Forget the Pool. Explore, eat and enjoy Grand Turk.

Bypass the Cruise Center and experience this beautiful island.

The Grand Turk Cruise Center can be a great place for the day. But why not explore Grand Turk instead?
The Grand Turk Cruise Center can be a great place for the day. But why not explore Grand Turk instead?


Grand Turk is one of those laid-back islands where wild donkeys and horses roam along the beach and in town.  Situated in the Atlantic Ocean and not the Caribbean Sea, this small island is part of the islands that comprise the Turks and Caicos archipelago.  Grand Turk, the only cruise port in the entire chain of the Turks and Caicos Islands is also home to the government center at Cockburn Town. It’s been the capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands since 1766.

With only a few hours to spend in Grand Turk, you can choose to spend a relaxing day at the enormous Grand Turk Cruise Center, located right next to where your ship will dock.  Or you can choose from a variety of shore excursions, many of which will take you on a full tour of Grand Turk.  Here are my choices for fun, family activities.  None of which will burn a hole in your wallet.

Cockburn Town Tour

Take a taxi into Cockburn Town (pronounced “Co-burn”) or sign up for an excursion that will take you into and around town.  Reminiscent of Bermuda’s British influence during the salt industry boom, the simple houses are examples of 18th British architecture and sport typical Victorian porches and some homes even have chimneys.

NOTE:  The National Museum is permanently closed.  The main areas to begin your walking tour are on Duke and Front streets.  Visit the public library, the Governor’s Residence, a working lighthouse that was relocated from Britain and admire the nearby buildings that date from the 18th and 19th centuries.

A taxi between the cruise port complex and Cockburn Town will cost about $4 to $9 USD each way.

Beautiful 7-acre island only 1 mile off the coast of Grand Turk. All cruise lines offer shore excursions.
Beautiful 7-acre island only 1 mile off the coast of Grand Turk. All cruise lines offer shore excursions. Photo:

Stingray Encounter and Gibbs Cay Beach

Gibbs Cay, no it wasn’t named for Leroy Jethro Gibbs, can be reached by a quick boat ride from the cruise center.  The Cay is a tropically beautiful and uninhabited island, perfect for a beach day away from the ship.  With snorkel and flippers, you can make your way out about 300’ to the edge of a coral reef or just wade into the water and watch for the throng of graceful stingrays as they come in for a scheduled feeding.


If a slow horseback ride along a white sandy beach is on your to-do list, Grand Turk might just be the perfect place to try it.  Available as a ship’s shore excursion,  it’s necessary to sign up at the beginning of your cruise to avoid a sold-out disappointment.

Why not try this next time you're in Grand Turk? Horseback ride on land and in the ocean.
Why not try this next time you’re in Grand Turk? Horseback ride on land and in the ocean.

After a short van ride to the stable, guests are given a safety briefing before mounting their steed.  First is a short ride through some scrub brush and pathways.  Then you’ll reach another stable where you’ll don a life preserver and your horse will be refitted with a water-suitable saddle.  The off you and your group will go, into the ocean.  A few minutes in one direction and the leader gives the signal for the horses to head for home.  Almost in unison, the horses turn in the ocean and set their sights on a quick return trip to their home.  Hold on, because the herd really wants to get moving.  It’s a wonderful experience, both in the water and on land.

Did you know?

Grand Turk is home to the world’s best coral cliff wall dive, the first landfall for Christopher Columbus and just offshore, is the place where John Glenn, the first man to orbit the world, and his space capsule, Friendship 7 splashed down in 1962.

Local Eats with a View

Because most visitors only spend an afternoon in Grand Turk, there aren’t a slew of restaurants to choose.  Here are a few places to grab lunch, a cold brew and maybe stay for the entire afternoon!

It is easy to find Jacks Shack in Grand Turk. Stand on the cruise dock and look north. Thats it at then end of the beach.
It’s an easy walk up the beach to Jack’s Shack. You can almost see it at the top of the photo.

