Grand Turk is the capital island of the Turks and Caicos, its historical heartbeat, and home to a state of the art luxury cruise ship center. It is here that Christopher Columbus first made landfall on his initial voyage to the New World in 1492. Almost 500 years later, US astronaut John Glenn "discovered" Grand Turk himself, after he became the first American man to orbit the earth.
Cockburn Town is the center piece of the island with a wonderful selection of historical buildings and a rustic charm that is unforgettable. It has the second largest population of around 3,720 people. Grand Turk is one of the main historical points of Turks and Caicos. You will find many Colonial style buildings and ruins, along with The Turks and Caicos National Museum.
One of Grand Turk's main attractions is diving. With its many dive operators it can cater to novice snorkelers to experienced divers. There is an outstanding protected coral reef, which drops to 8,000 feet and is close enough to shore for beach dives. There are several accommodations as well as casual restaurants which feature local entertainment. During whale watching season visitors can watch the humpback whales pass from Grand Turk's shores as well as from the surface of the water.
The Grand Turk Cruise Center consists of a 3000-foot pier, the welcome facility and the recreational area. The pier has been built to accommodate two super post-Panamax class vessels simultaneously, including Queen Mary 2 and other large post- Panamex class vessels.
On an area of approximately 14 acres, a recreational center includes a swimming pool, 1,000 feet of beachfront (no water sports offered), cabanas (available for rent through the shore excursion office on board or at the facility), shops and the world's largest Margaritaville, providing food, beverages and Jimmy Buffett memorabilia.
The Welcome Center has been designed based on Grand Turk/Bermudian architecture, influenced by the Bermudian influx into the salt industry thriving in the 17th and 18th centuries and including chimneys considered a "must" by the newcomers from the colder Bermudian for the cold winter months.
Cockburn Town is the administrative capital and the historic and cultural center of the islands. It is strongly reputed to be the landfall island of Columbus during his discovery of the New World in 1492. The town itself is well suited for a walking tours. Duke and Font Streets are lined with historic 18th and 19th century landmarks that reflect the Bermudan style architecture of the salt era. Two of these buildings are now popular inns, another is the governor's residence,as well as other government offices, the public library, churches, private residences and fraternities.
At the Turks and Caicos National Museum you will find a central exhibit that tells the story of the Molasses Reef Wreck, the oldest European shipwreck discovered in the Western Hemisphere (dated around 1505). It also discloses the rich cultural and natural diversity of the islands. Other historic sites include the Lighthouse, Fire Hill and the Hawks Nest Anchorage.
The most popular excursion just off Grand Turk is Gibbs Cay where visitors can enjoy an uninhabited island, a picnic on the beach and a chance to feed the beautiful stingrays who swim right up to shore.