Surprising as it may seem, Newfoundland’s Fogo Island Inn is modern, hip and artistic – but it’s the twist on traditional hospitality that is getting all the attention.
Newfoundland is a rugged landscape, surrounded by daunting cliffs, mysterious waters and dramatic vistas. It’s a place where traditional values remain strong and where community comes together to celebrate their unique culture and relationship to nature. Fogo Island, off the North-Eastern coast of Newfoundland, is an extension of this sentiment; a population of under 3,000 inhabitants is working together to revitalize their community and revamp their image after many islanders left to pursue opportunities in other provinces.
For entrepreneur and philanthropist Zita Cobb, the relocation of Fogo Island inhabitants and collapse of fishing industries were becoming serious issues, potentially signifying a cultural ruin of the place she called home. Cobb, a Fogo Island native herself, made her fortune in the fibre optics industry and decided to return home to the island and reinvest in its future. On a mission to revamp the community, Zita Cobb established the Shorefast Foundation to move Fogo Island into the arts, leisure and geo-tourism category. The foundation, with a focus on art and craftsmanship, also provides micro loans to local entrepreneurs and has brilliantly incorporated the Fogo Island Inn as part of a long-term plan, as all income generated is used to further benefit the community.
A stunning, odd treasure on the rocks of the island, the Fogo Island Inn is impressive, artistic and home-grown. Opting to forgo a traditional seaside theme, architect Todd Saunders, who also hails from Newfoundland, decided to use the landscape and its people for inspiration. From wallpapers that depict seaside villages to handmade woven rugs and quilts, the inn is a masterpiece inside and out. Locals were consulted not only the types of materials and styles of décor but were, and continue to be, provided with skill development and training to physically take part in the building of this project and in manufacturing all the furniture and household items found within.
Each of the 29 rooms at the inn features a wood stove, floor to ceiling windows, a natural wooden floor, four piece bath, and a custom-made, organic, natural fibre king bed. An indoor cinema, library and rooftop sauna offer calm and quiet, while the public lounging areas are great spots for listening to traditional live music or engaging in animated conversations by the fire.
With its high ceiling and contemporary lighting, the glassy dining room, previously named among the top 3 “Best New Restaurants of Canada” by enRoute magazine, provides the perfect setting to enjoy locally caught fruits of the sea.
A new spin on native island cuisine, including beverages consisting of water from passing icebergs, is as fresh as the sea breeze and just as appealing.
A stay at Fogo Island Inn can include Photography Expeditions to Iceberg Alley led by renowned photographer, Alex Fradkin, whose talent has been showcased in National Geographic, Time and New York Magazine. During these epic 5-day trips, photographers of all skill levels can view impressive 10,000 year old icebergs and learn various methods of capturing their immense beauty. The ‘Escape to Iceberg Alley’ and ‘For the Love of Cod’ packages take advantage of the landscape and local knowledge to create memorable experiences that bring newcomers closer to nature, while a day spent with local chef Murray McDonald is educational as well as entertaining.
Since Fogo Island inhabitants count seven seasons (Winter, Ice, Spring, Trap Berth, Summer, Berry, and Late Fall), visitors can in turn also count on many options for interesting and seasonally specific activities. With this many seasons, multiple trips to the island are a must as hiking the 14 surrounding trails, backpacking, boating, berry-picking and fishing cannot always be done in the same season as snowshoeing, whale, caribou, puffin watching, or cross country skiing. Making the journey at the right time of year is vital as it can also result in witnessing spectacular northern light displays.
However the most remarkable element of the Fogo Island Inn is the openness of the people and their desire to invite guests into their community and into their own homes. The inn encourages local artists, musicians, and writers to visit the inn and use the space to engage visitors and create an experience that is truly refreshing and stimulating. Days of art immersion and visits to uniquely artists’ run studios can be thought-provoking and lead to reflective discussions with new friends by a wood-burning fire. Historical tours, visits to fisheries and guided walks are all conducted by local hosts who have a special connection to their land and present their stories like precious gifts to eager listeners.
Fogo Island is quickly becoming an artistic wonderland, where locals and visitors meet to discuss art and culture and rediscover a rugged Canadian landscape together. With a sustainable concept that respects good old fashioned values and enriches the lives of both visitors and residents alike, it’s becoming crystal clear that the innovative Fogo Island Inn can do no wrong.