In the late 1970s Sir Richard Branson purchased his very own private island for US$120,000. He was 28 years old and Virgin Group was only six years old. Under the government-imposed restrictions, its new owner had to develop a resort within four years or the island would revert back to the state. Branson spent the next three years and US$10 million to transform the island into what is now known as Necker Island.
Why the history lesson? Because there’s an art to buying private islands for sale and not everyone has luck on their side when it comes to hunting for their own slice of paradise. From the South Pacific to the United States to Asia, these are some of the world’s finest private islands for sale today.
What to know before buying a private island
Private islands for sale look like the perfect form of property indulgence on paper, but there are major lifestyle factors to consider before signing off the chequebook.
Not surprisingly, legitimate buyers will need money and lots of it. You’ll rarely hear of island buyers mortgaging an island as opposed to owning one outright. As of writing, the cheapest private island for sale via Christie’s is located on a small patch of land off San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. There’s no infrastructure on the 10-hectare (24.69-acre) patch of greenery, which is located approximately 376 miles (605km) from Miami and costs US$1,100,000. The most expensive island currently listed can be found just off Thailand’s Phuket, which spans 44.5 hectares (110 acres) and costs US$160,000,000. Having the funds is just the beginning.
Infrastructure and regulations
Depending on the island’s location, buyers may need to meet certain environmental regulations that can make setting up the idyllic island life difficult. Some governments will only allow buyers to develop a certain percentage of their island and if they do, they must follow strict eco-conscious guidelines.
Self-sufficiency is also a major component of island life. Everything from sewage to power generation and satellites for internet and communications must all be considered. Saltwater islands must also look at wells with desalination.
Islands in the Caribbean have the benefit of being somewhat in the vicinity of North and South America. Buy anywhere secluded and underdeveloped though and you’ll need to consider the costs of transporting materials and labour expertise to help build your dream home on an island. Besides the obvious issue of cost, this can also lead to transport damages and delays.
Labour support and cultural differences
If buyers are looking to use local labour as a means of constructing their island home, cultural values and standards need to be respected. Issues such as inter-village conflicts are possible and terminating employment contracts can become a highly sensitive predicament.
Privacy on island
While buying your own island usually guarantees unprecedented levels of privacy, there are certain loopholes to be aware of. People with superyachts can moor up and throw a party metres from shore. Branson’s Necker Island is a perfect example. The land itself is entirely privately owned, but according to British Virgin Islands law, all beaches up to the high-water mark are Crown land and therefore open to the public.
With climate change at the forefront of today’s discussions, it would be wise to consider the future sustainability of any private island for sale. Floods and hurricanes in the Caribbean are usually intense while the Greek islands can present better options with its hills. The Maldives’ highest point is 2.4m so keeping in mind rising sea waters is imperative.
Asia’s private islands
From Thailand to Dubai and The Maldives, these are a few of the best private islands for sale in the Asia region right now.
Thailand is one of Asia’s premiere destinations for idyllic island retreats so it’s no surprise that there’s a few stunning examples on the market. Rangyai Island is just one of them and it sits east of the popular tourist island of Phuket. What makes it prime real estate is its proximity to both Phuket and Coconut Island, which both boast their own resorts. The island measures in at 44.5 hectares (110 acres) and already boasts infrastructure such as fresh water, electric generator and reliable mobile phone reception. For those who need to be places in a hurry, Phuket International Airport is located 20 minutes away and the nearest town is a 10-minute boat ride away. Its natural landscape is populated with white sanded beaches and lush tropical forests complete with 360-degree views of its surrounding islands.
The World Islands
Dubai doesn’t do things by halves and proof of that is presented in The World Islands, a collection of 300 artificial private islands shaped in the form of continents. The islands sit just off the coast of Dubai and are designed to give owners unprecedented levels of privacy and exclusivity. The islands will be divided across four categories: private homes, estate homes, dream resorts and community islands. Each island will average between 2.3 and 8.4 hectares (5.7 and 20.5 acres) in size, with 50 to 100 metres of water between each island. The only means of transportation is via boat or air and the closest mainland is 4km away to the shore of Jumeirah. The islands are expected to sell for between US$7 million and US$1.8 billion to selected private developers. Virgin boss Richard Branson has already purchased the island of Great Britain from the project so owners will no doubt be among good company.
Amilla Fushi Residences
The Maldives is on the bucket list of countless loved-up couples but for those who can’t bear to leave after the proposal, you can now buy a slice of it for yourself in the form of Amilla Fushi Maldives Resort and Residences. The fully developed island comes complete with eight residences, including six four-bedroom, one six-bedroom and one eight-bedroom nestled in a secluded beachfront enclave. The real pulling power is its private white-sanded beaches and the crystal lagoon waters lapping at your doorstep. Uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean are a bonus. Existing amenities include a private beachfront pool, kitchen and luxurious living spaces alongside dedicated staff and golf buggies. It is located half an hour from Velana International Airport by seaplane, a combined flight or speedboat ride.
Caribbean private islands
Mention the Caribbean and it's likely you'll end up in The Bahamas when island hunting. The region is renowned for its picture-perfect island lifestyle with a distinct American influence.
