Provo: 1970 – now & then

Travel back in time and put things into perspective with this fun-to-read throw back blog on Providenciales ↝ before the fame.

Providenciales, Turks & Caicos sure has changed over the years! From a rural rugged retreat in the 1970s to the current modern  island with luxury amenities, the transition of this beautiful 23 mile island in the Turks and Caicos has been interesting to see. Here is an allegorical account of some history of our favorite island from one of our villa specialists who has been visiting the island for decades.

Provo has been a holiday destination since the early 70s when those who sought SCUBA adventures and who were willing to leave the creature comforts like air conditioning and TV behind would visit via a private charter plane from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale.  

After a loud and bumpy 4+hours in the air, you would eventually land on a clearing, which served as a runway, and someone with a pick up truck (and usually a couple of dogs) would retrieve you and your bags and take you to one of the two hotels on the island: The Third Turtle Inn or the Erebus, both located in what’s now called Turtle Cove.

 Later, there was the Island Princess on Grace Bay where JoJo the dolphin would swim beside the resident yellow lab, who ran parallel on the beach. Back then, once you landed in Provo, you’d gone off the grid. There was no communication with the outside world. There were no phones, just VHF radios for local person-to-person communication on the island. Each person had a “handle” that would be self-selected and if you wanted to reach your neighbor down the road to see if they could join you for the Wednesday buffet at Henry’s Roadrunner in Blue Hills, you would simply radio him on the VHF.  If you wanted to know what was happening back in the US, you’d have to find someone with a large boat who could communicate via their system.

If you had any interest in buying beachfront property, you could purchase an acre on Grace Bay for around $20,000.  Financing terms were even more favorable then and hard to believe now.

Fast forward nearly 50 years and currently, there’s a large, American style IGA supermarket, which is open until 10 pm and has pretty much whatever you would need from Angus steaks to smoked salmon.  Back then, there was Simmons General Store, which, on a good day, would have a few cans of Deviled Ham and Tang. Once a week, a boat would come in from the Dominican Republic with fruit and vegetables, so everyone would rush to the dock to pick up that week’s produce.  To supplement, one could fish and cook it at home or go to one of the island restaurants, of which there were just a handful, unlike today, where there are 75 o so. It was easy to get a bit tired of lobster and conch! This was generally what local dogs would be fed.

Back then, entertainment was very limited.  While SCUBA and snorkeling were as beautiful then as it is now, if not more so, most additional fun was found out on the water.  However, at night, if you wanted to laugh and meet interesting people, folks would congregate at the Third Turtle Inn, where there was a bar and a restaurant, carved out from the indigenous rock -forming a cave on one side and the marina on the other.  

In front of that cave was something of a makeshift stage where locals and visitors alike would gather to hear the jokes and songs of the legendary Tommy Coleman, who would boat over from Parrot Cay (which was undeveloped back then, of course). Tommy was one of the pioneers of the island and he had stick straight hair, bright blue eyes, a face full of wrinkles, and he never wore shoes.

 If you ever meet anyone on Provo who knew Tommy Coleman, you can rest assured, you’re talking to a genuine “old timer.” If he’s willing, buy him a drink and enjoy the stories he can tell! Everyone from those days has a few great stories. Nowadays, Providenciales is self-selected island with high speed internet, phone service, cable TV, many amazing 5 star restaurants, several grocery options, many  hotels & resorts, bars, and multiple marinas.

What brought visitors in the 1970s is still true today: amazing turquoise clear waters, powder white sands, unbelievable reefs to snorkel and scuba dive, and a friendly carefree environment to truly vacate on your vacation!

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