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The Island Life

Alex Frazer-Harrison, Calgary Herald  July 16, 2006

You don't have to be a reclusive billionaire hiding away in a tropical paradise to own an island anymore.

It's possible to find actual islands for sale in Ontario and off the coast of British Columbia, just waiting for the right owner to come along.

"There's something magical about owning an islands by yourself," says Victoria-based Peter Nash, realtor and founder of Newport Realty, who sells island properties on his website

"Once you sleep on an island,  you'll never be quite the same."

The cost of buying your own island can vary widely. Nash lists one private island, Scott Island, at $4.9 million. An undeveloped island, Bute Island, is available for $1.1 million,  or not much more than a luxury top-of-the-line condo in Canmore.

If that sounds a little steep, "we have also  got individual  properties on islands like little Secret Island and Wise Island," says Nash. "You have your own private section and it's still like having your own island because not everyone is on top  of you. Some of these properties have their own docks and some don't.

"It's a less expensive option- you can get such properties for prices like $420,000 and $580,000."

Of course, he adds, having your own private island requires you to have access to a boat or seaplane, and some islands are completely undeveloped- the ultimate "fixer-upper".

Many of the properties Nash deals with are in the Gulf Islands, and around the major islands of Saltspring and Galiano, all within relatively close proximity to Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver.

Nash says islands vary widely in terms of what services (if any) are available, which can appeal to recreation property owners who truly want to escape from civilization.

"People will buy an island and say, 'what do I do with it?'" he says. "Some of the smaller islands have no services, so it does become a bit of a Survivor thing, but some people seem to enjoy that. They want a totally different lifestyle, with no phones and power by generator.

"I sold part of an island, and the people who lived there brought over their own water and propane - they liked the challenge."

But it's not for everyone, Nash adds. "You'll get people who come from the big city and they just can't relate (to the island)- they want the city."

Other island options are available to buyers seeking a true escape. The Queen Charlotte Islands are starting to gain in popularity, for example, says Rudy Nielsen, president of NIHO Land & Cattle Co. of New Westminster, B.C.

"When you go to the Queen Charlottes, it's unbelievable what your see,"  he says. "There are no cellphones, no McDonald's and no Burger Kings. The Haida out there are some of the most talented woodcarvers in the world. You can rent a boat and you'll come back with your limit in salmon and  halibut."

Nielsen, who is currently developing ocean-front lots in the island chain, says he gets a lot of interest from Alberta.

"About half of the license plates I see are from Alberta."