Jack’s Shack has become the afternoon escape from the hub-bub and tackiness of Margaritaville at the Cruise Center.  Located just a short walk from the cruise dock, only 540 yards north of the Cruise Center.  Chef Leroy cooks up a mean jerk chicken on the grill, plus local conch dishes and fried fish. You can even print out a coupon from their website to get a free shot of locally-produced rum.

If a quieter luncheon is more your taste, hop into a taxi to the Osprey Beach Hotel and the Bird Cage Restaurant.  There you’ll find poolside dining with a bird’s-eye view of the ocean. Free wifi, too.

Good ol’ Margaritaville at the Cruise Center.  Great for those less adventurous or prefer to stay close to home.  It’s basically the same menu at all of Jimmy Buffet’s restaurants, but if you plan to go back and forth to the ship all day, it’s convenient.  If you’re looking to use their wifi, be warned that it’s very slow and the best connections near the router are on the second level.

With beautiful weather nearly year-round (the exception of course being the unpredictable height of hurricane season-August and September), cruise passengers have come to love their brief visit to this modest, little island.  Whether you choose to hang out, eat and shop at the cruise center, venture into town or purchase a shore excursion, a port call in Grand Turk is sure to be a fun and memorable experience.

How to spend a day in Grand Turk

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42 thoughts on “Forget the Pool. Explore, eat and enjoy Grand Turk.”

  • Hi Tayah,
    Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to your questions. I would suggest your doing some research online to see what beaches you would like to visit. Also, check your cruise line’s shore excursions – they’ll usually include if there are lockers available to stow your belongings.

    Thank you for your comment and have a wonderful time!

  • hello I was just wondering if id be able to go jetskiing on the island and where id be leaving my personal belongings,and will they be safe because everything I need to get back on the cruise ship will be in my bag?

  • Hi David,
    While Grand Turk is small, you will need a taxi or a tour to see the island. From the cruise dock, you can have a very nice day but to get into town or around, it’s not really walkable. I hope this helps. Thank you for your question.

  • Is Grand Turk small enough to visit via a walking tour or do recommend another way other than the cruise ship excurisions?

  • Hi Mechelle,

    Sorry I can’t help with golf cart rental recommendations. Maybe you can contact the visitor’s bureau in Grand Turk (Turks and Caicos) and they can point you in the right direction. Have a great time!

  • A group of us are traveling to Grand Turk on the Carnival Sunshine, docking there for a day. We are looking for a place to put on a wedding. Looking for steel drum music and a beautiful, yet simple, wedding ceremony. I’d appreciate a local contact there to help me arrange a beautiful wedding on a beach! We are looking for something not “tourist-y”. We did something similar 2 years ago for another couple on Isla Roatan in Honduras. It was simple and beautiful. Flower pots set up for an aisle, our Broker is ordained and will do the ceremony. What we wanted from the island natives is a cake, a musical option, flowers for the Bride, and a photographer. A contact for a planner would be great!

  • Hi Denise,

    Sounds like you have a nice cruise planned. Yes, there are other activities to do beside those offered through the cruise lines. Please visit and click on Things to Do. There are links to companies that offer things to do that you’d book on your own. Chukka Tours offers things to do there, too. If you want something a little more cultural there’s the Turks and Caicos Museum. They also have activities.

    Have a wonderful time!

  • Hi, I will be traveling to Grand turk via Carnival Vista the end of this month with 3 teenagers. I’ve heard alot about the beaches near the port. I would like to know if there are any activities for a fee available like jetskiing or speedboat at the nearby beaches instead of doing an excursions. Thanks in advance, Denise

  • Hi Linda,
    Unfortunately, the Turks and Caicos National Museum is permanently closed, due to severe hurricane damage last year. However, they are happy to report that their gift shop is open! The distance from the Cruise Center to the museum (gift shop) is about 1/2 mile. If anyone in your group likes to ride horses, I’ve done that with the ship’s shore excursion and it was a lot of fun.

