Hidden in Plain Sight

Ringed by marsh grasses and speckled with towering live oaks, the private sanctuary of Buck Island tantalizes from the shores of Hilton Head Island. With its rooflines peeking up among the treetops, it hints at the opulence that awaits any who chance to visit — or the lucky soul who might call it home.

There are stories, legends even, that surround Buck Island. Just a small sliver of the Calibogue Sound separates it from the grand manors and manicured golf courses of Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island, just enough water to breed haphazard guesses about its grounds.

These stories speak of a grand central house, its metal-roofed turret just piercing the treeline. Of lushly landscaped grounds that surround it, their verdant fields just visible to anyone who pilots close to the western seawall. Of the fleet of ships on the eastern bank, at the end of an arrow-straight dock that traverses 850 feet of marsh grass, and the opulence they represent.

These stories hint at what awaits. But they don’t approach telling the whole story.

THE ISLAND

What is now known as Buck Island was once connected by a thin sliver of sandbar to Brams Point in Spanish Wells, the wealthy enclave tucked away on Hilton Head Island’s Broad Creek. When the timber companies came to raid Hilton Head’s rich forests, they carved a channel for their barges. In the process, they cut Buck Island off from the mainland, inadvertently creating one of the most exclusive pieces of property on the East Coast.

Seizing on the opportunity, a wealthy Wall Street investor purchased the land in the 1980s and got to work cultivating his own private retreat. Many of the stories surrounding Buck Island center on him — how he flew in on his private jet once a week to spend weekends among the island’s secluded greenery. The accuracy of these stories varies with the telling, but in total they’re not far off.

What is concrete fact is that he created a true jewel of the South on Buck Island. Clearing away scrub brush he built his compound around a magnificent central house, more than 7,000 square feet that enjoys unfettered views of the surrounding waters. Spilling away from the house are gardens and grounds that seem almost unreal in their beauty. The vast koi pond, nestled among old-growth trees, sparkles in the sunlight, as does the dazzling blue swimming pool. Trails give way to an elevated point at the island’s south end, affording views across acres of grassy marsh.

“You can stand on the shores of Buck Island and feel like you’re miles away from the world. But Hilton Head Island is just a short boat ride away. There’s nothing else like it.”

An island unto itself, the north end is the more rustic half of the island, with a simple guest cottage evoking blissful country charm among live oaks, palmettoes and water on all sides. Inside, a relaxed atmosphere informs more than 2,000 square feet, complete with wraparound porch and spacious second-story master suite. And just beyond the front porch, the land rises to a point, a swinging chair providing a front row seat to the best sunsets on earth.

THE HOME

The grandeur of the central house both contrasts and embraces the rustic solitude around it. A vast central atrium of marble, festooned with statuary, presents a suitably grandiose entrance. Yet to one side, a hallway encircles a glass enclosure, through which a centuries-old live oak rises up past the roof. And throughout its corridors, small surprises await around every corner: the wood-paneled study with its hearth hand-crafted from fallen timbers; the guest rooms with their endless comforts; the luxuriously modern kitchen, anchored by a slab of marbled granite; the sprawling master suite, with its private access to a gym and an office overlooking the kitchen.

To learn more about Buck Island, visit buckisland.info.

Subscribe now to the print edition to read the full article or get instant access to our interactive digital edition.