The Glamorous Legacy of The Ocean Club

Paradise Island, Bahamas

Considered the most spectacular island in all of the Bahamas, Paradise Island has always caught the imagination of the world’s elite. 

In 1939, Swedish industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren – then one of the world’s wealthiest men – was sailing his yacht through the Caribbean when he discovered this slender island of white sand, extending 8 kilometres (5 miles) in length and 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) in width. He learned that locals called it Hog Island. Wenner-Gren was captivated by its natural beauty and, over the course of more than two decades, he transformed this tropical hideaway into a magnificent estate, featuring meticulous gardens inspired by the Palace of Versailles in France.

Huntington Hartford II, the A&P supermarket heir, arrived in 1959, and bought Hog Island from Wenner-Gren. With a vision to create an international resort destination, he renamed it Paradise Island.

Hartford hired Palm Beach architect John Volk to design the original Ocean Club, a luxurious 52-room hotel, along with an 18-hole golf course. (The original rooms are now known as the Hartford Wing.) The opening party in 1962 featured such guests as Zsa Zsa Gabor, Benny Goodman, William Randolph Hearst, Burl Ives, and a host of international dignitaries. Fireworks for the event were flown in from the South of France. 

Hartford invested significantly in the Ocean Club, embellishing the 14-hectare (35-acre) property with terraced gardens, fountains and marble statuary. He also acquired and installed the Cloisters, the remains of a 12th-century French Augustinian monastery, originally purchased by William Randolph Hearst in the 1920s and long stored in a Florida warehouse. In 2000, enhancements continued with the addition of beachfront accommodations, the Balinese-style spa villas and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s DUNE restaurant.

The Ocean Club features prominently in the 2006 remake of the James Bond film Casino Royale, in which Bond swims on the beach, plays a masterful game of poker in the bar, and spends a romantic night in a villa residence. It’s a memorable addition to the long and glamorous legacy of The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, Bahamas.