If you have been to Disney’s Castaway Cay, you know just how beautiful and peaceful it is. But if you have been on Disney’s little piece of heaven, you probably didn’t realize that only 5.5% of the island is being used. Castaway Cay, formerly known as Gorda Cay, is actually 1,000 acres but Disney only uses 55 of those acres. I’ve been very fascinated with the story of Castaway Cay. Of course like everything Disney, it needed a back story, right? What I found was not always “Disney-like” and the accounts are not necessarily the same from one source to another.
There are various stories about Gorda Cay, near Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, prior to the 1950’s. Some believe that the many hidden alcoves made a great hiding place for pirates waiting to ambush passing merchant ships. It is possible Blackbeard himself walked on the island. Well, that fits in with the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, doesn’t it??
A real estate agent from Nassau, Alvin Tucker, purchased a large portion of the land in the 1960’s and built the 2400 foot airstrip that is still there today (although no longer used). Unfortunately drug smugglers began to take over the tiny area. Tucker’s landing strip was used to help bring narcotics into Florida. Tucker tried to stop the crimes but since the area authorities were involved, there was nothing he could do. Tucker and the other owners of the land supposedly were not even able to visit their own private paradise because of the criminals and their Dobermans would chase them away. An American drug trafficker, Frank Barber, purchased the landing strip from Tucker so he could utilize it for his own gain. Supposedly Barber had plans to turn the island into a resort but his plans were thwarted when there was a drug bust on the island in 1983. Barber went to jail and died before his sentence had ended.
According to the official Disney website the island was used by European settlers in 1783 who were escaping exile from the American Revolution. Now that sounds much more like a Disney story, doesn’t it? Interestingly enough, the official Disney website states that the island of Gorda Cay was used in the filming of the 1984 smash comedy, “Splash” starring Tom Hanks. But Disney did not purchase Gorda Cay until 1996.
In our next installment on Castaway Cay we will talk about what it took to build the paradise we know today.