  • Hi Sherry, I usually book my excursions through my ship ,however while in Grand Turks we would like to go to the National Museum. Can you tell me approximately how long that taxi ride would be. we will be in port from 8am – 4pm. I want to calculate an appropriate amount of time . Thank you

  • Hi Darryl,
    Thanks for reading and your comment. There are several companies that offer shore excursions and to the best of my knowledge, they all provide a fairly similar experience to that of the cruise line…many times with a smaller group. While going with the cruise line’s shore excursions does ensure a level of confidence, many if not all of the alternative shore tour companies guarantee you will get back in time for your ship’s departure. Here are a few of the shore excursion companies that I have paid for and used: Shore Excursions Group, Viator, Shore Tours. There is also but I have not tried them.

    Sometimes, word of mouth or going online to a particular port’s page may give you ideas, too.

    With your wide range of ages, families may want a more kid-oriented shore excursion while millennials may go for the adrenaline-inducing experiences. Your oldest in the group may want more overview tours aboard a motor coach. I hope this is helpful.
    Have a wonderful family reunion cruise!

  • Hi we will be having a family reunion cruise, on Carnival Magic December 2019. We have people from age 14 – 93 years of age. What private company would recommend for a tour of the island? Or any other recommendations?


  • Hi Joanna,

    Grand Turk is so much fun. I’d check with Cunard’s shore excursion options – it should include the horseback riding tour. While Grand Turk is up and running post-hurricanes, I don’t know 100% for sure that the stables are all repaired. I will check into it.

    Thank you for your email.


  • Your site has given me food for thought. How can I book the horse riding on the beach. This would be fantastic. We arrive with Cunard on Sat 20th Jan and would love this as an activity to do. Are you able to send me contacts to achieve this please.
    Many thanks

  • Hi Mary,

    In Grand Turk, your ship will dock at the beach so there’s really not too much more to do than walk over to it. In Aruba, my favorite beach is Baby Beach, around the other side of the island. You might though, need to make arrangements to be picked up by the taxi or use an Uber or Lyft app if that’s possible.

    Thanks for your email and have a wonderful trip!


  • Best beaches for shoreline snorkeling in Grand Turk,Aruba and domican republic we will be on Vista 12/1617. We r avid cruisers and always enjoy jumping in a cab and finding the best beach. Any suggestions??

  • Hi Gira,
    Lucky you! I really enjoyed Carnival Sunshine a year or so ago. Grand Turk is lovely. I’ve done horseback riding there and it was wonderful. I think 6 is the minimum age so your 8-yr old would qualify. Other things I like in Grand Turk is the history and town tour. But…the bus ride on the way to the riding stable is a mini town tour in itself so you almost get both. Try to leave a little time to wander the cruise center too or cool off in the pool at the end of the day. Margaritaville is fun…but crowded. Upstairs is less busy if you and your kids want a snack later. When you read the shore excursion reviews on Carnival’s site, be sure to check the age range for the reviewer. That’s a good clue to the demographic you’ll find on the tour. Horseback riding attracts all age groups.

    Have a wonderful time! Feel free to send a note back after your cruise to let me know what excursion you chose.


  • Hi Sherry, We are taking a cruise with Carnival Sunshine on Aug 20th. Grand Turks is one of the ports we will be stopping at from 7am to 4pm . I have my 14 yrs old daughter and 8 yr old son with me and we are cruising for the 1st time. I would love to get your suggestions on how we can spend our time there. I like the horse back riding excursion as none of us have done that before. Would you suggest to book that through the cruise or once we get to the port? Anything else that would be great for us to try?

  • Hi Ana,
    Congratulations on your upcoming anniversary! My recommendation would be to contact the hotels on Grand Turk as inquire if any can arrange a vow renewal ceremony. Your cruise line might also be able to arrange someone on the island…but it might be more expensive. Turks and Caicos tourism has a list of event planners and maybe someone there can point you in the best direction for Grand Turk.

    Have a wonderful ceremony and celebration! Thanks for your comment.

  • Hi my husband and I are planning our first cruise for our 15 year Anniversary next year….per the cruise line we are looking into on our date 8/23/18 it looks like the ship will port on the island…we would like to do a Small ceremony to renew our vows on the beach…any recommendations?.

