No self-respecting celebrity, entrepreneur or aspiring evil villain goes through life without acquiring a private island or two. But this is one status symbol that you can try before you buy; there’s a slew of such options available to rent just offshore. And while some do cost the earth, there are some surprisingly affordable insular accommodations out there, too.
Dry Island, New York
Lost, Treasure Island and Tom Hanks have given the more rustic island a seriously bad name, but there’s plenty to be said for going off-grid — like, in the case of this luxurious 12-acre island in the Adirondacks, a full staff. And 14 boats, including silent electric cruising boats and a 1920s runabout. And unlimited wine and liquor. Dry Island, with its 1800s-style “great camp,” is the island for those who want their wilderness to come with a boatman, private chef, phone access to restaurants onshore and unlimited single malt Scotch. Dry Island sleeps 10 or more and costs $4,000 and up a night.
Little Palm Island, Florida
If your budget won’t quite stretch to renting all of Martha’s Vineyard for the weekend, celebrity-adored Little Palm Island is the next-best bit of iconic island real estate. The 5.5-acre Little Palm is the definitive, decadent, palm-dotted Caribbean isle with thatched bungalows, outdoor showers, Jacuzzis, fire pits and spa treatments that promise to pamper parts of your anatomy you didn’t know needed kneading. Book this secluded spot all for yourself and your loved one. Or your 59 loved ones; it’s up to you. Little Palm sleeps up to 60 guests and you can book the entire island for $175,000.
Charlie’s Island, Florida
While many islands cost an arm, a leg and your first-born, there’s also a whole archipelago of affordable private isles out there. And Charlie’s Island is one of them. Accommodation for six to eight people comes courtesy of a two-bedroom, two-bathroom houseboat moored to this perfect, pristine Gulf of Mexico reef island. Flocks of passing pelicans are an added bonus. Rates start at $2,795 a week.
Eagle Island, Georgia
Forget all those gloomy private islands that star as evil lairs in movies, from King Kong to the majority of the James Bond films; this one is very different. Gather your 12 favourite people and prepare to get a welcome surprise on Eagle Island, plus two kayaks, a six-person hot tub and something called a “Five-Moon outdoor shower.” When it comes to cooking, this 10-acre isle offers all the technology of such island lairs, plus a state-of-the-art indoor chef’s kitchen and an outdoor kitchen with such treats as a smoker and an oyster steamer. Rates start at $2,900 a week.
East Sister Rock, Florida
While some rocks are definitely not ones you want to spend much vacation time in close proximity to (see Alcatraz and, um, The Rock), there are some rocks worth setting a direct course for. After all, Alcatraz didn’t offer its long-term guests satellite TV, air conditioning or regular turtle sightings, and Dwayne Johnson doesn’t attract roosting herons, manatees or angelfish. At least as far as we know. A fine example of the good kind of rock is East Sister Rock, off the Florida Keys, with its luxurious three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, idyllic white sands and rates that start at $6,295 a week.
Grasshopper Island, Ontario
Sure, those palm-fronded island idylls bobbing in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico get all the press, but really, who wants an island you have to share with an abundance of potentially poisonous critters and plants that look like they might eat you? Grasshopper Island on Rice Lake offers toasty summer escapes for eight in solar-powered eco-cabins, just 90 minutes from Toronto. The original locals, the Mississaugas, called this lake Pemadashdakota — or lake of the burning plains — although lake of the burning pizzas may be more appropriate after you try your hand at using the awesome 100-year-old bread oven. There are also volleyball and badminton courts, plus a charismatic cast of pigs, sheep and chickens as added bonuses. Grasshopper Island can be rented from as little as $269 a night.
Laurel Island, Connecticut
Up to 20 people at a time can stay on Laurel Island in Lake Pocotopaug, in East Hampton. Outdoor activities include canoeing, kayaking, rowing and tubing; time can also be whiled away playing board games or Ping-Pong or napping in a hammock. The main lodge has an impressive 25-metre great room and cathedral ceilings, and there are an additional five cabins, each with its own dock. The price tag starts at $350 per person per week.
Spruce Island, Maine
An incredible 73-acre island set off the Eastern Seaboard, Spruce Island is vast, with an abundance of varied terrain to explore. Kayak, fish from one of the island’s row boats, fetch fresh dinner from the offshore lobster crate, play Ping-Pong, bob about on the indoor swing or watch island-appropriate movies such as Jaws via projector. There are ATVs with which to roam the island, WiFi with which to post envy-inducing photos on Facebook, pirate costumes to cavort in (in adult sizes, too!) and exceptional views to take in. The possibilities really are endless. Rates start at $375 a night, and accommodations include a seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom, 3,600-square-foot house plus bunkhouse.
Dolphin Jump Key, Florida
These quirky quarters for six are actually part of a twofer — a waterfront home in Marathon on the Florida Keys and a private island escape with a conch cottage, bunkhouse and bathhouse. Dolphin Jump lives up to its name; dolphins really do love this place. Sea turtles and manatees also pop round but are humbler species and so generally don’t engage in such splashy aerial acrobatics. On-island activities include crab fishing, kayaking, snorkelling, lobster diving, fleeing from generally harmless nurse sharks and other such pursuits. Rates include use of both homes, two kayaks and a boat from just $2,495 a week.