The most beautiful private islands in the world (that you can rent today)

From a charming islet in a Norwegian archipelago to a luxurious retreat in the Maldives, these are the best private getaways on the water…

Ever feel envious of Robinson Crusoe? We know we do. Stranded on a sun-drenched desert island for almost thirty years, he must have mastered the art of inner peace pretty early one. And who couldn’t do with learning to be a little calmer these days?

Unfortunately, while becoming a real-life castaway probably isn’t as appealing as it sometimes sounds (just think of the sunburn…), there are private islands bobbing out there in the ocean available to rent in their entirety.

That means, while you can enjoy the trappings of the tropics — whether that be serene beaches, reef-diving or just a good fruity cocktail — there’ll be a boat or a plane poised to pick you up when you’re rested, recuperated and ready to head home. Here are 10 of the best…

Gladden Island, Belize

It’s a sun-soaked start. Belize seems to be something of a haven for private islands (two more from the nation appear further down this list). Perched prettily on the eastern side of Central America, there are plenty of private islands bobbing off the country’s coast — but few have the allure or the amenities of Gladden Island.

Dubbed ‘the world’s most private island resort’, Gladden can cater for between two and four guests. There’s one villa, views for miles and all-inclusive experiences including reef-snorkelling, dolphin diving, cocktail making and moonlit dining on the rooftop terrace. Trained in-house chef, Toni Pratley, creates meals to suit every traveller’s tastebuds — with a focus on Belizian cuisine. Try the ‘Serre la sus’ fish soup, and thank us later.

How much does it cost? £3,630 per night, for four guests.

Bigwood Island, Ontario

Something a little chillier for our next option. Around 2,500 miles north of Gladden Island, you’ll find the craggy haven of Bigwood Island. It’s a 36-acre getaway, sitting just above Parry Sound in Ontario, Canada. Available on AirBnB, a 2,400-square-foot lodge (built in 1905) can be found at the centre of the tree-lined islet — a place criss-crossed with rustic wooden bridges, paths and trails.

In addition to the lodge, there are four further cottages — and the islands sleeps a total of 16 guests. There’s an outdoor stone barbecue, a classic wrap-around porch and a billiard room. The best room in the main lodge, however, is the library, complete with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, a library ladder and a writing desk.

How much does it cost? From £4,844, for a minimum of three nights.

Bird Island, Belize

Back to Belize so soon? Why not. After all, with islands as idiosyncratic as these, who’d ever want to stay away? Colourful and characterful, Bird Island is a place like no other — perched atop a beautiful coral reef just minutes away from the village of Placencia, in the south of the country.

That means it floats in protected waters, and is almost completely private to anyone lucky enough to land a stay here. There’s no staff on this one, so it’ll just be you and your guests — free to explore and enjoy facilities including a new observatory tower, kayaks, a fishing down and an over-the-water bar and barbecue area.

How much does it cost? £2,335, for a minimum of four nights.

Ronay Island, Scotland

Of course, there are also islands to rent a little closer to home. Bobbing around in Scotland’s Western Isles, Ronay Island is a rolling, rugged and salt-sprayed slice of nature — 1,400 acres of solitude, complete with hills, glens and even the odd inland loch or two.

Your house here is a little more humble than some of the Caribbean options above; a modest self-catering cottage with a well-equipped kitchen, two bathrooms and enough beds to sleep ten guests. But most people book Ronay to escape from any hustle and bustle — to spend their days fishing for mackerel, watching the red deer or kayaking among the seals and otters. Look out for a family of particularly majestic golden eagles, which nest on the island.

How much does it cost? £800 per week.

East Sister Rock Island, Marathon Shores

In the Florida Keys, the city of Marathon is known for its beaches and barrier reef. Teaming with turtles, its sandy shorelines are stretched across 13 disparate islands. And this tiny, rentable property sits a quarter-mile off its coast.

