Imagine a palm-fringed Caribbean island retreat that feels more like a discreet and exclusive club than a luxury resort.
Fiona Joseph experiences the good life in the tropical paradise of Jumby Bay – and we present some of the magical properties to choose from for your perfect stay on the ultimate private island destination.
Swaying palms at sunset on Jumby Bay Resort’s idyllic beach
Gardens and poolside areas areas on Jumby Bay are designed to make the most of the island’s natural beauty and offer vistas of ocean and sky
Life is slow on Jumby Bay, the air pillowy with heat, and as we approach its 300 tropical acres – reachable only by boat, and two miles off Antigua – the first thing to come into focus is a lone hammock. That’s surely fitting for this, the perfect private island destination – a place where you know you’re not alone, yet you never feel crowded – and where days slip by, flooded with sunshine. Everybody seems to know one another on the island, at least a little, and strangers are absorbed effortlessly.
Stepping onto the sun-bleached dock, one feels a sense of instant calm. There are no ceremonial rituals on arrival, no room keys, cars or even the rattle of a bicycle chain (since the arrival of near-silent belt-driven models). It has no deep dock for a mega-yacht or private runway to land a plane. Light switches are just that, switches, not iPad- operated algorithms. Of course the appearance of simplicity requires considerable effort – a fact that can be attributed to the generations of residents for whom Jumby Bay is home and who have gone to exceptional lengths to preserve its authenticity and charm.
Alongside the many private residences, there is a single hotel, which has just undergone a subtle and stylish makeover achieved by a roster of tastemakers, including Brazilian interior designer Patricia Anastassiadis. The changes are subtle: think rattan rather than wicker and nautical curiosities mixed up with driftwood decor. Meanwhile Vermont-based skincare star Tata Harper has taken over the fresh, five-suite Spa. Needless to say the line-up, while low key, is completely on point. No less important to the life of the island is Jerry Williams – a Davis Cup veteran who has been coaching tennis here for many years, and who personifies the kind of long-standing, much-loved team of staff who quietly run this private island like clockwork.
Whether you seek a villa for a family getaway or a larger residence for a big house party, the island will have the perfect property for you
The palm-fringed beaches of this private island provide ideal spots for picnics, barbecues and sundowners
Beautiful landscaping makes the most of the verdant foliage and stunning flora that flourishes on this tropical island
The 40 hotel rooms and 56 private residences and villas maintain a discreet distance from each other. An assortment of skittle-coloured Mini Mokes and golf carts transport residents along leafy driveways to villas called Mariposa or Pure Turquoise. But Jumby Bay’s low-key ambience veils an underlying grandeur. Styles range wildly from the minimalist, 18,000 sq ft Asian-style architecture at Lazy Lizard, with its eight pavilions pivoting around a vast swimming pool, to the ocean-front, tumbling pink bougainvillea and floor-to-ceiling artwork at Turtle Crossing. Each comes with a full team of staff, private chefs if required, and all the island experiences you could dream up: croquet lawns, private beaches, floating dining pavilions and rooftop lookouts.
The hotel is no less impressive and special. Somehow a flock of black-headed sheep, which were brought to Jumby during the 1700s, are never far from view. There are three swimming pools offering a choice of different settings, all the hotel suites have sea-views, most have their own private pools and all have outdoor showers and bathtubs. Natural rhythms of the day prompt regular gatherings. Sunrise sees both residents and guests (should they so wish) setting off to collect eggs at the island’s farm. Then there’s lunch at the Beach Shack barbecue for fish tacos and nutmeg spiced rums. On Fridays, after the island’s own sailing regatta, residents host a farm-to-plate dinner on long communal tables with a backdrop of the organic kitchen garden.
Some properties have guest cottages, allowing for house parties which combine convivial socialising with moments of quiet and privacy
Architectural styles on the island encompass everything from contemporary chic to classic Caribbean
As the days draw to a close, there’s tea in the courtyard at the Estate House before the island moves into a more social gear for the evening. The original 1830s plantation house has been redesigned by Dennis Irvine to include a spectacularly chic enclave of smart private dining rooms, secret alcoves and a wine room – along with a Gatsby-style bar – while the main restaurant fringes the perimeter. The menu draws from the organic kitchen gardens; think baby beets and goat’s cheese with wasabi dressing followed by chicken cooked in Wadadli beer and blackstrap molasses with Jumby garden kale. The hotel’s two other restaurants – the Veranda and the Pool Grille – offer a rotation of typical Caribbean evenings with steel drums and dancing.
Life on the water is instinctive at Jumby Bay. The watersports club “22 Knots” has its own sailing academy, while boats leave daily for snorkelling trips to nearby islands. Guests can take advantage of paddle-boarding, kayaking, water-skiing and tubing – or something more sedate such as “Castaway”, which the Spa offers as an indulgent boat charter to your own secluded cove where a cabana and spa therapist await your arrival. Children’s activities, meanwhile, include raft-building, film-making and involvement in the turtle conservation programme.
Swimming pools on Jumby Bay come in all shapes and sizes – but always provide the perfect spot for relaxation
Island destinations each have their own allure – whether it’s buzzing nightlife or the whiff of a high-octane scandal or two. But at Jumby it’s a much more understated a air. And as “Private” and “Island” become two of the most precious words in any currency today, nothing more accurately sums up the singular appeal of Jumby Bay.
For all its sophistication, key to the appeal of Jumby Bay is the opportunity for a quiet moment, spent dozing in a hammock or floating in a pool
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