for shopping ops, but the best unusual items can be found at the museum, or in the shops in the cruise terminal. There are a few craft shops in Cockburn Town, but the majority of shopping is geared at locals. 

Food and Drink

The best restaurants are attached to the few resorts on the island, and they’re all casual. The best alcoholic drink to sample is a rum punch, or a locally brewed Turks Head beer, and for food, try local fish such as mahi mahi, deep friend conch.

Pick of the Excursions

If you are new to the island, opt for a hop-on-hop-off island tour to get you oriented, and to see a bit of everything. If you fancy going it alone, you can rent a car and self-drive from the cruise terminal - just remember to drive on the left. The island is only just over 11 kilometres long, and two-and-a-half kilometres wide so it’s easy to find your way around.

If you have a long day in port, head for Gibbs Cay, which is a lovely and even more quiet spot for snorkelling, eating out or just enjoying the beach.

Active cruisers can enjoy diving and snorkelling excursions, as well as horse riding on the beach.


Joanna Hall


  • 5
    Looks Great

    Posted by Maisie Fletcher on 27th May 2019

    I want to go here. Hold on, any beach somewhere exotic would do!

  • 4
    Caribbean Cruise Fun

    Posted by Freya A on 27th May 2019

    We did a Caribbean cruise when we lived in London for a while. It was fun and pretty cheap from there but the islands aren't that unique or different I found. Although friends said we didn't pick the right itinerary! Didn't go to Grand Turk, but it looks nice