Shelling is a treasure hunt and an exshellent adventure every time you comb a beach or snorkel open waters in search of seashells or Beach Bling. As with any treasure hunt, you have to search high and low to find the bounty… and that’s what we did.
Our vacation to heaven…. errr… I mean North Caicos and Middle Caicos was packed full of seashell collecting (as I’ve shown you in my past few posts) and we had an adventure every day to hunt for them. As promised, I’ll tell you all about where we stayed, a few places we ate and and some other cool stuff we saw on our island expeditions. This post is a little long but I’ve got some great info packed in here! So get a cup of coffee and relax or jot down a few notes just in case you ever travel to TCI (Turks & Caicos Islands) in search for seashells.
Our vacation really started when we handed our passports and airline tickets to the American Airlines agent in Miami to catch the next flight to Provenciales (Provo) which is one island in the chain of forty islands that make up Turks & Caicos. After landing in Provo, we passed by countless luxury resorts, spas and shopping malls on our taxi ride to the ferry landing to climb aboard My Girl ferry which took us on a half hour boat ride to North Caicos Island.
As I said, we chose to pass up spas, shopping malls and luxuries to be greeted on the North Caicos ferry landing by our car we rented for a week from Al’s Auto Rental to get us around the islands. Really? You can’t even see the scrapes and dents from this photo but it had four wheels and it ran… that’s all that counted. But we did have to laugh!
On a dirt road leading to a nicer paved “highway” then on to pot holes and rubble, we found the way to our cottage by the sea called the Whitby White House…our beachfront rental for the week in the little town of Whitby.
Paradise found. This next photo was the view from our back porch… and there it was… a rainbow. Pinch me!
How can we be staying in a house that has seashells lining the steps and around the sea oats in the yard with a rainbow over the aqua water? This kind of stuff only happens in dreams, doesn’t it?
We were starved by the time we got settled in the house so we took a ten minute walk down west down the beach to a local place called Silver Palms Restaurant.
Surprise! The owner Karen had a little private birthday party set up for me! Okay, it was “private” because she normally doesn’t stay open after 5pm on Sundays but she made an exception since Jane ordered lobster dinners in advanced and told her she wanted to surprise me. How sweet!!! And how yummy! It was a fantastic meal! Thank you Jane, John and Clark for the best birthday EVER! And remember, I even found the MILK CONCH and my first juvie QUEEN CONCH of the week on the walk back on the beach that same night. I’ll never forget that day.
The next morning, we all sat at the breakfast table to map out our route for the day… which turned into our routine for the entire week. Remember the word “Adventure”. It was… but let me assure you, we felt safe every second every where we went. Every person we met was so very nice and helpful, safety was not an issue or we would not have explored the places we explored. The only problem was is that we found most of the roads to the beaches were like this…
They drive on the other side of the road so John took the wheel and drove us around like a champ over every rock and around every hole. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard exploring a new place. This was a good street sign…
As we found out very quickly, there were some unfortunate circumstances North Caicos and Middle Caicos experienced in the past 6 years. In 2008, we all know that the market crashed and the economy went down the ceramic bowl. But not only that, the same year they got hit by Category 5 Hurricane Hanna which did MAJOR damage and took out the causeway from North Caicos to Middle Caicos and most of the other roads. Two weeks later, Category 4 Hurricane Ike slammed into them again. Don’t you think that would be enough for these little islands? No. It gets worse. What we heard was that Lehman Brothers was one of the major investors in most of the new hotel projects and condos. I’m sure you remember that name. Lehman brothers was the largest bankruptcy in the U.S. and caused the beginning of our economy failure… also in 2008. There are shells (no pun intended) of buildings around the islands that they just walked away from. The islands of North and Middle Caicos still haven’t recovered and the “politics” have stopped the process. It’s so sad! But folks, these people dont get depressed. The locals are making due and are still happy on their little island living off the land and the tourists. So we, being tourists, enjoyed every inch of these sweet little islands and the people living there. Rough roads and all! Okay, so let’s not dwell on the bad roads and unfinished buildings… we’ve got site seeing to do! We had the beaches to ourselves and all the shells our little hearts could desire! I think this was the prettiest beach I’ve ever seen. Mudjin Harbour on Middle Caicos.
Then we hit the jackpot. We met Cardinal Arthur. Shelling guide extraordinaire.
We stopped at Daniel’s Cafe on Middle Caicos to grab a bite to eat… only to find that it was closed on Mondays. Arg. It was Monday.