Big Grand Cay Archipelago
Location: The Bahamas
Private islands for sale in The Bahamas are a rarity, so when they do surface, it’s usually something special. Located at the northern tip of the Abaco Islands is Big Grand Cay Archipelago, an estate that boasts two main residences and eight cottages all with beach and waterfront views over 86 hectares (213 acres). The Great House is the island’s crowning jewel and features everything from a pool to a marina to a modern home gym. Close by is a four-bedroom manor home, which was built in the 1950s and has played host to celebrities including US President Richard Nixon. Infrastructure is established with a plant housing generators and watermakers. There’s even extra accommodation for staff towards the island’s southern end. For leisure, the island comes equipped with tennis and basketball courts. Tropical landscaping and serviced roads are other improvements. Its proximity to the American mainland also makes it a much sought-after piece of property.
Location: The Bahamas
Another entry from The Bahamas is arguably one of the world’s most breathtaking. Located less than 100km from the capital and 370km from Miami, Spectabilis Island is surrounded by dozens of pristine white-sanded beaches with rolling hills and stunning views from the land’s elevations. What makes this island special compared to others in the Exuma chain is the presence of a natural deep water access channel, which allows visitors to bring deep hull yachts right up to the island. Residents of the Exuma Cays include A-list celebrities and billionaires, which reinforces the region as one of the most sought-after among the elite.
European private islands
Europe offers something that is more unique from the conventional crystal white sands and waters of other regions. Instead their islands take advantage of some of the Northern Hemisphere's most stunning natural lakes and greeneries for the ultimate private getaway without the island owner stigma.
Not all private islands have to come with pristine beaches. Operating as a scenic campground is Poland’s picturesque Schulzewerder Island. It is situated on Lubie Lake and the only means of access is via ferry or boat. Because of its location, the island boasts breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, hills and forests. More importantly, it’s located 260km east of Berlin and is within easy reach of a highway. Current amenities include sanitary installations along with a host of natural leisure activities.
Lake Saimaa Development
If you’re looking for an island with an entirely different atmosphere, then Finland’s Lake Saimaa Development set among Europe’s fourth-largest freshwater lake should impress. The property is spread across 104 hectares (256 acres) and features a small island in between. It is non-developed meaning the finished project can be whatever the owner wants it to be. The property is especially attractive to nature lovers with plenty of surrounding reserves to be explored. The nearest town is Savonlinna, one of the most popular destinations in Finland. It’s also located next to Punkaharju, the country's renowned national landscape. Proximity to local infrastructure including an airport, restaurants, shops, night-life and summer and winter activities makes Lake Saimaa Development the perfect balance between seclusion and Finnish culture.
South Pacific private islands
The Southern Hemisphere isn't left out when it comes to private islands. A smaller population with ample access to major infrastructure and countries such as New Zealand and Australia makes it one of the best regions for island shopping in this part of the world.
Location: New Zealand
Situated over 24 hectares (59 acres) on an exclusive island in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour is Pakatoa. This one is completely developed and features everything that’s needed for an exclusive resort investment or entertainment quarter for friends, family or colleagues. Access is 15 minutes by helicopter from Auckland City, while features include two beaches, a restaurant, bars, a conference centre and more. Existing accommodation is catered for with 24 beachside cabins and 38 units. Natural leisure attractions include scuba diving, sailing and deep sea fishing.
Mounu Island Resort
It doesn’t get any more idyllic than this when it comes to private islands for sale. Palm trees and crystal-white sands line the 2.6 hectares (6.5 acres) of Mounu Island in the Vava'u archipelago, 322km north of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa. Conforming to the regulations we noted earlier, the property is listed as an eco-resort and only offered as a 50-year lease with a negotiable right of renewal. It is situated within humpback whale grounds and features its own restaurant, four units, an owner’s unit and staff accommodation. Mounu Island is also rated among the world’s top 100 islands from travel magazines.
Location: French Polynesia
If the popular resort island of Bora Bora isn’t impressive enough, just 10 minutes away lies the private island of Motu Tane. It features 10 acres of sandy beaches, tropical foliage and coconut groves set against the backdrop of a mountain. The fully developed island features a host of artistic touches thanks to its cosmetics owner mogul, François Nars. Polynesian huts, expansive suites with panoramic views of the garden, beach and main island are just some of the attractions. For something a little less conventional, there’s a library with Polynesian art and photography studio.
Central American private islands
If proximity to the United States and pristine sea life is your island requisite then Central America could be the secluded getaway you're after. The private islands for sale here are also surrounded by the Cayman Islands, Cuba and Jamaica so you're spoilt for choice when it comes to exploring the locals.
Montego Caye looks like a set out of a fantasy movie but it exists in reality just 14km north-east of Belize City in Central America. Crystal-clear waters cover a powdery white seabed, which is as stunning to look and explore. This is especially the case for Montego Caye’s proximity to the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. The island is not developed meaning there’s unlimited potential for prospective buyers looking for an ultra-luxe estate or resort to build. The area is surveyed at 48 hectares (119.23 acres), which makes it large enough for widescale development.
Half Moon Cay
Just a few hours’ flight from Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Miami is the four-hectare (10-acre) Half Moon Cay, which sits in the Southwestern Caribbean waters off the coast of Honduras. It is fully developed and has been held in the same family for almost 40 years. White sanded beaches and towering coconut palms surround the three furnished homes featuring large decks and uninterrupted beach views. Facilities include a dock, helipad and an underwater electricity line running from the island of Guanaja alongside backup generators. A freshwater line also runs off the main island. Even though it is secluded, an airport is located just 5km away making for easy transit.