Many of us fantasise about becoming super rich and buying our own tropical island. As status symbols go, it’s up there with private jets and gold-plated toilet seats. It's the ultimate in exclusivity and luxury living and, if Sir Richard Branson’s example is anything to go by, it looks like so much fun.
As one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, Branson is as well-known for his business portfolio as he is for schmoozing celebrity guests and partying the night away on his very own Caribbean hideaway, Necker Island. Located in the British Virgin Islands, the Virgin Group businessman purchased the 74-acre island for US$180,000 in 1978, when he was aged just 28. It took three years and some US$10 million to turn it into a private island retreat, but he’s claimed that buying Necker was "the best financial move" he ever made.
Necker Island is not just the Branson family home but has become a sought-after destination for some of the richest and most famous people on the planet. Other than its obvious picture-postcard beauty, the island’s appeal lies in its balance between total privacy and a sociable atmosphere.
No more than 34 guests can stay there at any one time, and a staff of around 100 (according to Hello magazine) are on call to service their every whim - which is precisely what you’d hope for considering the price tag. To book to the whole island will set you back £60,660 per night, according to The Telegraph. However, individual rooms can be booked for a few weeks a year at a slightly less eye-watering £3,540 per night.
Despite a few tough years - a massive fire in 2011 and facing the wrath of Hurricane Irma in 2017 - the island has been fully rebuilt and is re-open for business, and looking better than ever. Check out these pics of one of the world's most infamous holiday homes, and some of the A-list stars who have holidayed there.
25 25. The Main Room At The Great House
This spacious Balinese-style house is the central hub of Necker, and boasts amazing views and 10 awesome guest rooms. It’s seen more than its share of construction work in the last decade. In fact, it’s been totally rebuilt.
First, in 2011, it was severely damaged by a fire believed to be caused by lightning from Tropical Storm Irene. In 2017, Hurricane Irma razed it to the ground and it only reopened to guests in October 2018 after the Great House was rebuilt according to Branson's original plans.
24 24. Celebrity Guests: British Supermodel Kate Moss
As birthday gifts go, exclusive use of a private Caribbean island isn’t half bad, as Kate Moss discovered when Sir Richard Branson gifted her a week on Necker for her 40th.
According to the Daily Mirror, the British supermodel celebrated her landmark birthday on the island in 2014, along with her then-husband, Jamie Hince, daughter Lila, and close friends, including actress Sadie Frost and hairdresser James Brown.
Branson paid tribute to Kate on his website, posting a photo with the caption: “Wishing a very happy birthday to Kate Moss. It has been an absolute pleasure to host Kate and her friends and family on Necker Island to celebrate her 40th.”
23 23. Flamingos On Necker
Flamingos were once populous in the British Virgin Islands, but were nearly totally wiped out a century ago, according to Sir Richard Branson’s own blog. But thanks to conservation efforts and a breeding program on Necker, the island is now home to more than 250 Roseate and Caribbean flamingos.
Originally, just six of these beautiful birds were introduced to the island and now there’s a whole flock living on a salt pond next to Bali Hi Beach.
22 22. Celebrity Guests: Baywatch Star David Hasselhoff
The Hoff paid a visit to Necker in 2013 with his then-girlfriend, Hayley Roberts, reported aol.com, and bumped into none other than Rolling Stone rocker Ronnie Wood, who was honeymooning on the island at the time.
The Hoff was clearly star-struck as he later tweeted: “Hangin with Ronnie Wood in Necker! What a cool guy.”
The Baywatch and Knight Rider star, 66, and Roberts, 38, obviously enjoyed their stay with the newlyweds and went on to tie the knot themselves in 2018.
21 21. A Bird's-Eye View
Necker Island is 74-acres of land tucked away in the British Virgin Islands between Tortola and Anegada. With dense green vegetation and plenty of gorgeous sandy beaches to choose from, it’s no wonder Branson feel head over heels with the place when he first visited back in the seventies.
The closest international airport is on Tortola, which is a 35-minute flight from San Juan and a one hour and 20-minute flight from Antigua. To get to Necker requires a 30-minute private charter boat from Tortola or you can arrive by helicopter, if you really want to make an entrance.
20 20. Celebrity Guests: Nick and Vanessa Lachey Married On Necker
When actor, singer and TV personality Nick Lachey popped the question to model Vanessa Minnillo, it was a no brainer where the two wanted to get hitched. The pair changed vows on Necker Island in 2011.
Minnillo told People: “We love to travel and we love Necker Island,” she said. “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.” She described the event as timeless, beautiful and romantic. How sweet.
19 19. Sushi In The Pool (Because Why Not?)
If you’re forking out for a stay on Necker Island, you’d expect the food to be awesome, and judging from this photo, Necker doesn’t disappoint. A floating kayak filled with delicious rolls and fresh sashimi is just one of the island’s dining options.
According to the island’s official website, theme nights are organised at the Great House each evening, where evening cocktails can be enjoyed on the roof terrace. There’s also a Beach Pavilion, which seats up to 40 people, and guests can enjoy picnic or barbecue on Turtle Beach.
18 18. Celebrity Guests: One Direction's Harry Styles
This English singer, best known as one of the phenomenally successful One Direction, is rumoured to have holidayed on Necker after his break-up with Taylor Swift back in 2013.
Whatever his relationship status at the time, Sir Richard Branson confirmed Harry had indeed been a guest in a chat with Irish radio station Key 103. According to MTV news, the businessman even hinted that Harry may have even serenaded fellow guests: "He might have knocked up a song or two. He's gotta sing for his supper - otherwise on an island, you don't get fed."
17 17. #Gymspiration Necker Style
Sometimes hauling yourself to the gym can be such a chore, but with views like this, you might never want to leave it.