It didn’t matter because Cardinal happened to pull up on the street when we were deciding where to go next so we started talking to him. What a gem! Not many people in TCI understood why we were looking for seashells. They thought we were crazy looney bins. Not Cardinal. He got excited to tell us he knew where we could find SUNRISE TELLINS, SAND DOLLARS, TRITONS and where to see PINK FLAMINGOS. Really! He knew the names of the shells! Ha! Fate, man. I tell you… fate. We struck a deal and met him at a dock the next day for a boating adventure.
We were like little kids all geared up…
In less than an hour, I found my first PARTRIDGE TUN…
I’ve already shown you photos of the shells we found in my last posts but I also made a couple of maps (that I’ve attached to the bottom of this post) so you can see all of the shells we found here. It was a day out of a fairy tail.
Cardinal took us to see the PINK FLAMINGOS…
John wanted to fish as well as shell…
Cardinal took Jane and John out by the reef where they caught several types of SNAPPER, GROUPER and BARRACUDA (Cardinal took the barracuda home to eat since we didn’t want to eat it). They even saw a WHALE and her baby! When they came back to join us, John threw out his line again and caught this MUTTON SNAPPER right near our shelling hole.
We ate fresh fish (YUM!) for two nights back at our house. We also bought lobster from Cardinal that Clark grilled outside on the barbecue for fabulous dinners two of the other nights. We had a seafood feast! Jane and I made fresh salads with sliced fruit each night while the boys were the grill masters. I normally don’t like to cook but this was so much fun to spend time back at our beach cottage all together making freshly caught meals and sharing the wondrous stories of the day. And laughing… and laughing until our stomaches hurt.
We packed our lunches most days since we didn’t really know where we would end up … which worked well for us since we like to wing it. But we got back to the house around lunch time one day after visiting a few beaches like Horsestable Beach and a few others that didn’t produce a lot of collectable shells for us (but who knows, it could have been a gold mine the day before… it’s all about Mother Nature) so we knew we had a great beach in front of our place to explore on the way to the coolest beach bar on the islands…. Barracuda Beach Bar.
I could have moved in to this awesome tiki hut filled with shells, shells and more shells.
It even had lots of Beach Bling like this WHALE JAW BONE hanging in the rafters. So Cool!
They have the best burgers and fries in town and it’s only a ten minute walk east from our house. It’s like our house was sandwiched (pun intended this time) in between the 2 best restaurants on the island so we could look for shells on the way back…
Then relax for a little while…
And enjoy our own veranda view…
We probably could have just stayed within a couple of miles of our cottage and found plenty of great shells but we are all explorers so we had to check out all of the beaches. We couldn’t have explored as much without the help of the map provided by WhereWhenHow.com… which I have embellished (with their permission) to show you where we found our best shells. This map will show you where we stayed and our best shelling locations on North Caicos (population of 1300 according to a few locals)…
This next map is of Middle Caicos (population 309 according to the same locals) and our best shelling places…
We cleaned and sorted our shells every day so they could dry in time to pack them up to put in our luggage. We saved all of the containers from our food, drinks and souvenirs so they wouldn’t get crushed or broken.
U.S. Customs allows 2 or 3 QUEEN CONCHS per person (it seemed like it depended on the agent) to be brought into the country and they didn’t seem to care about any of the other shells. Turks & Caicos Customs didn’t have a problem with any shells going out of the county so we had no trouble at all… and not one shell broke. Like I said before though, we didn’t bring home every empty shell we found. I know these are gorgeous but I thought bringing home just one was enough so I left these at the house…
As you can see, we had quite a vacation to remember. I’m still in awe when I look at all of our shells we brought home to remember this amazing week. The only thing I might have done differently is stay a bit longer. But then, there’s always another time… hopefully. I would love to get back there one day.
Just in case you go, here are some links (if you don’t know that every bolded and light lighted word in the post has a link attached) or phone numbers if they dont have websites… Oh, and tell them Pam at iLoveShelling.com sent you! They’ll get a kick out of it since they all thought is was weird I had a website devoted to finding seashells. LOL
Whitby White House… http://turksandcaicosvacation.com
Cardinal Arthur- 1-649-241-0730– He doesn’t have a website, doesn’t do internet and only takes cash. Everybody on both islands knows him. He also drives a taxi and does other tours around the island.
Al’s Auto Rental 1-649-331-1947 / 946-7248 There are other rentals and I cant remember if it was cheaper than the others or what but they were very helpful and the car got us where we wanted to go.
MV My Girl Ferry- +1-649-241-0599 There’s another ferry too but this one had better times for us.
