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10 private islands you might be able to afford
By Josh Lew,
Mother Nature Network, 14 May 2015.

Private islands are the playgrounds of the super rich, so unless a lottery jackpot is in your future (or your name is Richard Branson), owning a private island is impossible.

A step down from ownership is a private island vacation. Even many of these experiences seem beyond the financial capabilities of most travellers. It's usually true that resorts on private islands are more expensive than similar venues that share their isle with others, like Guana Island above, one of the few remaining private islands in the West Indies. However, some, including the following 10, are not prohibitively expensive.


1. Little Palm Island

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Photo: Dan Gray/Flickr

Located between the Florida mainland and Key West, Little Palm Island can only be reached by boat or chartered plane. The island's sole resort features a spa and beach bungalows that have an unlikely blend of rustic design and luxury amenities. Little Palm takes an unplugged approach to vacationing. You won't find telephones, televisions or computers in the bungalows. However, you will find whirlpools and outdoor showers.

A Little Palm trip won't be a completely private experience. Thanks to the pure white sand beaches and warm water, the 28 bungalows on the island are usually filled. The US$1,000 per night price tag does keep the masses away. If you can splurge, you can enjoy a weekend (or a cheaper mid-week getaway) on this little beach colony.


2. Niihau

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Niihau is the seventh largest Hawaiian island. It is technically owned by a single family and is off-limits to most outsiders. The island was originally bought from the king of Hawaii by a Scottish plantation owner named Elizabeth Sinclair in the mid 19th century. Her descendants still own and manage the island. A permanent population of 130 people live on Niihau. Almost all are native Hawaiians who still speak the Hawaiian language. Most live a subsistence lifestyle and hunt using traditional methods.

Some people would consider Niihau a paradise. It has no paved roads and the electricity is provided by solar power. It's virtually impossible to stay overnight on Niihau (unless you're a guest of the owners). However, half-day helicopter tours are offered to visit the island's interior wetlands and beaches. You can also take part in a hunting safari on the island. The extra meat from these hunts is supplied to Niihau’s locals free of charge.


3. Medjumbe Island

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Medjumbe is one of the islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago, which sits off the coast of Mozambique. This is a small island; some would even define it as "tiny." It's a little over half-a-mile long and less than 600 yards wide. Medjumbe is owned by a private resort.

That resort consists of 13 private bungalows that have an airy, traditional design. The island, topped by a 90-year-old lighthouse, is virtually all beach. The surrounding reefs are teeming with fish. Most of the people who come here spend a majority of their time snorkelling, diving or kayaking in the shallows. Getting to Mozambique is expensive, and nightly rates on Medjumbe are usually well under US$1,000.


4. Lighthouse Grebeni

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Photo: Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

Sitting a short distance off of Croatia's Dalmatian Coast, Lighthouse Grebeni offers a different kind of private island experience. It's only a short boat trip from the tourist haven of Dubrovnik, but it feels much more remote. Accommodations here are spartan, consisting of a few basic double bedrooms and a kitchen. The price, about US$455 per night, includes accommodations for up to seven people.

Guests will be completely isolated, though they can hire staff to provide services during their stay. The island is actually run by the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace, and people who stay at Grebeni can use that luxury inn's facilities and take advantage of its exclusive speed boat to travel between the island and the mainland. The lighthouse won't win any awards for luxury, but as far as pure isolation, it is arguably one of your best options in the world.


5. Nikoi Island

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Photo: Tyson/Flickr

Nikoi Island is a small speck of land that officially belongs to Indonesia. All the private island elements are here: a lack of crowds, white sand beaches and teeming reefs. The total area here is only 37 acres; that is enough room for 15 grass-roofed "villas." Traditional in design, these accommodations are made from local wood and raised above the ground on platforms. Most tourists get here via Singapore, which is about two hours away by ferry.

Nikoi is focused on sustainability and on improving the island's economy. Everything was made using local materials and labour. The island's pristine nature is carefully managed both onshore and offshore. A foundation funded by the resort helps run a series of libraries on Nikoi and on neighbouring islands in the Riau chain.


6. Inish Beg

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Inish Beg is a small island just off the west coast of Ireland. Once used for potato farming and as a base for boat builders, it was bought by Irish-Egyptian entrepreneur Nadim Sadek in the early 2000s. He added a number of features, including wedding venues, accommodations and gardens. He also upgraded the infrastructure, adding new roads and utilities.

Once totally rural and undeveloped, Inish Beg is now one of Ireland's best private island retreats. Prices are quite reasonable if you choose one of the more modest self-catering accommodations (modest means smaller, not necessarily less comfortable). The island has well-preserved woodlands and more-formal garden landscapes. It is known for its great bird-watching.


7. Guana Island

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Photo: Mike's Birds/Flickr

One of the British Virgin Islands, this 850-acre land mass is one of the last privately-owned islands in the region. Originally converted to a resort in the 1930s, Guana has always featured abundant nature. The original resort, which consisted of six stone cottages, drew artists, businesspeople and wealthy travellers, who would often stay for weeks or months at a time.

The accommodations have been upgraded over the years, and there are now a larger number of sea-view cottages, some of which have their own private plunge pools. Guana also has four private villas and a gourmet restaurant. One thing has remained the same since those early stone cottage days: untouched landscapes still cover most of the island. Not only have plants and animals thrived on the island, but other non-invasive species have been introduced as well.


8. Lake Malaren

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Photo: Pelle Sten/Flickr

Not all private islands are located on the ocean. Sweden's Lake Mälaren is home to one of the most picturesque private islands on our list. A tiny islet in the middle of the lake features a small collection of accommodations. There is a main house and two studio-style buildings. The island also has a large sauna.

The great thing about the Mälaren Island, aside from the fact that it is surrounded by classic Scandinavian scenery, is that it is truly a private island. Guests do not rent individual accommodations, they rent the whole island. Up to eight people can stay here, and rental includes the use of a small motor boat. Prices start at about US$2,000 for a weekend. That is actually quite reasonable when you consider the price per head for a group of eight.


9. South Water Caye

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Photo: Rick Goldman/Flickr

This tiny, private island off the coast of Belize sits right in the middle of the largest barrier reef in North America. It is a haven for divers, snorkelers and kayakers. The island has a single venue, the Pelican Bay Resort.

Pelican Bay whisks guests from the mainland to the Caye, where they stay in the main guest lodge or in beachside cottages that are built on stilts. The highlight of staying at Pelican is the guided tour menu. Options can include a night-time snorkelling session to see the coral bloom and kayaking trips that pass right over the reef.


10. Spitbank Fort

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The Spitbank Fort is certainly the most unusual island on our list. Built in the Victorian era at the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour, this British island fortress was meant to protect the huge naval ships that docked there. It was sold by the military in 1982 and finally bought by a hotelier and turned into a small resort. There are eight bedrooms, a pool, sauna and wine cellar.

The fort is most popular for wedding weekends or corporate special events. However, you can book  a single room as well. Spitbank has proved so popular that the company that owns it is busy developing a nearby fortress into a second resort. A night at Spitbank is not cheap, but also not overly expensive. The cost is around US$400 per head.


Top image: Guana Island. Credit: Jean-Marc Astesana/Flickr.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited.]

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