Retreats

Celebrities and Millionaires Who Own Private Islands (Photos)

For certain celebrities constantly on the run from the paparazzi, only a private island will do.

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Shelley Rotner / Getty Images; Kimihiro Hoshino, AFP / Getty Images (Inset)

Larry Ellison: Lanai, Hawaii

As if a collection of private planes, fancy cars, yachts and a slew of other outrageously expensive toys didn’t satisfy Larry Ellison’s every whim, the Oracle co-founder recently purchased the island of Lanai in Hawaii. Ellison, the sixth wealthiest person in the world, bought 98 percent of the island from billionaire David Murdock for an undisclosed price and now owns nearly every single money-maker on Lanai, from five-star hotels and championship golf courses to 88,000 acres of pineapple fields and a solar farm. The biggest question is whether the 2010 America’s Cup and yachting enthusiast will turn the island into a sailing hub. For now, he has yet to appear in public on the island or comment on his purchase, presumably because he is sipping a piña colada under a palm tree somewhere along the 50 miles of beaches he now owns.

Getty Images; AP Photo (Inset)

Aristotle Onassis: Skorpios Island, Greece

Billionaire Greek shipping mogul Aristotle Onassis is credited for kicking off the private-island trend in 1968 when he married Jackie Kennedy on Skorpios, his paradise in the Ionian Sea. Onassis’ granddaughter Athina eventually inherited the island after his death, and flatly denied that it was up for sale in 2009 for a reported $170 million, amid rumors that Bill Gates, Madonna, and Roman Abramovich were all interested. A year later, Giorgio Armani beat out the other bigwigs and bought Skorpios for an estimated $190 million. Aside from tennis courts, lush gardens, and the Pink House villa originally built for Jackie O, the island remains largely untouched.  

Newscom; Getty Images (Inset)

Richard Branson: Necker Island, British Virgin Islands

British business tycoon Sir Richard Branson—who started his first entrepreneurial venture at age 17—began real-estate hunting in the Caribbean when he heard some of the British Virgin Islands were for sale. He set his sights on the 74-acre Necker Island, which he bought for roughly $293 million in 1979, just six years after launching Virgin Group. Three years and $10 million later, he had built himself a private resort, which he has since rented out to friends and celebrities like Princess Diana and Steven Spielberg. This July, Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo were married at Branson’s Edenic sanctuary. "We've vacationed there multiple times, and when we got engaged, we both immediately thought of the island as the perfect place to have our wedding,” Lachey told People magazine.

Pacific Coast News; AP Photo (Inset)

Johnny Depp: Little Hall’s Pond Cay, Bahamas

Johnny Depp allegedly fell in love with the Bahamas while filming his first Pirates film, and decided it was his destiny to wash ashore on his own private island. In 2004, he invested $3.6 million of his booty in Little Hall’s Pond Cay, a secluded spot in the Exuma isles. He later boasted to the press that the island would run on solar power alone, but has since made it clear that the public—particularly paparazzi—would not be welcome at his ecofriendly retreat (he allegedly refers to it as “F--k Off Island”).

Corbis; AP Photo (Inset)

David Copperfield: Musha Cay, Bahamas

One island simply wouldn’t do for world-renowned magician David Copperfield, so he settled for 11 small islets that make up the Bahamas’ Musha Cay, where he began building a 700-acre resort in 2006. He quickly transformed it into a magician’s playground with a Gilligan’s Island vibe. He has described it as a place where he can “create magic in three dimensions,” a resort that is part paradise, part eerie Disney World, with hidden drive-in movie theaters and dark passageways through the jungle that lead to a monkey village. Though the island’s thatched huts can accommodate hundreds, only 24 guests are welcome at a time, for a cool $265,000 a week per person.

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Faith Hill and Tim McGraw: Goat Cay, Bahamas

Country stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw are finishing up work on a new home on their private island of Goat Cay. Johnny Depp will be one of their neighbors, as Goat Cay is one of the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas. Their 17-acre island paradise will feature a 15,000-square-foot, four-bedroom house that comes complete with a lookout tower. Sound cramped? They thought so too. The island will also feature three smaller houses for their staff.

Pacific Coast News; Getty Images (Inset)

Mel Gibson: Mago Island, Fiji

Say what you will about Mel Gibson, he certainly has good taste in private islands. Back in 2005, the actor reportedly spent $9 million to buy Mago Island in Fiji. Not a bad deal, considering the island occupies a total of 5,400 acres. Even though he has a ton of space, Gibson has said that he will leave the island largely untouched except for the construction of a modest home.

Newscom; AP Photo (Inset)

Leonardo DiCaprio: Blackadore Cay, Belize

Leonardo DiCaprio purchased Blackadore Cay in 2005. The island—more than 104 acres—set him back only $1.75 million. It is very close to Belize’s famous barrier reef. Remarkably, this island paradise will not stay private for long. The actor plans to turn it into an ecofriendly resort. The 80-room luxury resort will include private villas, spas, restaurants, and swimming pools.

AP Photos (2)

Dean Kamen: North Dumpling Island, N.Y.

North Dumpling Island is the island home of Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. After a debate with the state over a wind turbine, Kamen decided to secede from the United States. Of his decision, Kamen said, “With one little house on the island, they decided it was residentially zoned. They said, ‘You can’t build any structure or any home more than 40 foot tall without a variance.’ And I need a 100-foot tower.” He calls himself “Lord Dumpling” when in residence. He also gave the island its own currency and maintains a single-vessel navy, though he signed a “nonaggression” pact with George H.W. Bush. Kamen even built a replica of Stonehenge on the island—no private island nation is complete without one of those.

Google; AP Photo (Inset)

Eddie Murphy: Long Cay, Bahamas

In 2007, comedian Eddie Murphy purchased Long Cay for $15 million. The 15.4-acre island, also known as Rooster Cay, is only five minutes from Nassau. It is not clear if the actor plans to keep the island to himself or use it for business purposes, as it was originally marketed as a potential resort development.

Gamma / Getty Images; AP Photo (inset)

Celine Dion: Ile Gagnon, Quebec

Celine Dion's private island is not in the tropics. Her island, Ile Gagnon, is located in Quebec’s Mille Iles River. It features a giant French-style chateau and an equally impressive fence to keep out the overeager fans. But the house can still be seen from the river and popular boat tours.