KJ’s Grocery- 1-649-946-7705 – It’s only a 10 minute drive from the house and they take credit cards for purchases over $25. The owner, Maggie was great and we got most of our groceries from her. She even gave us boxes just in case we were going to ship shells home (sweet!)… but we decided against shipping.
Silver Palms Restaurant- http://oceanbeach.tc/restaurant-bar/silver-palm-restaurant/
Barracuda Beach Bar- http://barracudabeachbar.blogspot.com/2012/03/barracuda-beach-bar.html
I hope you enjoyed this little cyber shelling vacation with us! It was fun to share this awesome getaway with you. Just in case you missed the photos of all of the seashells we found, CLICK HERE! Bon Voyage!
Just an awesome post…add travel agent to your resume!
Great info, we are planning a trip now. You put so much effort into helping us and it is appreciated. You need to do shelling trips like the musuem does, you would sell out in a second. I will be back in Sept., hope to see you on the beach.
Pam you are amazing! Thank you for sharing all this wonderful information with us! I can’t wait to go there someday! It truly looks like paradise and your pictures look like postcards as usual. I love the rainbow one especially. I’m so happy that Clark made this birthday so memorable – you so deserve it! My sister Della and I are signed up to join you on April 13th for the iloveshelling cruise. We can’t wait to meet you and our other fellow shellers! We hope Captain Brian will be at the helm too!
Great report, and thank you so much for sharing the information!
Oh my goodness! What a wonderful trip summary you’ve written! And the photos!
I love the first one with the old rowboat on the beach, and the second to last photo of all your shells is one I would definitely purchase from you if you offerred a large print suitable for framing. The yellows and pinks are my favorites. Thank you for sharing!
Oh, now I’m torn – Sanibel this spring or Turks & Caicos???
Amazing! It sure did look heavenly and those shells are just simply amazing!
Hi Pam! I was wondering how you know the names of all the seashells you find. Is there a certain reference you go to? I am really interested in learning more names of seashells, can you help me?
Lexy, I do a lot of research to find the names of the shells I’m not familiar with. I have quite a few books I use for research, I surf the web and I have quite a few “experts” I am fortunate to know that will help me if I get stuck. If I learn about a new shell, I post it here so we all can learn about it together.
Check out my shell identification page…
Beach Bling identification page…http://www.iloveshelling.com/blog/sea-life-beach-bling-identification/
And world shelling posts… http://www.iloveshelling.com/blog/category/world-shelling/
Very well explained and very well organized Pam! And gorgeous images too!:)
What a fabulous trip you had! The food looked so good-so nice and fresh. I don’t know how you could leave the Queen conchs behind.
WOW…that was a great post, Pam. Thank you for sharing your birthday adventure with us. Looks and sounds like you made many memories and brought back not only shells as treasure!
Awesome, awesome, awesome! Looks like paradise to me.
Thank you so much Pam!! What a TON of good info for us, you really just keep outdoing yourself!! :)
What a wonderful travlelogue! I didn’t realize they had the double whammy to two major hurricanes on top of each other.
No wonder Al gave you a rental car in less than pristine condition, considering the state of the roads. :)
Thanks for the shell packaging phots – great ideas!
What a fantastic way to celebrate a milestone birthday. Good friends, good shelling, good food and drink. Could anyone ask for anything better – me thinks not. A Well deserved vacation for our hard working Pammy, the shelling queen and guru!
I know the feeling of taking in things never seen, exploring raw nature and touching the beauty of places that will never be forgotten! Its overwhelming to absorb isn’t it!!
What a fabulous vacation. I love the pictures! I’ll have to remember the four wheel driving in a sheek shabby car! What a roit. I can see all of you bouncing around in that little car! Lol…
Thank you for taking the time to post all these wonderful postings. Everyone here appreciates the postings you do. Your the best Pam!!
Hi Pam, just wondering about the Queen Conchs. Did you have to snorkel out and dive down or how did you find them?
Shonda, I wasn’t even snorkeling when I found the queen conchs in the 4th from the last photo … I was walking in shallow water about 1 to 1 1/2 feet deep in one of the spots Cardinal took us to in the boat. I passed by 100s of live ones and I think I found 6 empties and brought one home, left 4 and gave one to Jane. None of the ones I found had the brilliant pink insides like John’s but none of them had the cuts either so I was happy!
This is the BEST travelogue EVER!!!!! Thank you so much for taking so much time to share. It is so much appreciated. it has brightened up my day sitting here in cold wet England. You’re the best.
Awwwww, thank you so much for the virtual shelling adventure! I never tire of looking at the beautiful pictures, and reading about the great times!
