Salt Cay – The Island of Adventure Throughout the Years

Written by Layton Lewis

Salt Cay is the smallest inhabited island in the Turks and Caicos Islands. With a land mass measuring at 2.7 square miles, this island of adventure holds rich history, a closely knitted community, sweet confections and serves as the ultimate island getaway. 

Aerial view of Salt Cay

History of Salt Cay

To understand the Salt Islands in the Turks and Caicos, you must learn about Salt Cay. The name of this island derived from its long history of sea salt production. In the late 1700’s, British Colonials from Bermuda saw the potential of the Cay that beheld marine ponds capable of being highly profitable. In this time period, salt was vital for food preservation and therefore valuable and highly demanded. These salt ponds were further developed by the Bermudians who became the main producer of salt. The settlers created ponds linked to the sea by canals and sluice gates, with windmills controlling the water. This type of innovation and labor led to Salt Cay being one of the world’s largest producers of what was then referred to as “White Gold”. 

Salinas, Salt Cay

Salt raking was very successful industry and became the leading industry in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In 1845, the official census showed a population of 676 persons living on Salt Cay. 600 of that population were manual laborers and the remainder being salt proprietors and public officials. Hard work and resilience lie in the generational ancestry of the settlers from Balfour Town. Unfortunately, over the years, the island of Salt Cay has been in the pathway for hurricanes making production harder and more expensive to maintain. The extreme flooding would destroy production and the settlers’ homes leaving the islanders’ homes and ships devastated and wrecked. The salt industry was revived again in the 1940’s until 1964 when it was completely stopped. 

Salt Cay Street, Turks and Caicos

Presently, the charming eco oasis known as Salt Cay, represents the island of escape, adventure, and serenity. The friendly donkeys now roam freely without having to pull any carts, the original structure of historical buildings and settlements remain the same. Including the ruins at Taylor’s Hill where you will experience breath taking sites of the island. Salt Cay is not only an amazing island to explore but also has water activities many water activities to enjoy such as scuba diving and world-renowned humpback whale watching. 

The preservation of Salt Cay is pertinent as it is recognized as an UNESCO world heritage site. The added beauty behind Salt Cay is the fact that there are very few cars. This helps to reduce the carbon footprint on the island, ensuring that it is eco-friendly. You can either walk around the island or rent a golf cart for an easy self-tour excursion. 

Salt Cay has always been a serendipitous gem that holds a lot of ancestral history. Come on down and experience a different kind of adventure!

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