The lushest of the islands, North Caicos has taller trees than the other islands and attracts more rain. Like Middle and East Caicos, the south part of the island comprises swamp and mangrove.The population has declined to 1,275 inhabitants living at the settlements of Bottle Creek, Whitby, Sandy Point and Kew.
There is one Nature Reserve at Dick Hill Creek and Bellefield Landing Pond, to protect the West Indian whistling duck and flamingos, and another at Cottage Pond, a fresh/salt water sinkhole, about 170 ft deep, where there are grebes and West Indian whistling duck. Pumpkin Bluff Pond is a sanctuary for flamingos, Bahamian pintail and various waders. Three Mary’s Cays is a sanctuary for flamingos and is an osprey nesting site. Flocks of flamingos can also be seen on Flamingo Pond, but take binoculars. There is a viewing point at the side of the road, which is the only place from where you can see them and at low tide they can be a long way off.
There is also good snorkelling at Three Mary’s Cays and Sandy Point beach to the west is lovely. There is a rough road to Three Mary’s Cays suitable for jeeps. The beaches are good along the north coast where the hotels are, although the best is a seven-mile strip west of Pumpkin Bluff, where there has been no development so far. It can be reached by walking along the beach or via a dirt road past the Club Vacanze car park. A cargo ship foundered on the reef in the 1980s, and is still stuck fast, making it of snorkelling interest. Construction of a new deep water harbour has begun and when finished it will extend from Pine Cay to Bellefield Landing and over Dick Hill Creek.
Kew, in the centre, is a pretty, scruffy little village with neat gardens and tall trees, many of them exotic fruit trees, to provide shade. There are three churches, a primary school, a shop and two bars. Bottle Creek, in the east, has a high school, clinic and churches. The paved road ends here and a rough road requiring four-wheel drive continues to Toby Rock. The backstreets of Bottle Creek run alongside the creek and here you can see the importance of water conservation, with people carrying buckets to and from the municipal water tap at the rain catchment area, while donkeys, goats and dogs roam around. The area is poor, but many people are building themselves bigger and better homes.
Whitby, on the north coast, is rather spread out along the road, but this is where the few hotels are. Several expatriates have built their homes along Whitby Beach. Sandflies can be a problem in this area, particularly if there is not enough wind, take insect repellent. Sandy Point, in the west, is a fishing community. North Caicos is the centre of basket making in the islands and there are several women, including Clementine Mackintosh, Eliza Swan and Cassandra Gardiner, who are expert in their craft. Prices do not vary much from those in the shops in Providenciales or locally. Eliza Swan is based in Whitby and makes beautiful bags and baskets using many colours and designs.
Wades Green Plantation, just to the west of Kew, is the best example of a Loyalist plantation in the islands, with many ruins, including a courtyard and a prison. Archaeologists from the University of California in Los Angeles carried out excavations in 1989. The boutique section of Papa Grunt’s restaurant in the Whitby Plaza sells crafts, potions and insect repellent cheaper than on Provo.
You are advised to bring small denomination US dollar notes as there is no bank and it is difficult to cash US$50 or US$100, travellers’ cheques or money orders around the island.