The picturesque archipelago of islands dotting the Atlantic Ocean known as Turks and Caicos is a warm-weather traveler’s delight. Take advantage of the opportunity to discover a whole new world in Grand Turk, exploring local souvenir shops in search of unique items that reflect the island’s past while also celebrating its distinctive flavor. From bath salts to rum, Grand Turk has lots of local goodies to pick up during your shore excursion. Let’s take a look at what to buy in Grand Turk while you’re soaking in the spectacular sun.
While it may sound strange to buy a common pantry staple while on vacation, be assured that there is nothing common about the salt found in Grand Turk. Nearby island Salt Cay was the center of the salt industry in the Caribbean during the heyday of salt production. Both Grand Turk and Salt Cay have natural salinas, which are shallow ponds that local residents surrounded with rocks. The surrounding salt water filled the salinas, and through evaporation and hand sorting and drying, salt was produced from the natural seawater. Even though the area no longer produces as much salt, you can still find prized Salt Cay salt in Grand Turk. Look for fleur de sel, which is prized as a coarse, finishing sea salt that can be used to accent baked goods, chocolate and even savory dishes.
2. Soaps and Bath Salts
The salt industry also found uses for its salt other than just cooking. Naturally-formed salt is used to produce fragrant soaps and bath salts. While shopping in Grand Turk, browse through dozens of scents and make sure you pick up a few extra for your own home to remind you of your tropical getaway! Soaps and bath salts make great gifts and souvenirs for everyone on your shopping list.
3. Model Sailboats
If it weren’t for sailing vessels, the outside world would never know about the hidden beauty of Grand Turk! Originally inhabited by the Taino and Lucayan tribes, Turks and Caicos island residents depended on the sea and its salt for their livelihood. Christopher Columbus actually landed in Grand Turk in 1492 in his quest to discover the New World. As a result of Grand Turk’s connection to the sea, you will find many vendors selling handmade sailboats. Pick up a local vendor’s handmade sailboat while shopping in Grand Turk to own a piece of its nautical history.
4. Straw Products
See those beautiful palm trees everywhere? When you live on an island nation, you have to use every resource possible to create goods. Grand Turk’s native residents and their ancestors used palm tree leaves, dried and treated to resemble straw, to make items such as hats, baskets and purses. You will find a plentiful array of these products during your shore excursions in Grand Turk, and you may even personally meet the artisan who crafted your purchase!
5. Conch Shells
Turks and Caicos’ close connection to the sea continues with the proliferation of conch-related items and foods across the island chain. In Grand Turk, you’ll find conch prepared in a variety of different ways on every local menu. Known for its sweet taste and chewy, clam-like consistency, conch can be fried, sauteed or stewed for a tropical ocean treat. You’ll also see a variety of conch shell souvenirs for purchase, such as necklaces, shells and cups. However, because of over-harvesting, you are limited to three pieces of conch leaving Grand Turk. Also be sure to ask your vendor where the conch was harvested, as there are many stalls where Asian conch is sold due to the restrictions placed on Turks and Caicos’ reefs. Buy locally and responsibly!
6. Dried Foods
Because of the lack of fertile soil, Grand Turk is not known for its wide array of crop variety. This means that local cooks needed to dry and preserve the few crops that were able to grow and thrive in the climate, such as mangoes and peas. Pop into a local grocery store to find dried mangoes, peas or even dried conch to bring home for a taste of the islands.
Grand Turk’s rum is a special treat not to be missed! You will find small-batch brands who pride themselves on using local ingredients and time-tested recipes. The island has its own brand-name rum producer, which you will be sure to see in supermarkets and liquor stores. Rum is a staple in the Caribbean kitchen, and it is also used for family and community celebrations in punches and cocktails. Who wouldn’t love to receive a bottle of Caribbean rum from your trip to Grand Turk? Make sure to buy an extra bottle for yourself!
Grand Turk was once an isolated island paradise where only a few residents were able to experience its splendor. Today, it is a thriving tourist stop on many cruises for passengers who are looking to experience a taste of tropical island living.
Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.