If you don't feel at home unless you're surrounded by a "Who's Who?" of celebrities, then Beverly Park is the community for you. With about 80 well-manicured homes nestled in the hills above Los Angeles, it's actually two gated communities, North Beverly Park and South Beverly Park. Luminaries live in both, but those in the know say the northern estates are more opulent.
Prepare to be cleared at the guardhouse before entering this refuge, where multimillion-dollar mansions have housed actors, media kingpins and athletes. Stars who have called Beverly Park home include actors Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy, athletes Barry Bonds and Magic Johnson, media magnate Sumner Redstone and "Power Rangers" mogul Haim Saban.
A minimum building size in the covenants keeps out shanties, and the community's homeowner associations are known to be tough critics of the estates' exteriors. Prices of these properties can exceed $30 million.
Unlike the well-established gated communities such as Beverly Park, Brentwood Country Estates in the Mandeville Canyon area of the Santa Monica Mountains is newer, smaller and lower-profile.
Completed in 1991 by the Hilton family of hotels fame, the exclusive community offers 24-hour guarded gates. Outgoing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger owns a seven-bedroom residence here. Down the street, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his supermodel spouse, Gisele Bundchen, are building a 22,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style manse on a 3.75-acre lot they purchased in 2008 for $11.8 million, according to published reports.
There are only about a dozen other home sites in this private subdivision, with only one remaining unsold: a 4.3-acre lot listed for $29.5 million.
When Hawaii's gated village Hualalai grew a bit too big, with Michael Dell and Charles Schwab among the 300 residents rubbing shoulders with tourists at its Four Seasons resort, some members felt squeezed.
In the late 1990s, Dell and Schwab joined property developers in planning Kuki'o, a more hermetic Hawaiian enclave on an adjacent property.
Membership in the community is highly exclusive, and there is no hotel. Amenities include a beach club that attracts elite athletes to instruct members in various beach sports, a spa and fitness center, an elegant restaurant and beach bar, an 18-hole golf course designed by Tom Fazio, a 10-hole golf course and several golf clubhouses.
A private jet is available to speed members to the mainland.
If you're seeking a community where even the ocean is patrolled around the clock, look no farther than the Sanctuary. One the toniest gated communities in Boca Raton, it lies near the Intracoastal Waterway. "You have 24-hour security at the gate, on the roads and on the water," says real-estate agent Carmen D'Angelo of Premiere Estate Properties in Boca Raton.
Established in 1979 and attractive to entrepreneurs, corporate executives and trust-funders, The Sanctuary has about 82 homes. It also has a California-contemporary look that's been evolving with a number of tear-downs in recent years. "The trend now is to take two lots and build one house on it," D'Angelo says.
The ultraexclusive Vintage Country Club in the Coachella Valley is where Bill Gates was admonished for appearing at a practice tee in a T-shirt. The attire was considered too casual for this superelite, gated golf enclave, founded in 1979 and tucked into this desert town among other gated golf communities.
Club membership comes only via nomination; homeownership does not guarantee it.
"The Vintage is probably one of the more snobby neighborhoods to get into," says John McMonigle of The McMonigle Group, a real-estate firm in California's Orange County. "A lot of people get turned down from The Vintage."
This gated, barrier-island community has served as a refuge for Fortune 500 executives, politicians and industrialists since 1969. "You've got all the major CEOs there," says real-estate agent Carmen D'Angelo of Premiere Estate Properties. "It's not flashy, but (it's) very exclusive."
With about 1,800 residents, many living in Georgian-style homes that lend the community its aristocratic feel, John's Island is one of the larger guard-gated communities — and tightly gated it is.
John's Island developers also built Lost Tree Village, another gated refuge in North Palm Beach, Fla., where security guards in golf carts reportedly patrol with German shepherds in tow.
Indian Creek is not just a gated community. It's a gated, 300-acre island and a tiny village. With only about three dozen Spanish villas and colonial mansions and a dozen police officers, it's one of the most secure patches of ground around. Patrols extend to Biscayne Bay, as well. No one gets past the island's solitary gatehouse without an invitation.
Indian Creek is especially popular with celebrities and the international set, and residents respect one another's privacy — no unannounced house calls. The pedigreed community, developed in the 1930s, also has a private, Maurice Fatio-designed country club and an 18-hole golf course.
One of several gated communities in Laguna Beach with top-dollar oceanfront homes, Emerald Bay distinguishes itself by counting the residences of billionaire Warren Buffett and former U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth among its roughly 522 dwellings.
About 20 of those are worth more than $20 million, down from about 90 at the height of the market, with about eight waterfront properties having stratospheric values of more than $35 million, says Nancy Casebier, a lifelong resident and a real-estate agent with Coast Sotheby's International Realty.
Emerald Bay began as a modest yet idyllic community built in the 1920s and 1930s on steep hillsides 50 miles south of Los Angeles. It has transformed into a wealthy, diverse enclave with one of the few private beaches in California — the community owns the actual rocks — in addition to tennis courts, a pool complex, a new clubhouse and 135 acres of parkland.
Gated communities are rare in the Northeast, and one of the few — and most exclusive — is this 1,500-acre refuge established in the 1980s for the horse set in Greenwich. Besides home sites with bounteous acreage — a minimum of 10 acres each — and community polo facilities, the 24-hour security in Conyers Farm appeals to film and television celebrities, such as director Ron Howard and TV anchor Paula Zahn. There are also plenty of Wall Street types at Conyers, including David Stockman, who was director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Reagan administration.
With about 96 home sites outlined with white fences, Conyers Farm has extensive guidelines, deed restrictions and an outspoken planning committee that has prevented construction of at least one 39,000-square-foot McMansion. Home values range from about $8 million to $34 million, though one estate that sold for $45 million before the recession is probably worth more now, says David Ogilvy of David Ogilvy and Associates in Greenwich.
One of several gated enclaves overlooking Lake Washington, this tiny community with fewer than a dozen homes has attracted the likes of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and former Microsoft Corp. executive Greg Maffei.
The estate features private lanes and stately traditional homes of 5,000 to 15,000 square feet that were built in the 1940s and 1950s. They are now are the most secure in Seattle, says Brian Losh, chief executive of real-estate agency Ewing & Clark Inc.