Where would a Caribbean island be without its share of the beautiful people? From sports stars and film stars to swashbuckling pirates, we’ve had them all. Famous visitors to the TCI abound. Throughout her long history, the TCI has been a magnet for the interesting, the daring and the roguish. Today the Big Blue Collective takes a peek behind the celebrity curtain and reveals how these famous (and infamous) visitors have shaped the face of the island.
Perhaps the most astonishing of these would be the first land bound steps of astronaut John Glenn after his Mercury space mission. Grand Turk was where he made his first landfall after re-entering Earth’s orbit and splashing into the sea. You can, in fact, visit a monument to this exciting moment at the Grand Turk Cruise Center.
While no one else on our list had to leave the atmosphere to get here, they all certainly left their own mark on the island!
A piratical past
Celebrity culture didn’t begin with the silver screen. Long before Hollywood was a glimmer in anyone’s eyes, ladies swooned and children adoringly followed the exploits of swashbuckling pirates. And pirates a’plenty there were in the TCI. One of the best things an aspiring rouge could have was a safe port to hide out in, and the Caribbean always beckoned. With different islands all held by varying international powers, and chequered coastlines offering discreet bays and inlets, there’s little wonder. Here’s just a few of the many well-loved pirates who called the TCI home:
- Mary Reed and Anne Bonny: This notorious pair of pirate captains used to call Parrot Cay their home and refuge. In fact, ‘Parrot Cay’ was once known as ‘Pirate Cay’!
- Francois l’Olonnais: Another (French) pirate who called the waters off West Caicos and French Cay home.
While many other pirates passed through the chain unnamed, we know a little more about some other famous visitors to the Turks and Caicos.
Pirates weren’t the only buccaneers riding the Caribbean seas back in the day. The Turks and Caicos also bid many welcomes to famous explorers, artists and colonisers as they passed through on their way to adventure. Just a few of these famous visitors to the TCI are:
- Theodoor Hendrik Nikolaas de Booy: 1911 saw this noted authority on the Caribbean visit the TCI. The Dutch-American anthropologists spent much time searching the local landscape for more evidence of the prehistoric Taino people.
Horatio Nelson: Lord Nelson suffered one of his very few defeats here in the TCI, trying to retake Fire Hill from the French during the Battle of Grand Turk in 1783
- Captain John White: This English artist and Explorer stopped on West Caicos, hoping to find natural salt deposits. When this failed, they turned it into a hunting trip!
- Ponce de Leon: This artfully named Spanish conquistador was governor of Puerto Rico at the time. He was trying to find the fountain of youth- little wonder he’d stop off on these beautiful islands to find it!
- Christopher Columbus: Grand Turk is one of the suspected first landfalls the famous explorer made on his way to the ‘New World.’
Where would any celebrity list of famous visitors to the TCI be without its share of royalty? Among the many people who have been dazzled by the gorgeous waters of the Turks and Caicos are:
- Prince George: The then Duke of Kent, Prince George, came to the islands in 1928 as part of a disaster relief team.
- The British Royals: The Royal couple themselves, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Phillip, made an official visit to South Caicos in 1966
- Prince Edward: Slightly more recently, Prince Edward has been spotted enjoying the fun at Parrot Cay
- Prince Charles: The UK’s Prince Charles has also had his hand in the history of the TCI. When the HMS Minerva docked at Grand Turk, he took part in local cricket matches as well as putting in some community service.
As we inch our list of famous visitors to the TCI into modern times, what better place to start than with our beloved stars of the field and track? Many modern sports stars have graced the beaches and bays of the Turks and Caicos, soaking up the sun as a welcome break from their hectic training schedules.
- Lionel Messi: This Argentine superstar has been known to relax in the central resorts of the TCI.
- Maria Sharapova: Something of a ‘busman’s holiday’, Maria Sharapova has been photographed for Sports Illustrated on the gorgeous beach of Grace Bay
- Lebron James: Together with his family, they have been seen in the Provo locale, enjoying the local colour.
- Lindsey Vonn: This Olympic gold medallist for downhill skiing also enjoys the rugged sights of South Caicos.
- Rio Ferdinand: Not content with merely visiting the Turks and Caicos, Rio Ferdinand actually owns a villa on Parrot Cay
When your mind is the driving force behind your business, and the cutting edge your playground, it’s important to take some time to relax and unwind. What better place is there than the soft beaches and welcoming restaurants of beautiful Provo?
- Donna Karen: This fashion kingpin has owned property on the Turks and Caicos since long before the island hit the public spotlight.
- Bill and Melinda Gates: This power couple has been known to vacation on the Turks and Caicos. Notoriously, Bill seems to spend most of his time in the Clubhouse of the local Golf Course!
Last, but certainly not least, where would any list of the famous visitors to the TCI be without a little Hollywood glamour? It’s peaceful atmosphere, combined with the stunning scenery and beautiful beaches, make a magnetic combination that draws even the most rich and famous. Just a sprinkling of the film stars and TV-stars who’ve enjoyed visiting the Turks and Caicos are:
- Neil Partick Harris: Whether it’s as Dougie Howser M.D back in the day, or as the central star of How I Met Your Mother, everyone loves Neil Patrick Harris- and he seems to love the Turks and Caicos if his vacation choices are anything to go by.
- Beyonce and Jay Z: The celebrity power couple has enjoyed the beauties of Provo.
- Will Smith: Actor Will Smith is another Provo fan, taking several holidays in the vicinity of gorgeous Grace Bay Beach.
- Nicki Minaj: Nicki instead favoured Long Bay Beach as the perfect locale to celebrate her 34th birthday
- Prince: The Artist formerly known as Awesome actually owned real estate on Turtle Tail, complete with a bold purple driveway!
- Bruce Willis: The Diehard star owns several properties across the island chain, as does Rolling Stone Keith Richards
- Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie: Another celebrity power couple, they have been known to vacation at Donna Karen’s villa
This short list is only some of the famous faces who’ve enjoyed the many pleasures of the island over the years. In fact, US Senator John Kerry has been known to take kiteboarding lessons here!
While you may not be in the tabloids and textbooks yet, why not add you face to the many smiling ones the Big Blue Collectie sees each year? As well as a touch of celebrity glamour, the Turks and Caicos offer a world of fun and relaxation just waiting for you to explore. Come walk in the footsteps of our famous visitors to the TCI, and enjoy a relaxing vacation today.