Working out in this gym, gazing out at the azure Caribbean water, would be an absolute treat, and it’s just one of the fitness facilities available to guests. Necker also has a tennis court, and all kinds of fun water sports equipment, including sailboats, diving gear, kite-surf equipment, and a two-seater submarine, the Necker Nymph.
16 16. Celebrity Guests: Superstar Diva Mariah Carey
The world was treated to an inside tour of Necker Island in 1994 when it featured on the MTV show Cribs. Branson led a film crew around the Great House’s many bedrooms, only to find a bikini-clad Mariah Carey reclining on a giant four-poster bed, where the two enjoyed a glass of wine.
The superstar singer, who is as famed for her incredible voice as she is her diva antics, was briefly signed to Virgin Records during that time, according to the Daily Mail.
15 15. Necker Is A Rare Breeding Ground For Giant Tortoises
Necker is home to nine Aldabra giant tortoises and guests are told to look out for them on the road leading to Bali Lo beach, and therefore are advised to go slow with the golf buggies.
The giant tortoise is the largest living tortoise in the world, and the longest-lived vertebrate on record. However, they’re facing a tragic incidence of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
These aren’t the only reptiles on Necker. Guests can also keep their eyes peeled for the Rock or Stout iguana, which can grow up to over 6ft long.
14 14. Celebrity Guests: Comedian Eddie Murphy
American comedian Eddie Murphy is best known for his work on Saturday Night Live and his starring roles in Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places and The Nutty Professor.
In 1993, at the peak of his fame, the actor enjoyed his honeymoon on Necker Island, along with wife Nicole, and four bodyguards. According to the Daily Mail, the couple spent hours watching videos of his own movies, which doesn't sound that romantic, and listening to music. The couple divorced in 2005.
13 13. Take Your Pick Of Rooms With A View
The Great House is where most guests stay while vacationing on Necker Island. Each room has a balcony, king-size bed and en-suite bathroom, as you’d expect. Shared bathroom for that money? We don't think so. The house also has a bunk room, which sleeps up to six kids.
On the building’s upper level is the super luxurious master suite, which has its very own outdoor Jacuzzi and sundeck. In addition to the main home, there are also six private Bali-style houses to accommodate guest overflow.
12 12. Celebrity Guests: Google Founder Larry Page
In 2007, Google’s billionaire co-founder Larry Page wed his girlfriend, Lucy Southworth, on Necker Island, where fellow billionaire Sur Richard Branson acted as host and best man, according to Reuters.
It was reported that around 600 guests were flown on private planes to the nearest airport, and hotel planners had booked up the hotels on the neighbouring island of Virgin Gorda six months in advance.
Page set up Google in 1998 with Stanford University classmate Sergey Brin and it was reported in Business Insider that he had recently faded from public life to spend time on his own Caribbean island.
11 11. A Kitesurfing Hotspot (For the One Percent)
Richard Branson is a massive kite-surfing enthusiast and conditions on Necker are perfect for this adrenalin-fuelled sport.
Not only does Branson encourage his celebrity guests to try it out, he invited champion kitesurfer Nick Jacobsen to attempt the ultimate stunt on Necker - launching from the top of Great House.
Jacobsen launched his kite 131 feet up from the sea, from the top of the building’s roof, and cleared more than 300 feet of jungle to land upright in the water on his board. Wow.
10 10. Celebrity Guests: British Actor Kate Winslet
In 2011, a lightning storm caused a huge blaze on Necker Island, causing its 20 guests to flee to safety. Among those on the island was British actor Kate Winslet, and front-page headlines at the time reported that the Oscar-winner dramatically rescued Richard Branson’s mum from the flames.
Eve Branson later denied being saved from the inferno by the film star, saying that Kate only carried her down four steps. Winslet admitted in 2017 to Harpers Bazaar that it was during the fire that she fell for Branson's nephew and now-partner Ned Rocknroll, who helped her to safety with a "head torch”.
9 9. Not A Bad Place For A Wedding
If money was no object, can you think of a better place to get married than Necker Island? In 1989, Sir Richard Branson married Joan Templeman on Necker Island - he even arrived to the ceremony clinging to the struts of a helicopter.
More than two decades later, in 2012, their daughter Holly chose Necker as the magical destination for her fairytale wedding to Freddie Andrews.
8 8. Celebrity Guests: The Great Nelson Mandela
It’s not just A-list movie stars or music sensations that have enjoyed an exclusive stay at Necker. The island has also played host to legendary statesmen, including the late Nelson Mandela.
Richard Branson has spoken publicly of his friendship with Mandela and the entrepreneur has been a big supporter of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, even helping to support a series of AIDS benefit concerts in Cape Town, the 46664 Concerts, which took place between 2003 and 2008.
7 7. Zip-Line Down For Lunch
For the best views of Necker Island, guests should try out its very own zip-line. If you want to get from the Great House to the beach of Bali Lo in a hurry - say, for example, lunch is ready and waiting - you can just zip all the way down, taking in the gorgeous views of jungle, flamingos flying overhead, blue seas, jungle and sandy white bays. It's just another of the island's quirky touches.
6 6. Celebrity Guests: Actor Geena Davis
Thelma and Louise actor Geena Davis honeymooned on Necker Island after her marriage to second husband, film director Renny Harlin, in 1993.
Two years later, the couple - perhaps inspired by their Caribbean adventure - made the movie Cutthroat Island together, which has gone down as one of the biggest box office flops on record.
The film cost over $95m, was pulled from US cinemas after just two weeks, and incurred losses of more than $100m, according to The Independent. The marriage didn't fare much better, with the couple splitting in 1998.