GRACE BAY, TURKS AND CAICOS — As the plane breaks through the clouds, I’m treated to a spectacular view — a necklace of 40 low-lying islands sit below surrounded by turquoise water so clear that I can make out the web of coral reefs lying just below the surface.
Let my holiday begin!
Turks and Caicos, located just southeast of the Bahamas, has become a popular holiday escape for Canadians in recent years, especially divers, who like to explore the 23-kilometre-long barrier reef on the north shore of Providenciale — the largest island simply known here as Provo — or the 2,134-metre-deep underwater wall off Grand Turk island.
I’m here to enjoy the sun, sea and sand, and Provo has plenty of all three.
After collecting my belongings, I hop in a cab and head for a charming boutique hotel known as Ports of Call in Grace Bay, owned and operated by Wendy and Dale Papke.
The only thing warmer than the weather here is the reception I’m given by the staff at Ports of Call, which Wendy and Dale purchased six years ago and turned into a little luxury hideaway. The couple spent over $3 million revamping Ports of Call and from what I see, it was money well spent. As I wait for my room key, my eyes are drawn to the inviting pool just off the lobby. Guests are relaxing on wicker chaise lounges listening to soft music while enjoying adult beverages.
I’ve come to the right place.
Above: The swimming pool area at Ports of Call is a great place to weigh anchor and relax.
While staff at Ports of Call tend to your every need, Wendy and Dale like to interact with guests, educating them on where to shop, play and dine while visiting Turks and Caicos.
One of the best places to hang out is the small shopping mall next to Ports of Call, which Wendy and Dale just happen to own as well. The busy strip mall features three restaurants, some gift shops, a yoga studio, a hair salon and a popular ice cream parlour.
Scuba lessons are offered in the pool each afternoon, so, while the pool is busy, I decide to venture down to the beach at Grace Bay, a short five minute walk from Ports of Call along a picturesque path. The wide, white sand beach is rarely busy and it’s a great place to spend a quiet afternoon working on your tan.
The beach area is staffed and Ports of Call guests are treated royally — towels, beach chairs and umbrellas are always at the ready. Kayaks, paddle boards and small sail boats are also available for those interested in water sports. I elect to dive into the warm surf for a salty swim.
Turks and Caicos is one of the most expensive islands to visit and 60 per cent of the accommodation here comes in the form of privately-owned luxury condominiums, which are rented out at top dollar. There are also lots of all-inclusive resorts but few affordable properties like Ports of Call.
Golfers will be glad to know that the Provo Golf Club is just two kilometres down the road from Ports of Call and the Graceway sports centre — perfect for kids — is five kilometres away.
The spacious rooms at Ports of Call have sitting areas with pull-out sofas, as well as free WiFi and flat-screen TVs with premium channels. They also include mini fridges and tea and coffeemakers. Upgraded rooms include balconies or terraces with pool views. Continental breakfast, a beach shuttle and parking are complimentary.
Many guests like to rent a car and explore the narrow 30-kilometre-wide Provo, which offers some spectacular vantage points from which to admire the surrounding maritime brilliance. The main road is lined with handsome mansions and villas where the rich and famous vacation.
We end up at Bob’s Place, a popular watering hole where people gather to witness breathtaking sunsets while a local band plays island music.
Above: Rooms at this Ports of Call hideaway are bright, roomy and comfortable.
There’s a vast number of fine dining locations on Provo but be prepared for the steep price tag — most staples are shipped to Turks and Caicos and that costs a lot. Guests at Ports of Call can buy groceries and cook meals on the resort’s two communal BBQs — that helps defer costs for the budget conscious. There’s nothing better than cooking a freshly caught lobster on the BBQ and mingling with other guests.
Wendy and Dale offer to take me on a boat ride and from the sea the terra cotta-coloured resort looks like a jewel sitting along the shoreline. On our way back to the marina, we cruise through the inner canals and get a bird’s eye view of the private residences and their spectacular patio’s and pools. Awesome!
On my last day, I find myself gravitating towards the beach area, my favourite place, for some snorkelling among the colourful coral reef where I get to see two giant stingray.
Later, I meet Wendy and Dale for a late afternoon lunch at the quaint Somewhere Café. All good things must come to an end but memories of Port of Call and Wendy and Dale will last a lifetime.
• To find out more about Ports of Call, go to http://www.portsofcallresort.com
• Air Canada, WestJet, Delta, American and United offer service to Providenciale from Toronto.