Imagine you suddenly have more money than you know what to do with. You have a home on every continent and a private yacht bigger than the house you grew up in. You've even started your very own, very admirable charitable organization. But still, something is missing. And that something is your own private island.
For most of us, the dream of buying an island is just that -- a dream. We imagine ourselves escaping the drudgeries of work and civilization as we laze our afternoons away surrounded by swaying palm trees and sparkling turquoise waters. But for the super wealthy, the idea of owning an island may not be so far-fetched. In fact, entire professions specialize in advertising and marketing islands for sale, brokering the deals, and financing or developing projects after the transaction.
Chances are, if you have the desire and the means to buy your own land mass, there's a private island out there that's perfect for you. And even if you're not buying, it's always fun to look. The possibilities include everything from simple cottages on tiny rock outcrops to 1,500-acre (607-hectare) tracts with sweeping views and elaborate villas staffed with full-time servants.
With so many possible island hideaways to choose from, it's hard to pick the most amazing. Some of the islands landed on this top 10 list because of their exquisite beauty and others because their unapologetic, over-the-top extravagance. But they all have something in common: Every single one of them made us wish we were there. Here are 10 private islands we really wish we could afford.
Surrounded by crystal clear Bahamian waters, this 45-acre (18.2-hectare) paradise was purchased by actor Johnny Depp for $3.6 million in 2004 [source: Private Islands]. In addition to its rich and exotic plant, animal and marine life, Little Hall's Pond Cay features six beautiful white-sand beaches and several modest, solar-powered residences [source: Brinkley].
The island is one of more than a dozen cays that fall within the boundaries of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, a "no-take" zone about 65 miles (104 kilometers) southeast of the capital city of Nassau [source: The Nature Conservancy]. Its location within the park -- the oldest in the Bahamas -- means that Depp's private getaway is forever protected from fishing or other marine harvesting or development.
Little Hall's Pond Cay itself is, of course, off-limits to the public, but fortunately for the rest of us, sailing, swimming, snorkeling, diving and hiking are permitted on and around many of the pristine public cays in Exuma Park [source: The Nature Conservancy].
Providing a spectacular backdrop for the wedding of Jacqueline Kennedy to shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1968, Skorpios Island helped to launch the modern notion of a private island as a must-have accessory for the super-rich [source: Private Islands]. Purchased by Aristotle Onassis in 1963, this lush 32-acre (12.9-hectare) island had an estimated value of $200 million in 2003 [source: Thompson and Goldman]. The island is now owned by Athina Onassis, the granddaughter of Aristotle.
Skorpios is located in the Ionian Sea, to the west of the Greek mainland, and features tennis courts, Jackie's own "Pink House" villa, two guest villas, a farmhouse, and several secluded coves and sparkling beaches, not to mention several beach cottages, its own power plant and a block of housing for the year-round staff [source: Webb].
Great Hans Lollik Island sits just 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) north of St. Thomas in the beautiful U.S. Virgin Islands. This 510-acre (206-hectare) paradise features white sand beaches, clear turquoise waters and lush palm forests, as well as spectacular 360-degree views from elevations as high as 713 feet (217.3 meters) [source: Dookhan].
As of February 2011, Great Hans Lollik Island was on the market for an asking price of $45 million. That's a mere $193,255 a month for 30 years, with 20 percent down and a 5 percent fixed interest rate [source: Luxuryrealestate.com]. The island is currently undeveloped and uninhabited, although its zoning would permit the construction of a small resort and up to 150 private residences, as well as independent utilities and a heliport [source: Private Islands Online]. What more could you possibly need?
Just when you thought all private islands were covered in coconut groves and soft white beaches (not that we don't love those!), along comes Petra Island, an 11-acre (4.5-hectare) parcel with a big history in Lake Mahopac, N.Y.
There are currently two homes on Petra Island. The smaller of the two is a 1,200-square-foot cottage designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1950 [source: Private Islands Online]. But the showpiece is a 5,000-square-foot residence built several decades later based on Wright's architectural renderings [source: Colman]. While the larger home wasn't built until long after Wright's death, its design followed his original plan. The result looks very much like a Wright creation and features wide open expanses of stone, concrete and mahogany wood [source: Colman].
Petra Island was on the market as of February 2011, but the asking price wasn't publicly available. Current owner Joseph Masarro bought the island and the cottage in 1991 for a reported $700,000 and completed construction of the main residence in 2007 [source: Mann].
For many owners of private islands, the big purchase comes only after they've amassed unimaginable wealth and achieved fabulous success. But Sir Richard Branson, the man behind the Virgin empire, bought Necker Island well before the familiar Virgin logo was splashed across everything from airplanes to mobile phones and Branson became a household name. In a 2006 interview, Branson recalled purchasing the undeveloped island for a mere $100,000 in 1978, estimating the 74-acre (30-hectare) island's present-day value at somewhere around $60 million [source: Harper].
