There’s an elegant blonde sitting a few rows ahead of me on the airplane, sporting a Givenchy bag and Prada boots. You don’t see many Newfoundlanders dressed in designer duds, much less those flying into Gander. I bet she’s going to the Fogo Island Inn, I think to myself, but I lose sight of her at baggage claim and can’t ask. I, however, am 100% going to the Fogo Island Inn and make my way from the airport to the Gander ferry terminal.
At the ferry terminal, our Fogo Island guide, Patricia, hands over a Tupperware contain crammed with Partridgeberry jam tarts. Her sister-in-law made them, not wanting us to be hungry on the journey and all. While we wait for the ferry, munching on the sticky tarts, Patricia reads us a poem. Looking back, I can’t remember what the poem was. It doesn’t matter. It was calming.
I was keyed up about the ferry being a few minutes late, but no more. Time feels suspended out here. And I’m excited about the prospect of going through a tickle, which is really just a fancy way of saying your boat is going through a narrow inlet.
Fogo Island Inn
It’s just past dusk when we arrive on island and consequently, driving up to Fogo Island Inn isn’t as big of a rush as I expected. It’s dark, and from the single lane road, it looks almost institutional from a distance. Until you get up close and spot the stilts.
Perched overlooking the North Atlantic, this bold architectural statement is in the shape of an X – just as Fogo Island is. The stilts are a nod to Newfoundland’s fishing stages, but being a very secure wooden and steel structure, the inn kinda feels like you’re on a ship. Or a luxe bed and breakfast without the annoying hosts.
Interiors are modern, but not at the expense of charm. Local artisans have made all the chairs and quilts. Floor boards are pale, walls are white washed walls, and I’m in love with the quirky wall paper. My room is kitted out with a crocheted rug, binoculars and fancy Japanese-style toilet. Guest rooms directly overlook an outcrop of rocks, but it’s so dark, I can’t really tell what’s out there.
Just minutes after sinking into the rocking chair, there’s a knock at my door. “This is your welcome bread,” says a staffer as she gingerly places a tray loaded with mini loaves, butter, molasses and tea on my bed. I plop down beside it and wolf it down, thoroughly enjoying this impromptu mini picnic. It couldn’t be anymore delightful.
Dining at Fogo Island Inn
Sadly, I don’t have time to dawdle. Dinner is in less than an hour and I’ve still got to unpack and freshen up. When I arrive at the dining room, I laugh. Remember that elegant blonde I saw on my flight to Gander? Here she is, nursing a pre-dinner cocktail with her husband. Or lover. You never know…
Back to the dining room, it’s equally as stunning the rest of the property. Because I know their kitchen is top notch, I was expecting a slightly stuffy dining room, but that’s certainly not the case. Everything is light, bright and airy. There’s floor to ceiling windows overlooking the steely Atlantic waters. Chandeliers constructed of sailing rope, are draped into flower shapes with filament lights at the core. Food is local and sustainable. They even breakdown the economics of it all.
For dinner, we each get a choice of starter, entree and dessert. The chanterelles have just been foraged and are smothered with a smokey cheddar sauce and partridge berries. Halibut is caught old fashioned way – hand lined. It’s a meaty fish, but melts in your mouth. It tastes like no other halibut I’ve ever had. Even if you’re not staying at the Inn, you’ll want to dine here. If you are overnighting, meals are included.
More on Fogo Island Inn
Exhausted after dinner, I immediately fall into my quilted bed. For the first time in looong time, I sleep with the curtains open – even though there’s the light of the full moon and a lighthouse blinking not far off in the distance.
I really want to be wowed when I wake up. You’re being ridiculous, I think to myself as I drift off to sleep, swept away by the rhythmic pounding of the surf. I often over hype things. Not this though. I literally gasped when I opened my eyes in the morning.
At first all I see is miles upon miles of inky blue sea. Then I spot the foam being whipped up as the Atlantic surges into the craggy rocks studded along the shoreline. It feels so very remote. Like I’m the only person in the world witnessing these tides.
I peak outside my door to find a day break tray ready and waiting for me. There’s a lassie bun, strong black tea and partridgeberry juice sweetened with maple syrup. Sipping a cuppa and munching on this raisin bun while cocooned underneath layers of quilts feels like the height of decadence – especially when there’s more breakfast to be had. In the dining room, I tuck into mushrooms on toast, a perfectly poached egg and steal some of my companions tricked out oatmeal. Then we get moving.
Fogo Island is more than just a stunning place to rest your head, trust. You could hike up Brimstone Head (as we do) for epic panoramic views. It’s an easy 15-20 minute jaunt and we forage for berries along the way. Afterwards, we visit the quirky Flat Earth Museum, where there are artifacts gathered from “the beyond.” If you’re a believer, Fogo is acknowledged as one of the four corners of the earth. (Hydra Greece, Bermuda and Papa New Guinea round out the square.) Brimstone Head, where we hiked earlier in the day is the exact corner.
Next up, we take a tour of island with a few of the Foley brothers. Each stay at the inn includes a half-day island orientation with a community host. Fergus and his brother Norm take us to the beach for a traditional Newfoundland boil up. Martin, the singing brother joins us for a mug up and a few tunes. We munch on fresh cod cakes, pickled beets, moose stew and homemade bread.
To say Fogo Island Inn has revitalized the local economy, would be an understatement. It’s drawing visitors to the island like no other attraction has. If the inn does well, everybody does well. The inn was founded by the Shorefast Foundation, a registered Canadian charity whose mission is to preserve the island’s culture and economic resilience. There aren’t many opportunities in this world to take a luxe vacation, get cultured and help the local economy so directly. This is what makes Fogo Island Inn so remarkable.
Have you ever been to Fogo Island or to Newfoundland? If not, would you like to go?
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