Have you been to Eleuthera yet? hint, hint…. :)
Eleuthera was on our list but in January it may have been too cold to snorkel so that’s why we chose to go further south to TCI. Whaddup with Eleuthera? Do you know something I should? :)
I second Pam’s whaddup!! :)
Thank you so much for sharing!! TCI has been on my bucket list for years…great tips!!!
Absolutely MAGIC – thank you!!
What a beautiful place! I can just feel the warmth of the sun on my back as I imagine bending down to pick up beautiful shells . Thanks so much for sharing! Definitely a bucket list item.
Oh my – that clear blue water is sooooo inviting…wish we could coax it up to Sanibel – then it would TRULY be paradise! Thanks again for the vicarious “trip” this morning! JL
Pam, Thanks so much to you and Clark for all the great info! We can’t wait to go ourselves now! And it was wonderful to finally meet both of you at the Sarasota Shell Show! I hope you had a great time and enjoyed all the exhibits. This was my first time working the shell show and I loved it! See you soon on March 16th!
Pam we are on Sanibel this week. We have been coming every winter for the past 5 years since we retired. It is our dream destination. When I heard you were on vacation, I thought WHY? (why leave paradise to go anywhere else?) Well your post here explains that very well!! Now it is also a dream to go to TCI! (My husband probably wishes I never found your posts!)
our next dream…you have the most fun and bring so much joy …Love, love, love to you and Clark
your Carolina shell & shagging friends..Bill & Kathy
You are so lucky. I was at Club Med on Turks and Caicos in 1988. I was with my son so we weren’t able to travel around the island. But, I looked all around, as far as I could walk, we went snorkeling…..NO shells! Guess that’s why I love Sanibel!
Pam, you’re right, we live in Paradise but your trip was heaven! Thanks for all the beautiful pictures and the info. Glad you’re back to update us on local shelling.
Pam, Thank you for taking the time to share your trip. Thank you for the pictures and information. Visiting the Turks and Caicos is on my bucket list.
we enjoyed our cyber trip!! thank you for taking the time to share it with us! what a beautiful part of the world. the rainbow picture was the best. did it just not speak “oceans” to you when you saw it! that was your gift from God. happy 50th!
I feel like I am reading an awesome book of your shell findings and travels. We frequent San/Cap about four times per year. We have been going to San/Cap for the last 20 years with our two daughters and son. Now they are grown, and we still visit with our kids and our two beautiful twin 3 year old granddaughters. Making awesome memories !! Our home is Delray Beach, FL on the east coast. Our ocean/ beach gives us sea beans, sea hearts, sea glass, sundials, olives, and one major find (which is like finding a junonia) a Paper Nautilus! I get to search early for shells during sea turtle season, March 1 through October 31 as I am a sea turtle monitor for Gulf Stream Beach. So, looking to visit San/Cap in April ! Looking forward to your next chapter. “Seaglass”
Beautiful! I think you did find heaven!
I missed your post yesterday as we where out at a travel show. I said I wasn,t booking anything until I saw your post about your holiday. I love it, it must be as they say made to be . We are from Whitby Ontario, so we should go to Whitby in the Caicos. I haven’t even read all your post but in my reading yesterday I came across said place. I will have to show Hubby your post, but I am crossing my fingers. We do not like big resorts so this sounds like us. So sorry post is so long. Tks again for all your time and efford and all the info. Sharene
Amazing! Thank you for sharing! I know it’s a lot of work getting all those photos and an amazing post like this ready!
I like the bottom two pictures the best.
Awesome report Pam! I guess I have to add TCI to my bucket list now:-)
I guess I might as well ask you or any your readers if anyone knows of any great shelling beaches in Puerta Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas? We’re leaving for a Mx Riviera cruise Thursday and haven’t been able to find any info on shelling. Must shell everywhere!!!
Hi Pam! Loved the post & pics!! I turn 50 in April & have been looking for a special place to go. Did you take your own snorkeling & fishing gear? I don’t eat seafood & wonder if the grocery/restaurants had other options. Also, curious how much gasoline was!!! Thanks
Gas was expensive… $6.50. But we drove about 3 times to Middle Caicos and by the maps I made, you can see we traveled a lot and spent about $50 on gas. You ahve to go so slow, you dont use that much gas. We grilled steaks on the barbecue one night which were good and all of the restaurants have chicken and other non-seafood items. For us, the local grocery was all we needed since we had pb&js and easy lunches every day and you saw the rest other than our oatmeal or cereal in the morning. We all took our snorkeling masks and snorkel vest (you can see it on Clark in the second photo) but i think only Clark had his fins (I dont go that deep so I never pack mine for a trip). We asked Whitby White House if they had snorkel gear but I think he said he had to replace it. I think there were some old fins but not sure if they were ok. So if you book there, ask if they have gear now for you to use. Both Clark and I left our water shoes at the house since we needed the room in our suitcases for shells- ha. They were getting a little old any way so we knew we’d have to replace them in a few months. I hope someone gets use out of them!