Today, Branson refers to the island as his home and favorite getaway, and it's easy to see why. Necker Island lies in the British Virgin Islands, surrounded by clear blue Caribbean waters, coral reefs and white, sandy beaches, and it now offers a number of guest villas in addition to Branson's own residence [source: Virgin Limited Edition]. Groups of up to 28 people can rent the island for around $53,000 per night ($1,893 per person per night), and indulge in activities such as sailing, windsurfing, waterskiing and kayaking. For an additional fee, you can explore the waters below the surface aboard the three-passenger "Necker Nymph," a one-of-a-kind aero submarine [source: Virgin Limited Edition].
Located in the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast of Ibiza, Isla de sa Ferradura is a private paradise that accommodates just 14 guests at a time. You and your friends can have this 14-acre (5.7-hectare) ultra-exclusive resort all to yourselves for a total price of $196,000 for one week, which is the minimum stay [source: Forbes Traveler]. Your rental fee includes custom meals, private parties and relaxing spa treatments.
Guests stay in a luxurious 130,000-square-foot hacienda with its own man-made relaxation cave complex (we couldn't make this up if we tried), featuring a whirlpool, Turkish bath, sauna, solarium, infrared cabins and beauty salon [source: Isla de sa Ferradura and Private Islands Online]. In case you were wondering, there are also lush gardens, quiet beaches and a tropical salt water swimming pool. Forbes listed the island's value at $39.7 million in 2006 [source: Forbes].
Strictly speaking, Tetiaroa isn't just one single island, but rather an atoll of 13 islands surrounded by a coral reef in French Polynesia, about 30 miles (48.2 kilometers) north of Tahiti [source: Pacific Island Travel]. Actor Marlon Brando fell in love with the islands while filming "Mutiny on the Bounty" in and around Tahiti and bought them for about $200,000 in 1965 [source: Maxim].
The reason for his attraction is easy to see: With a total area of about 1,433 acres (580 hectares), the islands are a green oasis in a turquoise blue sea, complete with calm waters, palm trees and (do we even have to say it?) white sand beaches [source: Private Islands]. After Brando's death in 2004, a developer purchased the land for $2 million with plans to open a luxury eco-hotel in late 2011 [source: Private Islands].
At 1,235 acres (500 hectares), Nafsika Island is not only one of the last undeveloped islands in the Ionian Sea in the Mediterranean, but also one of the largest [source: Private Islands Online]. Nafsika is right next to the Onassis family's Skorpios Island, and its price tag of approximately $10 million for such a large parcel begins to sound like a bargain compared with that much smaller island's estimated $200 million value. With lush vegetation, high mountains and 360-degree views, Nafsika would be the perfect location for a resort or a private retreat [source: Private Islands Online]. The island offers several harbors and protected bays ideal for docking a yacht, but there's one thing it actually doesn't have: white sandy beaches [source: Private Islands Inc.].
At a total size of 224.4 acres (91 hectares), Islas Majagual and Isla Maje in the Bay of Panama are dreams come true for divers, nature lovers and fishing enthusiasts alike. On the market at $2.2 million for the pair, the islands are currently undeveloped but offer plenty of flat, level areas suitable for building.
World fishing records for sailfish and black marlin have been set in the surrounding waters, and divers still pull up gold and silver coins from a Spanish treasure galleon sunk here in 1631. The islands also include a fresh water supply, more than 80 species of bird life, and abundant oysters and clams available for easy harvesting in the shallow waters immediately surrounding the island [source: Private Islands Online].
It's not exactly the tropics, but this 5.26-acre (2.1-hectare) island in British Columbia's Stuart Channel is not without its charms. The $4.9 million price tag for Scott Island includes both a 4,500-square-foot residence and a caretaker's cottage, both with wraparound decks and second floor balconies [source: Private Islands].
The island is accessible by boat, sea plane or helicopter, and offers views of Vancouver Island and the Pacific Ocean. With tennis courts, fruit trees and even its own small, protected harbor, the island is private and perfectly situated for hiking, kayaking, swimming, diving, fishing and crabbing -- a dream summer home for any family [source: Private Islands Online].
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- Colman, David. "Loving Frank." New York Magazine. September 10, 2007. (Feb. 12, 2011)http://nymag.com/homedesign/greatrooms/37252/
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- Private Islands. "Marlon Brando - Tetiaroa Atoll, French Polynesia." Oct. 1, 2008. (Feb. 19, 2011)http://www.privateislandsmag.com/2008/10/marlon-brando-tetiaroa-atoll-french-polynesia/
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- Private Islands Online. "Petra Island." (Feb. 20, 2011)http://www.privateislandsonline.com/petra-island.htm
- Private Islands Online. "Isla de sa Ferradura." (Feb. 20, 2011)http://www.privateislandsonline.com/backup.htm
- Private Islands Online. "Islas Majagual and Maje, Panama." (Feb. 19, 2011)http://www.privateislandsmag.com/2010/06/scott-island-british-columbia/
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- Thompson, Douglas. "The liberation of Jackie O." The Times. November 7, 2009. (Feb. 18, 2011)http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/celebrity/article6899879.ece
- Webb, Brenda. "Echoes of Skorpios' bygone golden era draw sightseers." The Marlborough Express. May 26, 2008. (Feb. 18, 2011)http://www.stuff.co.nz/marlborough-express/lifestyle/travel/459528/Echoes-of-Skorpios-bygone-golden-era-draw-sightseers