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Beauty Queen

by Lori Eastes
Port of Call, Photo Courtesy of Blue Haven Marina by IGY Marinas
Photo Courtesy of Blue Haven Marina by IGY Marinas

Discover a world of limitless possibilities within the 40 islands and cays of the Turks and Caicos, a British Overseas Territory located just southeast of the Bahamas. While only eight of these islands are populated, all are well worth exploring. The main tourist center, Providenciales, is perhaps the most well-known, but by venturing out further you’ll find the peaceful islands of north and middle Caicos as well as the capital island of Grand Turk. All easily accessible by boat thanks to a plethora of designated anchoring zones, each pristine island boasts a unique beauty and character all its own, with some boasting lush woodland, underground caves, great fishing, and breathtaking natural phenomena like the Boiling Hole in South Caicos, a fascinating, natural underground passageway to the ocean.

Day 1: Providenciales
Known locally as Provo, this bustling island in the Atlantic Ocean boats soft sandy beaches, luxurious resorts, quaint boutiques, and spectacular restaurants. Prepare for your week in paradise by booking a spa treatment with an unmatched view or choose a more adventurous activity by going horseback riding on the beach. The islands have had a long, winding history since Christopher Columbus reached them in 1492 and have been captured by several different countries. Their slavery past can be explored by visiting the 200-year-old ruins of Cheshire Hall, a cotton plantation located on Providenciales outside of the main town that at one time held 384 slaves. (Today, the Turks and Caicos natives are called “belongers” and are either descendants from African slaves or immigrants from the Bahamas.)

Day 2: South Caicos
Head to South Caicos, cruising around the north of the islands where the water is deeper. This is the longest passage of the itinerary taking you past many islands, cays, and beautiful beaches. Here you can also find the aforementioned Boiling Hole, a naturally formed subterranean underwater fissure passage that connects the ocean to the main salina pond on South Caicos. This formation was taken advantage of by early sea salt producers, who converted it to feed seawater into the salt pans for evaporation. Today, you can walk out to the Boiling Hole from the Cockburn Harbour side of the main salina. A 20-foot-wide white concrete structure surrounds the feature, along with the remains of gates to control the water output. Spend the night on the southern end of the island, between South Caicos and Long Cay. There is a Large Vessel Anchoring Zone (LVAZ) inside Big Cut.

Day 3: Grand Turk
Next, head east to Grand Turk. This is the island capital of Turks and Caicos and both the historic and financial center. The main heritage attraction is the National Museum, and in the cruise ship port, you can shop, dine, and play here, then head for the picturesque anchoring zone at the southern end of Grand Turk.

Day 4: Salt Cay
Take the short passage to the historic and rustic island of Salt Cay. This is where time has stood still and you can still see the preserved sites from when salt raking and the salt trade were the islands’ biggest economy in the 1800s. There is also an anchoring zone on the western side of the cay.

Day 5: Big Sand Cay

The next recommended destination stop is the uninhabited island of Big Sand Cay. This small island is a designated bird sanctuary and great for snorkeling. Spend your day on the water, enjoying the endless sunshine from the anchoring zone located on the western side.

Day 6: French Cay
Head to French Cay for some of the best snorkeling and spectacular diving in all of Turks and Caicos. It is also a peaceful sanctuary for migratory birds, thanks in part to it being uninhabited. Take time to relax and soak up your unparalleled surroundings.

Day 7: West Caicos
Now a week in to your journey, set course for the uninhabited West Caicos where there are many excellent dive sites off the west coast and also several moorings. (Do note that anchoring is not permitted on the western side, but there are LVAZs on the east and northeast sides of West Caicos.)

Day 8: Sam Bay
Make your way back towards Providenciales to Northwest Point where there is a LVAZ off Sam Bay. Book ahead for dinner reservations at Amanyara Resort, where you can toast to your incredible voyage.

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