Grand Turk is a very flat, very little island. It’s only about 7 miles long and 1 mile wide. 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. By visiting the Grand Turk Cruise Port, you can see everything that the island of Grand Turk has to offer.
I’m honestly not sure if anybody visits there except for cruise ships. But that’s okay because a day is about all the time that you need (not to mention, I don’t know how else you get there or where you stay!)
Grand Turk is very safe and small, and therefore I recommend that you save some money by exploring it the cruise port on your own. After doing some pre-trip research, I decided that my priority was to see the Grand Turk lighthouse.
- 1 Unique to Grand Turk Cruise Port:
- 2 Sights and Adventures in Grand Turk – (5 Things to do in Grand Turk):
- 3 Shore Excursions in Grand Turk Cruise Port:
- 4 Transportation in Grand Turk:
- 5 Lodging in Grand Turk:
- 6 Restaurants/ Meals & Drinks in Grand Turk Cruise Port:
- 7 Tips/ Things to Know when visiting Grand Turk Cruise Port:
- 8 Helpful Things to Pack for a Trip to Grand Turk:
- 9 My Time Spent on the Island of Grand Turk:
Unique to Grand Turk Cruise Port:
- Visit the lighthouse
- See the John Glenn memorial
- Look for conch shells at the beach
- Swim in the ocean next to the cruise ship
- Famous for postage stamps
- Wild Donkeys
Sights and Adventures in Grand Turk – (5 Things to do in Grand Turk):
There are actually quite a few unique things about Grand Turk and you can hit almost all of them by yourself by following our DIY Itinerary below.
It only takes about 30 minutes to reach the Grand Turk lighthouse even though it’s all the way on the other end of the island. 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.
John Glenn Memorial
Technically there are two John Glenn Memorials. If you are traveling to the lighthouse, you will pass one John Glenn memorial on the side of the road right near the entrance to the Grand Turk airport. It’s an actual replica of the capsule that landed off the coast of Grand Turk in 1962. There’s also a (kinda weird) statue of John Glenn at the cruise ship port and a replica of a rocket ship.
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 like these. 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. The conch shells 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!)
Gibbs Cay is a small uninhabited island close to Grand Turk. You can swim with stingrays there. You can take an excursion to visit Gibbs Cay. We did not elect to do this because you can swim with stingrays at other cruise ports as well..
Downtown Cockburn Town
The downtown area has a Post Office (to buy stamps), a Museum, Her Majesty’s Prison, a pretty Anglican Church and some souvenir shops. We didn’t stop anywhere downtown on our trip, just zipped through on our golf cart. There’s also something on Carnival’s website about a Clock Tower, but I can’t figure out where or what that is (if you know, send me a message!).
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 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. It also has a Margaritaville with swim-up bar. And there are some cute Humpback Whale statues further down the beach that make for a good Instagram spot (we didn’t make it to those!)
My To-Do List, Next time I visit Grand Turk
- Look for the humpback whale statues
- Check out the food at Jack’s Shack
- Wander further up the beach towards Cockburn town to check out the snorkeling
- Visit the Post Office to pick up some Stamps
Shore Excursions in Grand Turk Cruise Port:
When visiting the Grand Turk cruise port, you have the option of taking several different excursions including snorkeling, horseback riding, buggy rentals, and beach breaks. If it was up to me, I would SKIP THEM ALL. No really. These same excursions are offered at basically every other cruise port. First of all, the snorkeling is definitely better at other islands. You can also see stingrays at other islands. Grand Turk is really easy to get around by yourself. And you will save some money at the same time. Below is our Itinerary to help you.
DIY Itinerary – Rent Golf Carts and Explore Grand Turk at Your Own Pace
Here’s an itinerary for the perfect day while your cruise ship is in port at Grand Turk:
Before Cruising – Grand Turk Cruise Port
Once you book your cruise and know that you’re going to be stopping at the Grand Turk Cruise Port, make sure you do just 1 thing.
1. Reserve a golf cart to pick up right outside the Grand Turk Cruise Port Terminal. We booked ours through Karib Auto Rental. They have a website and are responsive unlike a couple of other vendors that I reached out to. Our cruise was in early February and it looks like I made the reservation in mid-December. Make sure you book in advance because if you wait until the day of, they might all be rented. Also, make sure you bring a printed copy of your email receipt. In 2016, it cost us $95 to rent 2 golf-carts for 8 hours (including gas) and we had to pre-pay half of the before we went using PayPal. Each golf cart holds 4 people. Cost per person = $12/per person.
