“St. Kitts is like a drumstick, and we’re at the little end.”
So says Buddy Darby, the man behind the Caribbean island’s ambitious luxury property development, Christophe Harbour. It’s an accurate description of this tiny isle—just 18 miles from chunky top to skinny bottom—where Darby saw an opportunity not to be missed. “I came down here in 1997 after Thanksgiving and I went, ‘Holy moly.’ There aren’t many unspoiled places in the world where I can impact security, landscaping, and architecture over 2,500 acres.”
At the time, Darby was just wrapping up another residential project on Kiawah Island in his native South Carolina and was loathe to lose the dream team of architects, marketing pros, and designers he’d assembled over the years. “We could finish each other’s sentences. They knew my quality levels and we’d done a lot of great projects together,” he explains. When he saw the site on the southeastern peninsula of St. Kitts in all its unspoiled green glory, he instantly envisaged the luxury residential resort community it could become, and he had the right people on speed dial to help make it happen.
Today, the results of his vision are plain for all to see in the custom-designed villas, grand estates, and cozy cottages dotted across the development’s many hills and sandy beaches. For potential buyers, the only headache is deciding exactly what and where to buy. There are options to move into a custom-built property, buy through fractional ownership, or build a bespoke dream home. The most impatient of customers will likely opt for the former, where $4 million will buy you the likes of 8 Mariner’s Call, which sits pretty on Sandy Bank Bay and offers 180-degree ocean views, four enormous bedrooms, and a pool.
All properties are built with the island’s precious natural environment in mind and must be approved by the Christophe Harbour Design Review Board. There will be no high-rises or eyesores here, thank you very much, even for those building from scratch. With Darby at the helm and architect John Haley behind much of the design, this is destined to be an environmentally sensitive site.
At Salt Plage, for example, Haley upcycled material from an old sugar mill and salt warehouse to create an achingly cool beach bar. Meanwhile, his airy Pavilion beach club for Christophe Harbour members, filled with colonial-style ceiling fans and polished woods, resembles a giant palm frond from above and is a perfect fit for the tropical surroundings. “The guy is incredibly talented,” says Darby of the architect. “I gave him the seed of an idea for these places and he ran with it.
Beautiful design aside, the St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment program is a draw for buyers, though it’s not the driving force, according to Darby. “Christophe Harbour is a resort community,” he says. “What we really do is create a lifestyle for like-minded people so they can bring their families here—we are very kid-friendly.” That’s an unusual offering in much of the Caribbean, he adds. “We love St. Barths, and I’m glad its 28 miles from our north end, but unless your baby drinks rosé out of a sippy cup, there’s nothing for kids to do.”
The communal areas Darby talks about include a superyacht marina, a vital piece of the Christophe Harbour puzzle as it makes the entire development extremely unusual for the region. Aeneas Hollins, director of yachting and previously Darby’s superyacht captain, likens the development to Porto Cervo, an exclusive 19-mile stretch of coast in Sardinia developed by the Aga Khan. “Buddy’s vision of a destination marina is crucial to what we’re doing. All the guest-appropriate amenities are onsite,” says Hollins. These amenities include VIP customs and clearance, 24-hour security, and in-berth fueling as well as a swiftly increasing spread of shops, restaurants, and cafés.
The marina is already up and running, and Darby’s very own Perini Navi sailing yacht, Andromeda la Dea, is often parked there alongside others taking advantage of the island’s central location between Antigua and St. Maarten. By the time the project is complete, there will be 250 alongside berths, 50 of which will be suitable for yachts up to 250 feet. The berths are sold as property freehold, a unique situation, according to Hollins.
“There is no other large yacht berth in the world that is freehold title as far as we know,” says the yachting director. “This is true legal ownership. It’s yours in perpetuity and you can rent it out, gift it—basically do whatever you can do with a property.” The future will see regattas, races, and potentially even boat shows taking place, offering up yet more reason to bag a berth now.
In terms of incentives, there is still much to look forward to at Christophe Harbour, a project that Darby predicts will continue to blossom for another 20 years yet. Work on a Tom Fazio-designed golf course begins next year, whilst the recent opening of the Park Hyatt St Kitts Christophe Harbour Hotel has created a buzz extending far beyond the Caribbean and onto the pages of glossy travel magazines worldwide. Set on Banana Bay within the Christophe Harbour development, the hotel adds another layer of luxury to the area for residents and travelers alike, including an ocean-front restaurant, Fisherman’s Village, and destination spa.
The hotel’s opening is expected to encourage airlines to add more flights from around the world, extending the appeal far beyond America, where direct flights to St. Kitts are available from Miami, New York, and Charlotte. After all, the island’s sunny weather is no doubt a hit with travelers coming from cooler climes. For Darby, though, the opposite is true. “I like coming here in July when I’m dying with the humidity in Charleston,” he says. “They don’t have that here.” St. Kitts, it seems, can keep everyone happy.