Once upon a time, amidst the turquoise waters of the British Virgin Islands, a love story began on a small and enchanting island called Marina Cay. It all started with Robb and Rodie White, a couple who stumbled upon this pristine paradise in 1937. They instantly fell in love with the island's serene beauty and decided to stay.
Robb and Rodie, adventurous and resourceful, overcame many challenges building their house on Marina Cay and creating a unique life amidst their stunning surroundings. An accomplished author, Robb wrote of their experiences in his 1953 book, Our Virgin Island. Sadly, the Whites failed to get a license to purchase the land from the BVI government, so they decided to return to the states. The original house Robb and Rodie built still stands today.
In 1958, their story caught the attention of a British film company, and soon enough, the book was adapted and made into the movie, “Virgin Island,” starring John Cassavetes, Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Virginia Maskell. The movie was shot on location, showcasing the island's mesmerizing landscapes and captivating the hearts of people around the world.
A New York City native, Eugene “Gene” Tonkonogy obsessively read classic adventure stories located in wild climes. He fantasized getting away to experience these untouched places. In a dentist’s waiting room, he read about the British Virgin Islands in a story by Robb White in the April 1940 issue of Esquire Magazine, and he was hooked. He started a many-year correspondence with White who helped him find his way to Marina Cay, and it was everything he dreamed of. By the early 50’s he started to doggedly pursue purchasing the island and in 1956 the family who owned it decided to sell. Gene got the license from the government and was able to realize his dream.
As the years went by, Marina Cay continued to capture the hearts of many. Originally from the U.K., Jean and Allan Batham, a couple filled with an insatiable wanderlust, found their way to the island. They were enthralled by the romance and serenity Marina Cay exuded. The Bathams decided to lease the island from Gene and became custodians of Marina Cay's legacy. Under their care, Marina Cay flourished as a simple yet iconic resort, renowned for its warm hospitality, delicious cuisine and cocoon-like tranquility.
But Marina Cay's love story didn't end there. It entwined with the tale of Pusser’s, a legendary brand known for its delicious rum and maritime heritage. Pussers' founder, Charles Tobias, discovered the magical spirit of Marina Cay and its people. He decided to establish a Pusser’s outpost on the island, infusing it with the brand's nautical charm and a Caribbean menu, which attracted sailors, local residents and travelers from far and wide.
Sadly, on September 6, 2017, the island was completely devastated by Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm. In 2022, Mainsail Lodging & Development, the owner and operator of Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, secured the lease for Marina Cay and committed to reactivating the island. On June 26, 2023, Marina Cay Bar & Grill opened to the public.
And so, the love story of Marina Cay continues. It remains a testament to the power of love, passion, and the enduring beauty of the British Virgin Islands. Robb and Rodie White, Eugene Tonkonogy, the Bathams, and Pusser’s all contributed to the tale of Marina Cay, each leaving their indelible mark on its vibrant history. Immortalized in the pages of a book and the frames of a movie, Marina Cay continues to captivate hearts and kindle the flames of love in the hearts of all who visit.