Day of Cruising – Grand Turk Cruise Port
1. Exit the ship and walk just outside the cruise port terminal to pick up your golf cart. The rental pickup place is not a building, it’s just a parking area along the side of the road (Google Maps is a bit vague about this part of the map, so I drew you directions using Google Earth, Below). When we showed up they were waiting for us. We showed them our confirmation email, signed a couple of liability waivers and we were off! (Note #1, make sure your golf cart is set to go the right direction before hitting the gas pedal! Brian knocked over the owner’s moped before we even got left! Oops!) (Note #2, they drive on the LEFT side of the road in Grand Turk. Don’t be nervous, they hardly have any traffic so it’s a great place to practice driving like the British!).
2. Head for the Lighthouse – I believe in starting the furthest away from the cruise ship and making your way back. The lighthouse is located on the opposite end of the island from the Cruise Terminal, but it’s only 7 miles (11.7 km per Google Maps). It only takes about 30 minutes to drive there, even in a golf cart. Google Maps: Route to the Lighthouse
Or my Easy Directions to the Grand Turk Lighthouse: Turn right (head North) after picking up your golf cart. When you come to a T-Intersection, turn Right again. Follow the road past the airport (it’s called Airport Road). In the middle of town (the ocean will be on your left), Airport Road changes it’s name to Pond Road. Stay on it and follow for about half a mile. Take a slight right onto Lighthouse Road and cross the town/island. Go straight through the roundabout. After you get through town, the ocean will be on your right. Follow up the coast as far as you can go until you get to the lighthouse.
3. Making your way back South towards the Cruise Port from the Lighthouse (or be a rebel and stop on your way), hit the following stops/ photo/ instagram opportunities:
- Wild Donkeys (they are everywhere, don’t worry if you miss one, you will see others!) (This lady is feeding them chips).
- Stop by the Downtown area (The Same Stops From Carnival’s “Best of Grand Turk Tour“) (Note that when we visited in February 2016 the Downtown area was mostly deserted, but we don’t feel like we missed anything).
- The Turks & Caicos Museum (about 3 blocks north of where Lighthouse Road meets Airport Road, on the West coast of island).
- Her Majesty’s Prison (this is just 1 block south of where Lighthouse Road meets Airport Road.
- Anglican Church (a block south of Her Majesty’s Prison)
- Clock Tower (I have no idea where this is, there aren’t any pictures on Carnival’s website and nothing comes up on Google either).
- The Turks & Caicos Museum (about 3 blocks north of where Lighthouse Road meets Airport Road, on the West coast of island).
- John Glenn’s Mercury capsule replica is right out in front of the airport.
4. Visit Conch Shell Beach – Before turning in your golf cart, turn East and go past the rental place and then venture South to Conch Shell Beach (see Google Earth Map above to see the road). This is all dirt road, but it’s a very easy path to follow. It’s also a great Instagram worthy spot with the cruise ships parked in the background. It’s not really great for swimming because of the rocks. As mentioned above, I recommend wearing some shoes when walking around this area.
5. Spend an afternoon Poolside/ Beachside near the Grand Turk Cruise Port. After you turn in your golf cart there are a few things you can do within walking distance of the cruise terminal. They are mostly FREE!!!
- Take pictures at the John Glenn statues in the Cruise Terminal
- Take pictures at the Humpback Whale Statues along the beach
- Eat lunch at Margaritaville or Jack’s Shack
- Swim in the free Pool at the Cruise Terminal or take a dip in the ocean near the cruise ship
- Shop for Souvenirs
When you’re finished enjoying your inexpensive and fun day at Grand Turk, it’s just a leisurely walk right along the pier and back onto your ship!
Transportation in Grand Turk:
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 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.
Lodging in Grand Turk:
None seen! Recommend visiting by cruise ship.
Restaurants/ Meals & Drinks in Grand Turk Cruise Port:
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 when visiting Grand Turk Cruise Port:
- 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–
Helpful Things to Pack for a Trip to Grand Turk:
- Water Socks (for the Conch Shell Beach)
- Waterproof Camera (not pictured, they don’t actually sell mine anymore)
- Waterproof Camera floatie (seriously awesome to keep you from losing your camera overboard)
My Time Spent on the Island of Grand Turk:
- 1 day cruise port in February 2016, on the Carnival Breeze
Hope you find our travel guide helpful!