2017 is a special year for North Beach Island. It is 20 years since the first guests discovered our golden sands. We want it to be the year you discover our hidden paradise.
The journey all started when Reuben James, a Barbudan local, regularly stopped off on the empty beach during fishing trips.
“I went to North Beach as a kid with my family for picnics. From North Beach you can see where the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea meet. We would go spear fishing, have a picnic cookout and then go home.
“I ran a taxi service when I was young and one day I had a call from someone at the airport about a young lady who needed picking up. I met her and I asked her where she was going to and she said ‘I don’t know’, and I asked where she was staying and she said ‘I don’t know that either’. I took this lady to a local resort in the southern part of the island and arranged for her to stay there. She turned out to be a writer for Time magazine.”
She wrote a 2-inch by 2-inch article in Time magazine and, from then on, the resort was full until it was sold to the K Club many years ago now. She wanted to keep coming to Barbuda and told Reuben that, if he could find somewhere for her to stay, or even build something, then she would continue to come.
Reuben realised that North Beach could be that destination: “I knew that I could probably do something at North Beach, so I approached the Barbuda Council in 1985 for the rights to the land, which were granted, and I built the first cottage and cleared the land.
“There are no roads to North Beach, so you can’t drive a car there. I bought a tractor and built a rake behind it and cleared the land with a cutlass and hired a few people to help. We began to build! The biggest nightmare in building was actually getting the materials across, that was extremely difficult.
I had to do several trips in my own small boat, a 15ft Boston whaler which is still around. I remember one time in particular taking out materials, zinc sheets etc., loading them to travel eight miles along the shore, unloading them from the boat and I just crashed down on the beach in exhaustion. It was just so much work.”
Construction of the first cottage started in 1986. In 1987 the second cottage was built along with the kitchen and dining area.
“I had a dream of getting something done. The challenge of getting the palm trees out there was massive. I planted the small ones all by myself 30 years ago.”
“The construction took quite some time and I had promised that lady that something would be built. I had no money. In Barbuda, you have no title to the land so you cannot take it to the bank as collateral. You have to do it all out of your own pocket. We added a water pump, a reverse osmosis plant and a water system. We took over a generator for the electricity.”
Over time the cottages were built, and then life at North Beach started to capture the imagination of those guests who visited.
“Some people say it is like the Robinson Crusoe experience, others say it is like the Adam and Eve experience when you are there. There is nothing to distract you apart from the sound of the waves, the gentle breeze, the sound of the trees and the magical sight of waves breaking on the reef.”