Island Trifecta: Providenciales, North Caicos & Middle Caicos

Robert and Brooke’s frame-able photo memory with our catamaran Our Time in the background. Photos by Toni Erdman, Robert Erdman and Brooke Atkins

It is the weather’s fault that we discovered the natural beauty and sweeping landscapes of Providenciales, North Caicos and Middle Caicos. Boaters are ruled by the weather. We constantly check it, discuss it and usually simply resign ourselves to being patient with it.

We were at Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos to meet multiple family members flying in for a boat visit. Weather systems far to the north were aggravating the seas and rendering the usually lovely northern side of Provo untenable. High winds and heavy rain promised to stick around for the next week. What were we going to do with the family members who were expecting a boating vacation? My oldest son and his girlfriend, whom we were meeting for the first time, were to arrive for a ten-day visit. Five days into their vacation, my 91-year-old father-in-law would arrive. 

We stayed on the south side of Providenciales for protection and comfort. We pulled into a marina to guarantee our guests, first-timer and old-timer, the calmest accommodations. The kids arrived and conditions on the north shore, which rightfully boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Grace Bay Beach, were rough and windy. My son, more sailor/adventurer than beach goer, had an alternative plan: rent a car, explore Provo; and, then take the ferry over to the lush island of North Caicos and Middle Caicos. The weather did not stop our fun, it simply changed our itinerary from water to land-based exploration. 

Heavy weather with intermittent downpours. Photos by Toni Erdman, Robert Erdman and Brooke Atkins

We explored Provo’s 15-mile length by car the first two days. With a local map in hand and some prior reconnaissance, we knew the areas that we wanted to see; a little something for everyone. I love the natural scene, beaches, reserves, some shopping (browsing), and good local food. My husband loves dark beer and seafood, especially conch salad.

Cruising down sandy lanes, we headed towards one of Provo’s three National Parks, Northwest Point Marine National Park, for windswept views. Only one car was parked among the grasses. As we approached the beach we heard them before we saw them; a very ‘loving’ couple. We were sorry about our timing, for their sakes. However, it was a great giggle. We respectfully departed and and headed for lunch choosing to sit outside at Da Conch Shack where we watched the storm clouds and enjoyed the best conch salad and rum punch I have ever tasted. I took home an unpolished conch shell as my souvenir. After lunch, we headed for the Turk’s Head Brewery, which offers tours (three times a day) and tastings (five days a week). As we made our way around the island we became true tourists, shopping Provo’s resort Grace Bay area for souvenir T-shirts and reasonably priced locally made jewelry from the Michael Wellington Collection. 

By day three we were ready to take the TCI Ferry 12 miles northeast to North Caicos (The Garden Island). It was an easy, picturesque 30-minute ride past luxury Parrot Cay (Bruce Willis, Donna Karan and Christie Brinkley have or had homes here). We arranged a car rental prior and it was in the car park upon our arrival. Again, with map in hand, we were off. Our plan was simple: nature, food and no shopping. The drive from North Caicos to Middle Caicos offered greenery and sweeping landscapes, a bridged jut of land, The Caicos Causeway, connects North to Middle Caicos. As plentiful as shopping and restaurants are on Provo, on North and Middle Caicos they are sparse so we crossed North Caicos’ 41 sq. miles directly to reach Middle Caicos’ Mudjin Harbor Bar & Grill by lunchtime.

Hold on to your hat – windy Grace Bay Beach. Photos by Toni Erdman, Robert Erdman and Brooke Atkins

From the road in Middle Caicos we were excited to see, off in the distance, a flume of water blow very high into the air: the Blowing Hole! We tried to find our way to the blow hole but unfortunately that was our only sighting. By the time we arrived for lunch, just about every tourist on our ferry was gathering there too. The local food was good, not the hamburger so much (likely imported), but say ‘yes’ to the fish and chips or fish and salad. If you were to travel no further, the views from the restaurant porch, the accessible limestone Conch Bar Caves below, and the deep soft sand beach of Mudjin Harbor were perfect elixir for our exploratory spirits. And here we found the ‘Crossing Place Trail’ to the Blowing Hole with sculptures at the start, however, we elected to skip the hike as sturdy footwear is necessary for traversing the rugged marine limestone. (The shorter path to the Blowing Hole along the road is very hard to find, we did not find it.)  

After Mudjin Harbor we found the Indian cave site with curtains of hanging root vines, and then drove east to Bambarra Beach, with its acres of blue thigh-deep shallows. The local maps highlighted points of interest and we negotiated the paved roads with our share of turning about. We laughed our way over the bumpy roads on the way to the Sink Hole; an open hole in the limestone. However, I really, really wanted to see Flamingos in their natural setting. My son drove to every possible location we were told they may be found. Close to Sandy Point Ferry landing, he pushed our timing to check one last spot, because, “Mom, I know where they are,” he said.

The author and dad on their way out to dinner. Photos by Toni Erdman, Robert Erdman and Brooke Atkins

We bounced along another sandy/grassy lane and arrived at Cottage Pond Nature Reserve, a blue 255-foot submerged sinkhole, and one of my most beautiful memories. These shy birds, all twelve of them, were far off across the pond; as I viewed them with the binoculars (that I was happy we lugged with us) I was thrilled to see the flock take flight.

Later in the week, we did take the boat around to the protected southwest quarter of Providenciales where we dinghied ashore at Cooper Jack Bay seeking a small cave (with a ladder); Sapodilla Bay, seeking Hill Rock Carvings (inscriptions of initials and dates on hilltop rock from past sailors) and quieter beaches to stroll. In the shallow waters, we took advantage of what sun we had for a couple’s photo shoot for a frame-able memory. We spent the remaining days thoroughly perusing the islands; dinners out, southern shore beaches, and truthfully, we squeaked out a one-day sail around the nearby island of West Caicos. My son insisted we redo certain parts of our North Caicos and Middle Caicos trip with Grandpa once they left, and we did. 

Indian Cave Plaque on Middle Caicos. Photos by Toni Erdman, Robert Erdman and Brooke Atkins

North Caicos and Middle Caicos are the quiet islands that I cherish and yet fear are fading. On Providenciales, I was happy to see the very high-end resort, Amanyara (think Brad Pitt and Kardashian level guests) embracing the natural environs. On the tour of Providenciales with my father-in-law, the Amanyara gatekeeper got permission for us to enter for drinks at the bar. If you cannot get in, and especially if you do get in, watch the 2014 movie, Turks and Caicos. Amanyara was largely used as its setting. 

The weather absolutely changed our itinerary; lucky us. In hindsight, we won the Island Trifecta. Sometimes having the weather take control is not so bad. I look forward to returning another day to catch what I missed waterside and to hike the Crossing Place Trail to the Blowing Hole. 

Free access: Small Indian Cave with curtain of vine roots on Middle Caicos. Photos by Toni Erdman, Robert Erdman and Brooke Atkins