Once a haute for celebrities and fashionistas, Whale Cay boasts 12 miles of crystal blue waters, located just 30 miles off the coast of Florida in The Berry Islands Bahamas. Known to host many celebrity parties, it’s owner – Marion Barbara ‘Joe’ Carstairs, a British heiress, bought this island in 1934 and transformed it into an oasis, equipped with a dock, school, church, fish cannery and shop. Carstairs was well known on the London circuit having earned her reputation as a wealthy cross-dressing heiress, who was a speed boat racing champion, carried a doll with her wherever she went and often dressed as a man.
Whale Cay is surrounded by some of the region’s best boating and fishing waters, and the island is being sold for £12 million as a development project with dozens of residential plots. However, it was Carstairs who catapulted the island to fame. Hailed as the “fastest woman on water” Carstairs was celebrated in twenties Britain, as its top speedboat racer and held a world record in the sport.
Never one to shy away from the limelight, Carstairs opened the fashionable X Garage, a London chauffeur service, staffed entirely by women. She was rumoured to have an affair with actress Tallulah Bankhead.
In 1934, Carstairs decided to take a break from her life in London and bought Whale Cay for just USD $40,000. She became the island’s self appointed leader, ruling over the local people, making laws, officiating over marriages and births (naming all newborn children on the island) and even setting up a private militia.
Locals from neighbouring islands were employed to clear and build the island and its Great House, where she was said to host many lovers including Marlene Dietrich. The island’s population eventually grew to several hundred people.
In 1975 Carstairs sold Whale Cay for USD$1 million and moved to Florida. However, the island and some of its many cottages and guest houses remained in a state of disrepair.
Today, the plan is to redevelop the existing coastline with preliminary Government approval. There is also potential to develop a marina to the north of Whale Cay.
Electricity for the Great House and surrounding buildings comes from private diesel generators and sewage disposal is also managed in private septic tanks, while water comes from rainwater catchment cisterns on each building and from a well. Telecommunication is via satellite or mobile phone.
There is a paved airstrip on Whale Cay for private flights, while Chub Cay, five miles to the west, has customs and immigration, a marina, restaurant and fuel and supply shops.
The island’s beauty and charm makes it an idyllic setting for any occasion and it is in no doubt that Whale Cay will continue to attract many visitors to its beautiful shores.
Reference: The Independent