There probably isn’t a bad way to see Mustique. After all, this 1,400-acre island in the Grenadines is quiet. It’s gorgeous. And it’s exceptionally private.
Once farmed for sugar, the island was bought by Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner, in 1958 for less than $70,000. In 1960 he presented Princess Margaret with 10 acres as a wedding gift where she built a villa, Les Jolies Eaux. It was the beginning of the rich and famous migration. In 1968 the Mustique Co. was formed, and the following year the airport was opened, the Cotton House hotel began receiving guests and the first villas were built. The Mustique Co. was sold to the 55 homeowners of the island in 1988. Today, there are more than 100 villas, with more than 70 of these in the Mustique Co. villa rental program.
The island is spectacularly pretty, but so are dozens of others in the Caribbean. Mustique, however, is one of the only places in the world where the privacy of residents and visitors is assured. The Mustique Co. books the flights that land at its airport, and it makes sure paparazzi don’t sneak in. It’s hard to overstate the value of being able to step out of the media glare when you’re someone whose every move is considered worthy of print and photo space.
But even the famous and camera-shy get cabin fever, and when they do, they go to Basil’s Bar, a thatched joint that overhangs the water. It’s pretty much the only show in town. Sure, the Cotton House has a lovely bar and restaurant, as does the Firefly Inn, but Basil’s manages to maintain an independent vibe in a place that might otherwise be almost too perfect. It’s definitely more casual, and it has long welcomed cruisers who can pick up a mooring for a few days and enjoy the island’s charms. Wednesday night’s Barbecue and Jump Up at Basil’s is an island institution.
Everybody on Mustique knows Basil. Basil Charles, Order of the British Empire, has been presiding over the bar for more than 30 years and is the de facto king of Mustique. Yes, he parties with Jagger, but more important, he serves a mean roasted pig. A sailor, a tennis player, a businessman but above all a great host, Basil (and his bar) has seen some wild parties over the years. The best party, though, may be his annual Mustique Blues Festival at the end of January. It began on a dare after an old friend, jazz singer Dana Gillespie, spontaneously performed at Basil’s Bar one night. If Basil got a decent piano, she promised, she’d come back with her band. The next year, piano at the ready, Dana and her London Band kept their word, and the Mustique Blues Festival was born. Each year the profits from the two-week festival go to the Basil Charles Education Trust, to benefit the children of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.