For our yearly get away from the kids to celebrate our anniversary, we were looking for something a little off the beaten path this year where we could just get away from it all. I had been reading and hearing such wonderful things about the Fogo Island Inn over the last two years and have been dying to go there and see first-hand what this place was all about. The opportunity finally came up and we took the plunge.
Even the many accolades of this place really do not do justice to Fogo Island Inn. You must at least once in your lifetime come to this magical place. It is not so much a holiday as really an experience of the senses. The topography changes by footsteps let alone miles exploring the eye popping natural beauty of the place. Your taste pallet is constantly overwhelmed by the incredible selection of locally sourced food offered at the Inn and your body feels incredible after all the insanely beautiful daily hikes and walks on their myriad trails. To hear the ocean and the crashing waves just outside your window as you fall asleep at night was the icing on the cake. The gracious staff, largely made of up locals from the island, could not have been more warm and welcoming. They really go out of their way to make your stay special and bend over backwards to make sure all your wishes are met.
The Inn is explicitly tied to the Fogo Island way of life, its architecture a reflection of the traditions of Newfoundland yet with clean lines, a high degree of modernity and sophistication. The Inn is a 40,000 square foot structure that rises above the horizon as you approach it from a distance. It just appears out of nowhere and unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. This place is a mash up of Iceland and the Na pali coast in Kauai. The topography changes on a dime. I felt sometimes while I was hiking as if I was on the moon.
There are 29 suites at the Inn. Our first night, we had this entire building to ourselves. The ensuing nights there were many guests from St. John’s Newfoundland (a dental convention if you can imagine) while other guests were from Toronto and photographers visiting from Vancouver and New York. Gwyneth Paltrow visited here over the summer as did the Prince of Monaco, our handsome Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with his family and a few aristocrats from England which the staff left nameless for privacy sake.
You essentially come to Fogo Island to drink in the spectacular scenery, hike, eat and relax. I have to say this was one of the first times I can remember where everyday I went on a hike, I could not wipe the grin off my face. You’re in such awe of what lays in front of you, it makes you grateful and gives you a sense of peace that places like this do exist.
Joe Batt’s Point
A rigorous 7 km walk leads you ultimately to the ocean’s edge with a great Auk bird sculpture waiting to greet you. Imagine you are literally at the end of the earth and in the middle of absolutely nothing is a giant sculpture of this incredible yet now extinct bird.
This is the ultimate in hikes – not too strenuous but certainly lengthy. This was the hike where your eyes adjust almost by the minute as the topography and the natural beauty of the place keep changing and changing. One minute you are on a cliff and around the next corner you are in the forest and then a lake or volcanic rock. Just astounding.
The 4 artists studios (Squish, Bridge, Tower and Long) designed by Todd Saunders in various locales on the island are an absolute must to visit. They are an integral part of the ‘Fogo Island Arts Initiative’ established in 2008, which supports local artistic exploration. Artists from around the globe come here to live in residence, work and potentially exhibit their works in the art gallery located at the Inn. These studios are really an architectural vision of beauty in the middle of nowhere. You come upon them and are completely blown away by how they just exist in the natural landscape. We were fortunate enough to meet one of the artists hiking his way to the bridge studio who allowed us to come inside and take a look.
The Inn serves the most incredible food and we anticipated each meal. Before you go down to breakfast, there is a the breakfast caddy waiting outside your door each morning with two fresh juices, the daily baked good of the day and huge pots of tea and coffee. In the dining room, there is one communal table designed to seat larger parties and plenty of two and four top seatings. The menus have a combination of a few constant dishes while other items change daily.