    Thank you in advance for your prompt response

  • Hi Buffie,
    Good question. If you’re thinking of renting a vehicle, please note that cars drive on the left. Maybe you live in the UK so that’s not an issue. But if you’re willing, there are several car rentals companies just outside the port. Also Grand Turk has wild ponies and donkeys that can appear out of nowhere. I’ve always taken a shore excursion on Grand Turk or just hung out at the Cruise Center or walked down to Jack’s Shack. There are a lot of historical and interesting points and places on this small island that you might otherwise miss without a tour guide. Whatever you decide to do, be safe and enjoy the island.

  • We are docking with a group. Someone had suggested renting jeeps or something and just driving around the island and exploring, any suggestions?

  • Hi Chelsey,
    Thanks for your question. If you simply want a day at the beach, it’s walkable to get there. When you dock in Grand Turk, just look to the left of the Cruise Center. There’s a huge stretch of beach (it’s in the photo in the article). Grab your gear and head on over! As far as other beaches around the island, Governor’s Beach is gorgeous but requires either a taxi, golf cart or car rental to get there. But really, if you just walk a little bit further away from the Cruise Center complex, you’ll find the crowds beach continually thin out. Only about one-third of a mile north (to the left) of the Cruise Center is Jack’s Shack, a landmark stop for drinks and nibbles. Keep walking north and the beach widens and there are less visitors. Have a wonderful cruise and thanks for your email.

  • I hear the beaches are beautiful at Grand Turk. My family and I are cruising there in January. I noticed our cruise line doesn’t offer exclusive beach excursions and we really just want to spend the day at the beach. Any recommendations?

  • If you haven’t been snorkeling before, I wouldn’t recommend it as your first try. The water here is saltier than anywhere I’ve ever snorkeled. Take lots of water if you do try it. I was sick in about 10 minutes, and I’ve snorkeled on all the other islands with no trouble. The second time we went we did the two person kayak tour. Wasn’t a lot to see but it was a lot of fun.

  • Hi Kim,
    I totally agree! It’s a great place to spend the day. Thanks for your comment.

  • I love love love grand turk!!! its so laid back and relaxed!!! my favorite place to go on a cruise to!!

  • Hi Cyndi,
    Thank you for your email. As I don’t know what cruise you will take, I’d suggest reading through your cruise line’s list of shore excursions and see what’s offered that would be child-friendly (yes beach days are perfect!) Also, check with the onboard child care directors…I’ll bet they have some excellent suggestions, too. Have a wonderful cruise with your granddaughter!

  • Hello,

    Need some suggestions for something to do with our 4 year old granddaughter that we are taking on a cruise in a month. Any ideas?

    Great beach???

    Thank you

  • Hi Sue,
    So nice to hear from you! I was just thinking about you and Tom the other day as I was looking for our “jump” photos from Belogradchik Fortress. I still think you must have been a high school cheer leader! Please email me about your cruise in March so maybe we can meet up before you leave. sherry at cruisemaven dot com. Cheers back and hope all is going well.

  • Hi Sherry! So nice to see your blog! I certainly trust your advice and will be making note of your ideas for our stop here on our cruise in March! We’re trying out HAL for the first time on their new ship!

    Hope you’re doing well! We’d sure love to meet up with you again sometime!

    Your cruise mates from your sea-to-sea river cruise,
    Sue & Tom

  • Grand turk is a beautiful island not much to do on the island other than touring or goin to acouple of restaurants if theyre open would not recomend more than a 2 night stay on this island after the cruiseship leaves it becomes a ghost town

  • Hi and thanks for your comment. Grand Turk does look like a fun to stay! Yes, there are about 5 hotels/inns on the island, so if you flew in then you could stay in Grand Turk.

  • Hi Lindsay,
    Thanks for your kind words and excellent suggestions. I never seem to get far enough out to explore the lighthouse, but it will be on my to-do list next time. Great idea about the golf carts, too. I need to revisit asap! Thanks again.


  • I completely agree, lots to see in Grand Turk besides just the pool! But what about the lighthouse and the conch shell beach? Also think renting golf carts is so much more fun than taking a taxi! Just my two cents! Love your blog though! Someday we hope to be as traveled as you! 🙂

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