Ultimate Gift Guide 2014: Fantasy Island

The Gift

  • A 35-acre private island in the Bahamas’ Exuma chain.
  • A custom-built five-villa resort on the island, developed and managed by Auberge Resorts Collection. 

$175 Million

When it comes to ultimate vacation retreats, nothing compares with a private island. And in the rarefied realm of private-island escapes, few locations are a match for the Exumas. The Bahamian chain, with its more than 360 islands,has long found favor among high-profile owners for its secluded, paparazzi-free cays. Now, one Robb Report reader will have the opportunity to take up residence in this exclusive neighborhood with a custom-designed retreat operated by Auberge Resorts Collection.  

For this gift, the Bahamas-based real estate brokerage Cross and Mosko has earmarked Leaf Cay, a 35-acre isle in north Exuma. The cay, which was once owned by the actor Nicolas Cage, is located just south of Exuma Sound (one of the Bahamas’ top fishing destinations) and roughly 12 miles from illusionist David Copperfield’s Musha Cay collection of islands. According to Auberge Resorts founder and managing partner Mark Harmon, however, it is Leaf Cay’s dimensions that make it the ideal setting for a personal hideaway. “It’s big enough to afford real privacy,” he says, “but at the same time, it’s a manageable size.” Harmon adds that the cay’s long and narrow shape means that most of its acreage is on the shoreline, which translates to three beaches with “perfect white sand that you want to sink your toes in.”

Thanks to Harmon and his team at Auberge, the gift’s recipient need not do more than that to make his or her private-island fantasy a reality. Harmon’s plan calls for a five-villa resort complex comprising a main house and four guest units scattered throughout the cay. Each structure—the main house will measure 8,000 square feet, the guest villas from 3,000 to 4,000 square feet—will be tucked into the landscape in a manner that ensures none are visible to the others. Amenities on the island would be on a par with those of Auberge’s other resorts, which include Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley and the recently reopened Malliouhana Hotel and Spa on Anguilla. Harmon suggests several swimming pools, a pool house, a wine cellar, a helipad, a spa with overwater treatment rooms, a fitness center, a yoga pavilion, a children’s tree-house club, an observation tower, a dock for megayachts, a marina for smaller vessels, and a water-sports center offering snorkeling, kitesurfing, and fishing. 

Charged with the task of realizing Harmon’s—and the recipient’s—vision will be the San Francisco–based firm SB Architects, whose previous projects have included Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, in Puerto Rico, and several Auberge properties. Scott Lee, the firm’s president and principal, favors a modern design that will rely on glass screens, louvers, and natural materials such as coral stone and thatch roofing. Throughout the design process, Lee and his associates—along with the interior designers at TAL Studio—will work closely with the recipient to achieve his or her desired aesthetic. “We would welcome a robust interface with the owner,” Lee says. “We like to work with owners who are passionate.”

Upon completion of the resort, Auberge management will assemble a devoted staff that will include housekeepers, butlers, a chef, a yoga instructor, spa therapists, tour guides, a wine director, and more. The recipient will have the option of opening the full-service resort to paying clients or keeping this private-island paradise private.  

Auberge Resorts Collection, Lisa Paningsoro, 415.380.3464, aubergeresorts.com 

This gift must be purchased by January 1, 2015, and will require at least 24 months to design and build. Annual maintenance and management costs are not included in the price of the gift.

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