Every meal was a culinary delight – a sensory experience not easily replicated anywhere else in the world. The food is all locally sourced with chefs coming from near and far to spend 3-6 months at a time at the Inn. Breakfast was sublime – the granola parfait was a standout. For dinner, there is always 2-3 main dish options such as filet mignon, snow crab or lobster. My husband said the moose burger was delicious. If there is something not on the menu, you just have to ask and they’ll make it happen. In the private screening room, the staff will happily put on a movie or TV show you would like to see, serve you freshly made popcorn, and provide you a selection of local taffy and candies to eat to your heart’s content.
It is a long way to get to Fogo Island and can feel a bit like planes trains and automobiles, but each stint is short and really the trip to get there is worth it. You can fly in the morning directly from Newark to Halifax (or connect via Montreal or Toronto), approximately a 90-minute flight, then connect from Halifax to Gander, a 60-minute flight which flies daily around 2:00pm. It’s then an hour drive to the ferry and another 45 minutes on the ferry to get to Fogo Island. The Inn’s SUV will drive you to the ferry and ultimately to the island for a fee. It is possible to charter a helicopter from Gander to bypass the 2-hour ferry business, but I know it’s expensive. The Fogo Inn website explains the various charter options available.
It is not necessary, but we chose to spend the night in Halifax – a bustling yet quaint university town of just under 500,000 people that is undergoing a culinary renaissance. The food scene is highly recommended and generating lots of buzz across Canada as well as North America. We had a lovely dinner at the Bicycle Thief and incredible oysters at Shuck. Other recommended places to eat are the Highwayman, Edna, Gio and King of Donair. We did not love the choices for hotel accommodations though. We stayed at the Prince George hotel – Halifax’s version of a boutique hotel.
Getting Around The Island
Guests have access to garden variety SUVs to toil around the island (included in your rate) but very basic ones. Nothing fancy. The SUV that comes to pick you up ($800.00 roundtrip if you choose this) is a much bigger and nicer SUV of the Yukon or Denali variety.
All 29 suites at the inn have floor-to- ceiling direct views looking out to the ocean. Simply breathtaking. There are three categories of suites:
- Labrador suites: located on the first and second floors only, these are the smallest suites at the inn. They do not have bathtubs in the bathrooms rooms nor wood-burning stoves.
- Newfoundland suites: located on floors 3 and 4, these have much larger bathrooms with a separate soaking tub and wood-burning stoves which was an incredible addition.
- Corner suites and Family suites: these are the most expensive and spacious suites which are located on the 3rd and 4th floors and have different layouts.
We stayed in Newfoundland suite #17 located on the third floor. Our suite had a wood-burning stoves and each night an innkeeper came and lit it up for us and placed additional wood for us to add to the stove late. This in itself is a reason to reserve a Newfoundland suite as the Labrador suites do not have wood-burning stoves. See more details in ‘Rooms To Get‘ below.
Fogo is not for everyone. It’s not glitzy, there’s no spa and there’s no nightlife other then on the property. It’s difficult to get to. It’s expensive. Not to mention it’s rather desolate. The weather can be tough, depending on when you go. Going in November might seem an interesting choice of time but I absolutely LOVED the timing. Despite all these drawbacks, for those who want to appreciate a sense of place, immerse themselves in nature, have a culinary experience with unbelievable service, or travel to a place to get off the grid and reconnect with whoever you are with, this is the place for you. For us, Fogo Island Inn was a singular, magical experience that we will not soon forget and a place we hope to return to sooner then later.
Photos and Review by Romi and Jeff Howard
We really loved this place but there are a few nit-picky things that could be improved:
|Rooms to Get||Tips|
Fogo Island Inn
For 2017, your Virtuoso rate at Fogo Island Inn through Classic Travel includes:
• Upgrade on arrival (subject to availability)
• Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
• $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit
• Early check-in/late check-out
Why book Virtuoso?
- Personalized travel assistance
- 24/7 online booking
- Special rates & exclusive offers
- Guaranteed Room upgrade*
- Complimentary full American breakfast
- Early check-in, Late check-out*
- Exclusive on-site amenities (varies by hotel)
- * based on availability on time of arrival