Nobody buys an island for just a bit of quick fun
By James Tarmy / BLOOMBERG
NO ONE buys a private island looking for a faster pace. The key is creating a place that functions as an actual refuge — one where you can live for weeks, if not months, without interruption.
But when Eric Bloch’s grandfather bought a 32-acre (13ha) island off the coast of Roatan, one of the bay islands of Honduras, it was only equipped to be a weekend getaway. “He bought it in 1962, and I think it cost about US$2,000 (RM8,340),” says Bloch, an architect in Zurich. At the time, his grandfather lived on the mainland, where he owned fruit plantations.
“The island was completely uninhabited,” Bloch says. “He put in a runway and dug a canal where you could dock boats.”
After his grandfather’s death, Bloch’s mother inherited the island. In the mid-1990s, she decided to develop it into a permanent compound where the family could spend weeks at a time. She built it out of what Bloch calls “simple tropical- wood structures”.
The exception, he says, is a reinforced-concrete hurricane shelter.
Fort Morgan Cay, Honduras
• Price: US$19.5 million.
• Size: 32 acres.
• Bedrooms: 8, plus staff quarters for 12.
The main house has eight bedrooms, each of which has an en suite bathroom. There are also facilities where a staff of up to 12 can stay. The island, Bloch says, is designed to sustain a comparatively large group. Its solar panels “work about 85% of the time — it depends on how many people are on the island”, he says. “If you have 16 friends and they’re all city people who want to blow-dry their hair, it’s going to drain the batteries pretty quickly.” (Should the system fail, there are generators.) Together, two massive cisterns can store 40,000 gallons (151,416 litres) of water, enough to get through six months of dry season. The only thing the location lacks, he says, is food, which has to be brought in.
“The island is beautiful for 10 days or two weeks,” he says. “If you wanted to stay for longer, you could, but after a while, it gets pretty lonely. You want to see people.”
Motukawaiti Island, New Zealand
• Price: About US$10.7 million.
• Size: 94 acres.
• Bedrooms: 5.
Located in the Cavalli Islands, near the northern tip of New Zealand, Motukawaiti is the only one of the cluster left in private hands. The complex has a large contemporary house with an open-plan kitchen and living room, which is adjacent to two smaller studios with sleeping areas. The entire compound is powered by solar panels and a backup generator, and water is collected on roofs and stored.
Much of the island is wild, but there are a few luxury amenities, including a pool and lounge areas. It’s accessible by boat from Matauri Bay, which itself is fairly remote — Auckland is more than a three-hour drive away.
Potato Island, Connecticut
• Price: US$4.9 million.
• Size: 1 acre.
• Bedrooms: 4.
East of New Haven, this tiny plot of land is a few minutes’ boat ride off the coast and part of the storied Thimble Islands. The house, set on the tip of the island and overlooking the Long Island Sound, was built in 1912 and renovated in 1998. Inside are stone fireplaces, an eat-in kitchen, large living areas, and a master suite with a jacuzzi and steam shower. The property has manicured gardens and lawns and a swimming pool with a separate outdoor granite hot tub. You can access the house only by boat (unless you’re willing to let a helicopter obliterate those flower beds), but the deep-water dock can accommodate a variety of craft. The house has its own solar panels and a water hookup to the town of Branford on the mainland.
Jewel Caye, Belize
• Price: In the range of US$3 million to US$5 million.
• Size: 2 acres.
• Bedrooms: 8, plus staff quarters for 10.
Set in the Caribbean 6.5 miles (10.5km) east of Belize’s Hopkins Village, the compound has a master house on each end of the island, with attached guest accommodations.
Between them are staff quarters that sleep 10. The pièce de résistance is a floating “clubhouse” accessed by a 120ft walkway. It has a kitchen, dining room, bar and glass bottom, so guests can admire the coral reef below. The island has 33,550 gallons of water storage and solar-powered electrical systems, satellite television and WiFi.
Ilha da Josefa, Brazil
• Price: 32 million reals (RM33.78 million).
• Size: 13.6 acres.
• Bedrooms: 8.
Located in Angra dos Reis, a vacation area between Rio and São Paulo, the island compound comprises 16 buildings with a combined 21,000 sq ft of space. Although there’s a helipad, the mainland is only a 10-minute boat ride away. With its proximity to the coast, power is supplied by underwater electrical lines, but there’s a freshwater source on Ilha da Josefa itself.
Eshpabekong Island, Ontario
• Price: US$2.5 million.
• Size: 10.5 acres.
• Bedrooms: 3.
Eshpabekong, a group of four small islands in Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, is about two hours north of Toronto (the travel time includes the drive and boat ride). There’s a timber-frame cottage on the 10.5-acre main island, as well as a 100-ft-long dock where boats moor once the lake unfreezes in late spring. Solar panels and backup generators provide power. The current owners have secured municipal approval to build a second cottage plus two sleeping cabins should buyers want to create a fully realised compound.
Lataro Island, Vanuatu
• Price: About US$10 million.
• Size: Approximately 800 acres.
• Bedrooms: 4, plus staff quarters for 18.
Lataro is covered in old-growth rainforest and sits among almost four sq miles (10 sq km) of coral reefs; 90% of the island is a conservation reserve.
(It’s one of the only remaining habitats of the highly endangered coconut crab, the largest terrestrial crab on the planet.) The compound has solar power and ample water reserves. The South-Pacific property is in fact a 75-year leasehold that expires in 2082.
Ridotto di Crevan, Venice
• Price: Upon request.
• Size: 1.5 acres.
• Bedrooms: 4.
When Napoleon occupied Venice, ending the city’s thousand-year run as a republic, he made few changes to the city’s infrastructure. But one addition was a small fort — ridotto — on one of the lagoon’s 118 islands. After his fall, the city passed into Austrian hands, and in 1866, it was annexed by Italy. The fort was eventually sold into private hands. (Even so, because it’s in the Venetian lagoon, its island is considered part of a Unesco World Heritage Site.)
Today, the fort has been converted into a villa, and the grounds, which feature mature fruit trees, are secluded from the rest of the city. Along with the refurbished 1,800-sq-ft villa (which is air-conditioned, making it something of a rarity in the area), there’s a separate caretaker’s apartment. The lawn is large enough for a helicopter to land, and there’s also a dock, in a sheltered harbour with mooring facilities. The former fort is only a 20-minute boat ride from the Piazza San Marco and 25 minutes from the airport on the mainland. Alternately, it’s moments from the colourful Burano Island, known for its lace production, and Torcello, home to a magnificent Byzantine basilica. — Bloomberg