Fifty shades of blue in Turks and Caicos

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos, is a tranquil spot to escape from the Canadian winter.

If it’s a raucous experience you’re after, replete with colourful cocktails in a plastic cup with a little paper umbrella, don’t read any further.

My main activity while on holiday in Turks and Caicos was looking out over the ocean and wondering aloud: “Would you describe the water as azure or cerulean?” The question begged to be posed multiple times a day as the shades are ever-changing and always magnificent.

Turks and Caicos is actually comprised of many islands. Providenciales (aka Provo) covers 60 kilometres, including a 20-kilometre strip of paradise called Grace Bay Beach which I called home for a few nights. Grace Bay has most of the tourism infrastructure but remains pristine and peaceful. 

Flying in over Chalk Sound at the south end, it’s immediately apparent that “we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto”.  There are no restaurant chains or buildings over 6-storeys high. 

There is a strong Canadian presence among tourists as well as expats. For example, executive chef Stuart Gray at Coco Bistro was schooled at our own Georgian College in Ontario. The superlative food (French flair with Caribbean flavours) is matched by the setting: tall palm trees leaning in to form a natural canopy overhead. Reserve before you leave home – about a month in advance during high season.

Dale was the first Canadian I met when he literally dropped out of the sky, landing at my feet and introduced me to the art of kite surfing. He explained the challenge: wind, waves and overall balance. By the end of the conversation, he invited me to catch sunset with his group of friends.

Sunset is a daily phenomenon whereby visitors and locals alike suss out a good vantage point by about 5:30 p.m. to watch that big yellow ball drop into the ocean. I enjoyed it at Flamingo and Somewhere, beach bars where servers don’t push drinks but rather seem like hosts who take pride in guests enjoying their home.

I met English- and French-speaking Canadians. We all lamented the proposed union between Canada and Turks and Caicos that didn’t materialize; pity as the local currency is the American dollar which makes it somewhat painful at the moment.

There is a well-stocked IGA in town, next door to a Scotiabank. The IGA stocks some kosher items, although a young Orthodox couple said they had brought a well-stocked kosher pantry with them. Kosher wine is available at The Wine Cellar.

While I did catch sight of a motor boat pulling some thrill seekers on a tube and several beautiful yachts, the sound level is tranquil. Non-motorized water sports include: Hobie Cats, stand up paddle boards, ocean kayaks, snorkeling, scuba and snuba.  On land there’s golf and tennis. For romantics, there’s horseback riding on the beach. 

It’s easy to explore beyond the beach by bicycle. There are organized excursions or drivers you can hire for a guided tour. But really, you can cover the island by renting a car for 24 hours and following the map of local highlights. If you plan to drive, please note that cars drive on the left side of the road – it’s a British Overseas Territory.

Drive to Bugaloo, where you can imbibe local concoctions, dine on fresh catch right out of the water and listen to live music on chairs right in the water. Or Taylor Bay, where you can rent paddle boats or canoes or wade out into the water a far way remaining only waist deep. There’s a ledge to sit on for enjoying the view. Otherwise, take it in from Las Brisas, the restaurant right on the water. 

My best day began with a morning walk that evolved into a three-hour meander. I came upon spectacular villas, some owned by celebrities like Sandra Bullock and Keith Richards. But the most beautiful sight of all was the point on the walk where I could turn myself around for a panoramic view and see: no people, no buildings, no umbrellas or even boats. Nothing but white sand, clear skies and water for as far as the eye could see. I’d say the water was a particularly stunning shade of, mmm, turquoise.