Little Bokeelia Island

How One Island Has Become a Charity Paradise

A recent article in The Economist shed some sunshine on a tiny island just off Florida’s Gulf Coast. Little Bokeelia is not exactly overrun with tourists, but those who have discovered its cascading waterfalls and resort amenities have fallen in love with this tropical haven.

Then it went on the real estate market, and everyone decided to stop caring. After three years on the market, that incredible slice of paradise sold for HALF the asking price. Tough economy, indeed.

The Economist also pointed at the Bahamas to help establish a trend. That chain, where the per-acre prices are some of the highest on the planet, hundreds of tiny specs of sand, miniature Eden for the savvy traveler, remain unclaimed.

What gives? Having your Own Private Island used to be the calling card of the mega-rich, the one true criteria for having Made It. Now, nobody seems to want one. Well, almost no one. As interest has waned, prices have fallen, leading to a shift in the market.

The new players?

Nonprofits and government agencies. For the most part, these places are being acquired and designated as preserves or designated “public” spaces.

That trend has motivated some well-heeled non-profit groups interested in preservation to snatch up islands and officially wall them off from development. In a way, these investments may seem frivolous, but, like the American National Park System, it’s not hard for these groups to find folks willing to donate to keep wild places, well, wild.

In many cases, Step 1 is the only consideration on the table. But some groups are going even further, buying up land and turning it into retreats or care facilities or other kinds of protected places for those for whom the seclusion and directed care can be exactly the balm they need. Will there be a “Club Med” for kids with cancer or couples counseling sometime soon?

Probably, yes. And why not? Sometimes, nothing is more profitable than just getting away…even when there’s no money in it.