There’s little more than a villa on East Sister Rock Island. But it’s quite the property. With over 5,000 square feet of living area (including a 2,700 square foot veranda), the house features a fisherman’s boat dock, helicopter launch pad and facilities from satellite television to a football table. A word of advice; don’t book during lobster fishing season, as the prices rocket by $3,000 per week.

How much does it cost? From £8,439 per week.

Picnic Island, Tasmania

On the eastern coast of Tasmania (which is just south of mainland Australia, if you weren’t sure), you’ll find the quaintly-named Picnic Island. Floating on the Freycinet Peninsula, which is itself part of the Freycinet National Park, this one has more in common with Scotland’s Ronay Island than it does the sunnier options on this list — with craggy landscapes, rocky beaches and some incredible wildlife.

In fact, there’s nary a better private island for wildlife lovers in this corner of the world. Dolphins and seals frequently visit from the sea, and you’ll share your stay with birds from shearwaters to penguins. Skink lizards even bask in the sun — but, thankfully, there are no snakes on the island. The copper-clad retreats, designed by local architect John Latham, can be hired out exclusively for up to 10 people, giving you the whole island to yourself.

How much does it cost? £585 per person, per night, for a minimum of two nights.

Royal Belize, Belize

We’re back to Belize — and to a truly luxurious experience. Royal Belize is a private island owned by Muy’Ono Resorts, and is only offered to a single group (of between 10 and 16 guests) at any one time. There’s an island team on hand to make sure your stay bobs along as swimmingly as possible — even creating personalised menus for each booking.

Expect five air-conditioned villas (with names as charming as ‘Hibiscus House’) and a long list of complementary activities; think paddle-boarding, shore-snorkelling, kayaking, jet-skiing, bonfire building and sailing. You can even learn how to spear fish — if you’re looking for that authentic Castaway experience.

How much does it cost? From £4,770 per night for up to 10 guests.

Båtholmen Island, Norway

For our final dip into chilly waters, we sail to Norway — where the picture-perfect Båtholmen Island bobs in the archipelago of sunny Hvaler. Another private island available on AirBnB, Cecilie & Eivind host the beautiful two-bedroom cottage — bright red in colour and perched happily on the curved rock island.

It’s an off-grid stay, but there’s a solar-power charger that should give your phone enough charge to stay online. Other than that, there is no running water, but a fire pit to keep warm — and enough board games and books to ensure you can stay busy while taking things back to basics. The best bit? Private use of your own motorboat for island exploring.

How much does it cost? £158 per night, with a minimum of two nights.

Four Seasons Private Island at Voavah, Maldives

You know it’s a good sign when Four Seasons stakes its claim to an island. But Voavah — all white sand and bright turquoise water — is impressive even by the existing, exacting standards of the hotel chain. It’s a remote, natural wilderness covered in exotic jungle greenery and drenched in sun. It’s also the world’s first exclusive-use UNESCO hideaway.

Bookable in its entirety, Voavah is usually divided into two properties — a three-bedroom beach villa and a two-bedroom water villa. But up to 20 people can make this spell-binding marine territory their own, with a complementary luxury yacht and private spa that will only deepen your connection to this turquoise paradise.

How much does it cost? £27,894 per night, for the full island.

Mnemba Island Lodge, Zanzibar

And, finally, to Zanzibar; the wonderful, tropical island found off the coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean. It’s home to a clash of cultures, droves of exotic wildlife — and Mnemba Island Lodge. Managed by &Beyond, a team of butlers will cater to your every whim, whether that be a daily dive or a sumptuous banquet dinner.

Like Voavah Island above, Mnemba tends to be hired out by several groups at once. But, if you’ve got pockets deep enough, the entire place could be yours. And, once you do wash up, you could take a trip in a dhow (a traditional sailing boat used in Zanzibar) or even go scuba diving with the sharks.

How much does it cost? From £932 per person, per night.

Looking for a luxury hotel instead? These are the best hotels opening in 2022…

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