Ariara Island, Palawan, Philippines
Crystalline waters in every shade of turquoise lap the soft sandy beach at Ariara Island. Clown-fish, dugongs and blue starfish live in the sea and the coral reef that surrounds the island-as do four endangered turtle species, some of which lay their eggs on the beach. Palawan sea eagles nest on the rocks and, inland, the wild-orchid-strewn jungle is alive with the sounds of owls, kingfishers, woodpeckers, egrets and flower-peckers. Butterflies, bats and rare lizards, including the enormous but harmless water monitor, play hide and seek among the banana, papaya, coconut, mango and cashew trees.
A handful of breathtaking villas and cottages designed by Filipino architect Jorge Yulo look out towards the sea and the reef, and are masterpieces of barefoot luxury. Many have vaulted ceilings, four-poster beds and private terraces. The landscaped gardens flow into the jungle and there are private coves with shaded day beds to revel in the scenery.
Through Savills (020-7016 3740; www.savills.com)
Buck Island, British Virgin Islands
The sea looks like a mosaic of blue from Buck Island, a 43-acre private island a short boat ride south-east of Tortola. It progresses from the crystalline waveletsthat lap the isle’s pristine white beaches to vibrant pools of turquoise and azure depths further out.
Dramatically situated atop a cliff, the main house makes the most of the views-you can even take in the panorama as you shower. The house itself has an interesting design-it’s acluster of attractive buildings comprising a master-bedroom cottage, five guest-bedroom suites and a self-contained one-bedroom apartment, all centred around a Great House, which has a sequence of formal and informal entertaining areas. Outside, the circular infinity pool looks at one with the sea.
Through Knight Frank (020-7861 1097; www.knightfrank.com)
Porters, St James, Barbados
A long driveway winds through a thick forest of aged mahogany treesto reach this old plantation house, which was built in 1735 by the head of the Royal African Company, the Hon Dudley Woodbridge. A portico with coral stone arches sets the tone for this elegant house, which was wholly renovated in 2006 and combines colonial style with contemporary creature comforts (including air conditioning and a huge indoor entertainment room).
The back rooms open on to a vast expanse of lawn that stretches up to a Doric folly set up 80 coral-stone steps. From here, the views across the property are spectacular. Another lovely place to spend time outdoors is the swimming pool, which comes with a coral-stone pavilion and bar. The lush grounds are also home to a large one-bedroom cottage, a dining pavilion and a 300-year-old chapel.
Through Savills (020-7016 3740; www.savills.com)
Ballast Key, Florida, USA
Few island properties get more private than this 110,000sq m (27-acre) paradise. The tropical retreat of Florida investor David Wolkowsky, Ballast Key, which sits about nine miles to the west of Key West and can be reached in 25 minutes by boat or 10 minutes by helicopter, has no neighbours within an eight-mile radius.
Mr Wolkowsky, who once said he is ‘always desperately looking for beauty’, bought the island from the US Navy in 1970. In the past 40 years, Ballast Key’s main house,guest house and pretty pavilions have played host to many distinguished guests, including Edward Heath, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Leonard Bernstein, Prince Michael of Greece and Truman Capote.
It also got a mention in Licence to Kill. In the book, the world’s most famous spy flees to Ballast Key and tells Mr Wolkowsky: ‘David, it’s James. James Bond… On your island, I’ve just broken into your house.’
The main house stands at the southern tip of the Ballast Key peninsulaand enjoys breathtaking sea views from every room.
Through Engel & Völkers (00 49 40 36 13 11 37; www.engelvoelkers.com)
Rai Ki Wai, Wakaya Island, Fiji
Rai Ki Wai means ‘view over the sea’ in Fijian and this extra-ordinary estate truly lives up to its name. Perched on the highest spot on the private island of Wakaya, it looks out across its luxuriant grounds-a heavenly sequence of tropical flowers studded by banyan trees, grassy hills and stretches of rainforest-to the turquoise sea.
Most rooms in this striking property enjoy uninterrupted views of the ocean. The accommodation is split into a main pavilion with seven bedrooms, a separate master-bedroom pavilion, a two-bedroom guest pavilion and three guest bures (Fijian cabins) and it’s almost as amazing as the panorama.
The interiors are decorated in a Balinese-influenced style, with a profusion of Fijian hardwood, huge Buddha statues and jaw-dropping marble bathrooms. Perhaps the most extraordinary room is the indoor-outdoor dining pavilion, which opens on to the infinity pool and overlooks the sea.
Through Christie’s International Real Estate’s associate Hilton & Hyland (00 1 310 278 3311;
Breidablick, Drottningholm, Sweden
The King of Sweden will be your next-door neighbour at Breidablick in Drottningholm on Lovön island. Tucked away among thick woods on the shores of Lake Mälaren, on land leased from the palace, this 19th-century house was designed by architect Magnus Isæus, who combined Gustavian style with Empire influences to create a picturesque wooden building that wouldn’t look out of place in a fairy tale.
Restored under the guidance of the Palace Architect, it’s decorated with striking wallpapers, ornate woodwork and beautiful tiled stoves. Each room has attractive features: the octagonal drawing room has 13ft ceilings, the dining room looks out to the lake and the romantic turret has a panoramic verandah that takes in views of the woods, the waters and the islets beyond.
Through Sotheby’s International Realty (00 46 8 545 80 000; www.sothebysrealty.se)
Napoleonic fort, Venice, Italy
This ancient fort stands on a private island in the heart of the Venetian lagoon, close to Sant’Erasmo and Burano. The island became part of Italy in 1866 and the fort, built to house Napoleon’s troops, was later converted into an unusual, atmospheric villa with four bedrooms and separate staff apartment.
The island, which can be reached in 45 minutes by boat from the airport and 20 minutes from Venice, is private and peaceful, with lush gardens and a sheltered harbour. But the greatest attraction here are the spectacular views across the lagoon, particularly at sunset.
Through Venice’s Sotheby’s International Realty (00 39 041 52 20 093; www.sothebysrealty.com)