Grand Turk is a very flat, very little island. From the highest parts of the cruise ship (ex. the waterslide ladder), you can see the entire island including the Atlantic on the opposite coast and the lighthouse at the far north end. I really think a cruise ship is the perfect way to see the island because a day is about all the time that you need.
In terms of official cruise ship excursion offerings, I was underwhelmed by Carnival’s choices for Grand Turk. Pretty much all of the choices were things you can do on any Caribbean island, such as horseback riding, snorkeling, or ATV adventures. Every time I visit somewhere, I always want to see and do whatever is unique for that specific place.
Grand Turk is very safe and small, and therefore I recommend that you explore it on your own. After doing some pre-trip research, I decided that my priority was to see the Grand Turk lighthouse.
Unique to Grand Turk:
- Rent golf carts
- Visit the lighthouse
- See the John Glenn memorial
- Look for conch shells at the beach
- Swim in the ocean next to the cruise ship
Visit the Lighthouse – It only takes about 30 minutes (by golf cart) to reach the Grand Turk lighthouse. You have plenty of time to see it, drive around the island and then spend the afternoon at the beach or pool. Just a heads up, Grand Turk is home to lots of wild donkeys which will come right up to humans looking for food.
See the John Glenn Memorial– If you are traveling to the lighthouse, you will pass the John Glenn memorial on the side of the road right near the entrance to the Grand Turk airport. There’s also a (kinda weird) statue of John Glenn at the cruise ship port.
Visit the Conch Shell Beach – On the south side end of the island, there’s a beach which is known for their conch shells. You can get there by walking along the beach to the south of the cruise ship pier, or you can do what we did and drive the golf carts to the beach. If you are driving, the best way is to take the road that’s directly behind the people where you rent the golf cart. Follow it to the south, east, and then south again as far as you can go (see map below).
The beach is very rocky, so I highly recommend bringing water socks. However, once you get past the first 10 feet or so of rocks, then you will see lots of conch shells. They were pretty neat, although I was a little disappointed that most of them appeared to be broken. They also are all bleached white, not like the pretty colorful ones that you see at many of the shops. They are still the biggest shells that I’ve ever found myself. (There’s also a great picture opportunity at this beach with the cruise ships in the background!)
Spend Time at the Grand Turk Cruise Center – The Grand Turk Cruise Center is very nice. Out of all of the ports that I’ve been to in the Caribbean, this one is by far the nicest. They don’t have a ton of shops, but they have a huge pool and a beach (both free) where you can swim right next to the cruise ships which I thought was really, really neat. The beach is very smooth, and the water is very clear, no water socks are needed.
Next time I visit Grand Turk:
- Look for the whale statues
- Check out the food at Jack’s Shack
- Wander further up the beach towards Cockburn town
For us, since we wanted to go all the way to the lighthouse, we decided that the best way to get around Grand Turk was to rent golf carts. We rented 2, 4-seater golf carts from one of the vendors right outside the cruise ship terminal gate. You need to make your reservations in advance and make sure you have an email receipt. When we were there another family thought they had a reservation but they didn’t and there weren’t any carts left. However, we didn’t have any issues. We went with Karib Auto Rental which I highly recommend. They have a website and are responsive unlike a couple of other vendors that I reached out to. Each golf cart cost $95 for the whole day including gas. You pay half of the rental fee in advance via Paypal and the other half in cash the day you get there. Their stand is a very easy ¼ mile walk past the cruise ship terminal (see map below). All you had to do was sign a waiver when you got there and off we went! And just remember to drive on the left!
If you don’t want to rent a golf cart, there are also tons of taxicabs right at the cruise port which will happily take you anywhere you want to go on the island.
None seen. Recommend visiting by cruise ship.
Restaurants/ Meals & Drinks:
Margaritaville – The only restaurant near the cruise terminal was Margaritaville. Grand Turk doesn’t appear to have any famous restaurants or menu items, so it was Just fine with their menu of American bar food options. Just bring extra cash because I think they are a bit overpriced. That being said, it was the nicest Margaritaville that I’ve been to and I’ve also heard that it’s the largest.
Further down the beach is a restaurant called Jack’s Shack. I would probably try that if I ever find myself in Grand Turk again.
Or since it’s so close, you can always get back on the ship and eat the free lunch.
Tips/ Things to Know:
- Cars drive on the Left side of the road in Grand Turk.
- Cockburn Town appeared mostly deserted when we drove through it. I wouldn’t travel there if you are looking for shopping. The only real shopping that I saw was at the cruise port.
- If you Google “Grand Turk Cruise Center”, the location shown in the middle of the island is not correct. The actual cruise center is all the way at the bottom near the southern tip of the island. Google Maps Showing the Wrong Location – Scroll down to the Bottom of the Island to See the actual Cruise Center
My Time Spent on the Island:
- 1 day cruise port in February 2016, on the Carnival Breeze