Island Living

A Caribbean retreat made for long-term stays.

Canadians have always had a special relationship with the Turks and Caicos Islands. In the 1980s, there was even talk of the British Overseas Protectorate establishing a “political union” with Canada. Alas, it was not to be, but the love affair continues as growing numbers of tropicalista converge on the sun-blessed retreat. Recent infrastructure upgrades – including a new hospital managed by InterHealth Canada – have made this intimate, upscale destination increasingly popular. Snowbirds converge on the Grace Bay area of Providenciales, home of the best beach in the world according to both TripAdvisor and Condé Nast.

A Home Away From Home

Peripatetic by nature, Ontario native Rob Ayers, 46, knew he’d found a new home when he washed up on the shores of the Turks and Caicos Islands a decade ago. A veteran of the Internet business, he saw opportunity in an underserved resort market and developed Gansevoort, a luxury condo-resort hotel on Grace Bay, a stretch of pearl-white sand studded with luxury resorts, fabulous restaurants and the best shopping on the islands. The hotel is operated by the Gansevoort Hotel Group, which also run upscale hotels in New York.

Ayers says buyers at the resort look for personal luxury as well as a good business opportunity. “They’re people who want to own a beachfront residence both for a place to come and enjoy as well as an investment,” says Ayers. “Owners can use their unit whenever they want, but they can also enrol in the resort rental program and earn some income. And it’s trouble-free. Gansevoort manages all parts of the rental program on the owner’s behalf.” Ayers says his dream when designing the resort was to marry a kind of New York “hip hotel” concept with a sensual island vibe. The result is a chic and modern-looking boutique resort complimented by a 7,000-square-foot infinity pool, an award-winning spa and a trendy beachside bar and grill.

Prices for remaining units in the development range from US$469,000 for a 672-square-foot studio to US$1.375 million for an 1,835-square-foot two-bedroom suite to US$3.75 million for a 3,702-square-foot heaven-on-earth penthouse. A number of buyers are Canadians, a fact reflected in the resort’s broadcasting of hockey games on a 16-foot screen that gets moved to the beach during the playoffs.

“Snowbirds are basically looking for three things – personal security, good weather and reliable medical care,” says Ayers. “Turks and Caicos offers all of that.” According to Lyle Schmidek of Grace Bay Realty, it’s also something of a buyer’s market at present; local home prices have declined as a result of U.S. investors retreating from the market. He adds that the real estate process is similar to Canada’s. And buying property is further simplified by the fact that the islands’ main banks are RBC and ScotiaBank. “It’s not a cheap destination,” says Ayers. “But you get what you pay for!” 

—Ian MacNeill

Snowbirds need to know
— Tropical climate with minimal rainfall; November to March average 23 C

— Named for Turk’s cap cactus and “caya hico,” Lucayan words for string of islands

— Population about 45,000

— No property, sales or capital gains taxes

— Currency is U.S. dollars

— World’s third-longest coral reef

— Low crime rate

— Two IGA grocery stores

— Modern medical facilities and telecommunications

— Canadian honorary consul located in Providenciales