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Connoisseur's Choice in Luxury Living

Owning A Private Island

Owning A Private Island

Owning A Private Island
No Man is an Island — But Owning One is a Different Story

By Elissa Lansdell
with Mark Lester

For many people, there’s a special allure to a private island that even the most spectacular waterfront estate can’t begin to match. Who among us hasn’t imagined the splendid isolation of existing in our very own kingdom? Perhaps it’s the rarity of such an existence that makes the island life so appealing. It doesn’t hurt that an increasing number of celebrities—among them Celine Dion, Leo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp and Steven Spielberg—are snatching up their own remote pieces of paradise.

But whatever your reason for dreaming of that private island, there are several factors you need to consider before making that leap. As rare as owning your own paradise is, rarer still is the ability to overcome the many obstacles that island life presents. And choosing wisely now will ensure that you stay the happy king of your castle.

Location, Location, Location

This old adage is even truer when it comes to buying an island. You need to think about whether you want to be close to larger communities, or more remote. Generally the more remote the island is, the tougher the access may be, which can affect liquidity when, and if, it comes time to sell. Remember, you’re not just buying the island; you’re buying everything that surrounds it.


Just this past February, the CEO of database management giant, Oracle Corp., bought his own remote Hawaiian island. Then, to avoid any access issues, he purchased an airline—Island Air—to ensure easy transportation to and from his castle. This may or may not be an option for you.

Private islands, by their nature, are generally only accessible by private boat or float plane. Depending on where you live, where you moor a boat and the nature of the waters surrounding your island, traveling by boat to your private island can be quick or time consuming. Float planes are a common method of transport, due to their speed and convenience. But this is expensive, and it limits what you can bring with you in terms of people, food and luggage.

High up on a bank, protected from the wind, in a low lying area, or at one with the everchanging ocean—the placement of your castle will influence your view.

When considering your purchase, you must inquire about what the previous owners have done to the place. The age of the buildings and the condition of the accommodations, whether luxurious or rustic, must be examined. If the previous owner has imposed his vision on the property, does that leave any room for you to make it your own? An over-improved island leaves less room for change, and such change comes at a premium. The cost of renovating or building new on any island is always higher than in locations where there’s ready access to workers and materials.


It may not be the first thing you think about, but imagine arriving on your island at low tide by boat or float plane with your kids, luggage and groceries, and scrambling across slick seaweed and barnacle-covered rocks to get to the cottage. While the kids may enjoy the adventure, it’s inconvenient, and worse, unsafe! Make safe and convenient moorage a priority consideration.


High up on a bank, protected from the wind, in a low lying area, or at one with the ever-changing ocean—the placement of your castle will influence your view. Some islands have steep cliffs or high banks, making access to the sea difficult, while others have low lying areas and open beaches. Of course, any island that offers differing topography will appeal to a wider range of tastes and preferences.


This is the most essential element to owning an island, and it can be the most commonly overlooked. Typically, the smaller the island, the smaller its water supply. Larger islands tend to have little difficulty providing water, but some smaller islands rely on rainwater collection, or on state-of-the-art desalination plants. Desalination is actually inexpensive compared to drilling 300 feet into solid rock in the hope of finding water.

Water storage is another key consideration. When it gets hot and dry in the summer, wells are less productive. Having a sufficient supply is important, as is having the capacity to fight fire. Remember, when you’re on a private island, help isn’t just a phone call away!

Power, Telephone and On-Site Services

Being an island owner carries with it significant power, but not of the electrical variety. Some islands are “on the grid” and enjoy the luxury of submarine cables that supply power from the mainland. But, in some cases, the cost of running undersea power cables long distances and through great depths can be too much. Today, more islands rely on on-site power generation, like solar, wind and back-up generators. On-site power generation with batteries and power inverter systems can provide all the conveniences of the city. Hot water, stoves and even lights are often fueled by propane. Telephone and internet service are much better than in years past due to excellent digital cell phone coverage in most areas. Satellite phones and internet services can work extremely well in more remote locations.


A good caretaker can be worth his or her weight in gold. Since islands are very private places, it is always worthwhile to consider the security of the investment. Vacant properties can be inviting to casual explorers, campers, kayakers or other members of the public. In addition, there are vandals and thieves out there, and any private island not in eyesight of a neighbour should have a caretaker keeping an eye on the premises. A caretaker should also be there to ensure that the island continues to operate properly throughout the year. Depending on climate, winter storms can cause trees to fall and damage the home. An onsite caretaker should have the ability to act as a security guard as well as a handyman and an ambassador to visitors.

If you’ve considered all the factors above, and are still drawn to the privacy, luxury, romance, and idyllic fantasy of owning an island, then it may be time to become master of your own island and the ultimate king of your castle.


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