I was wondering if you could tell us exactly where Cardinal took you all in the boat. It appears it was a lake or inland body of water??
Hi Jamie, Errrrrr…… I give away my shelling info…. but I can’t give away Cardinal’s secrets- he makes a living at knowing the best places. And honestly, you couldnt get there if you wanted as the waters are VERY tricky and nobody will rent just a boat (we asked since we are all experienced boaters). You have to hire a guide and we were thrilled with Cardinal.
Great! Thanks so much! We are seriously considering going now that we have seen what a WONDERFUL, BEAUTIFUL vacation you all had. Great to know about Cardinal, sounds like he was great, so we will definately look him up when we go. Also, glad to know that they will not rent boats, as we were wondering about that too. Thanks for sharing your wonderful vacation!! I LOVE your blog and am so happy that I accidentally stumbled onto it!!!
What a great post! Thank you so much for sharing your adventure. The Turks and Caicos have been on my bucket list for quite some time but for the snorkeling aspects more than shelling. Now I have even more reason to go! How was the snorkeling around north Caicos?
I’ve already checked flights and was happy to see non stops from Charlotte on US AIR. Are the water taxis expensive? And what about Cardinal? What was he charging you for his trips :)
I am in awe of the beauty and the bounty of this place. seriously want to go BADLY!!!! I hope this was not your last post on your trip. I love the photos and hearing about your trip.
Today I was researching on Trip Advisor about beachcombing in TCI. Not much was on there. Then, I headed back to the forums and there was your post. It was so awesome and answered so many questions I have had! I too, love to beachcomb but seems I never get much time for my favorite pasttime! We are headed to TCI in May, DH and I. We are going to snorkel as much as we possibly can. We want to fish and beachcomb and picnic on the beach. I saw Cardinal’s name in my Frommers guide book along with his brother Dolphus as being guides on Middle Caicos but hearing first hand about your experience has given me the confidence I needed to set up an excursion for some fishing/beachcombing with him! I will tell him you “referred” him to me. I am so excited to hunt for these treasures as they are some I don’t have in my collection (of which I have collected since I was a child). Course growing up in Michigan there are no seashells to be had here. I used to buy them at Seashell City “up north” while a child. Traveling has whetted my appetite for seashells and sea glass. My greatest first experience was Sanibel Island! I love looking at my seashells every morning when I get ready as I have them displayed in our master bath. They have never gone to the trash or to waste. I keep the best as you do and leave the others to Mother Nature. Thanks for the pics, the maps, and the suggestions. It is appreciated, greatly!
followup: i booked our excursion with Cardinal today. i am so excited!
OMG You are going to have an amazing day with Cardinal! We are still talking about our boating day with him. You’ll have to let us know how it was when you get back. awesome
how did you handle getting a fishing license? did cardinal have all the fishing gear?
I dont think we knew that we needed fishing licenses. It never came up. Cardinal took care of everything!
I love Sanibel some of those shells are amazing I go to Sanibel every year and last year was my second time. And I fond a really big alphabet cone. It was my lucky day!! Also there was a big storm there when we went on one of the days. And the next morning I found a huge lightning welk!! That was another lucky day!!
Love shelling, found your website a few years ago and it inspired us to go to Sanibel with our teenage girls 2 years in a row, so much fun. Now we are going to North Caicos in February. I devoured all the info you had. Just called Cardinal, he said call him when we arrive. Can’t wait! We love shelling, and eating fish/conch that’s able to be caught.
Hi! We just got back from a day in Grand Turk (cruise ship) so we didn’t have much time and only visited GT not any of the other islands.
We found quite a bit for just a quick visit but we were looking for sharks teeth or fossils (and nice shells) we didn’t keep much, and we found no teeth we didn’t have our sifters either.
Have you ever done any shelling just on the GT island? Have you ever found fossils or teeth!?
Just wondering because not sure we will make it to the other islands any time soon, but we are definitely going back to Grand Turk next Christmas (already booked!)
Thanks and I love your site – book marking!
Hi Pam, I’m finally planning a trip to Turks and Caicos for this fall. We are staying near Grace Bay, but want to venture out to the other islands as you did. Was Cardinal Arthur on North Caicos or Middle Caicos?