A futuristic interpretation of local outport architecture, Fogo Island Inn hotel has set up a dramatic camp for rural retreat seekers off the northern coast of Newfoundland in a traditional fishing village. Forward-thinking as this 29 all-suites stay is – contemporary architecture, bespoke furnishings, sleek ensuites and a fine-dining menu – the inn is just as focused on preserving the island’s long-standing culture of fishermen, boat builders and local artists.
Noon. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £1313.40 (CA$2,271), including tax at 15 per cent.
All rates include a welcome snack, daybreak service and a half-day community host island orientation. Full-board rates include breakfast, lunch, dinner and non-alcoholic beverages.
Create one-of-a-kind souvenirs when you sign up for one of the small group watercolor painting, still-life drawing or found-object collage workshops led by local artists.
At the hotel
Gym, wood-fired sauna, rooftop hot tubs, cinema, contemporary art gallery, library specialising in Newfoundland history, laundry, on-site parking and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: locally-sourced bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The third-floor Newfoundland Rooms make for a romantic nest. Cuddle in the glow of the wood-stove fireplace or soak in a massive tub, all set against the dynamic background of the ocean crashing into the rocky coastline just beyond your wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. As with all of the rooms, each detail – the bright bed quilts, sleek Scandinavian-influenced furniture, throw rugs and wallpaper – is the work of local artists.
No pool, but you can soak up the views as you steep in one of the three wood-fired hot tubs perched on the rooftop.
An artist’s sketchbook for doodling blue-hued icebergs and traditional wooden rowboats. You can leave the binoculars at home, though; scan the horizon for signs of marine life with the pair provided in every room.
Two of the suites and all of the public areas are disabled-accessible. And, as a warm-up to breakfast, you’ll find a daybreak tray stocked with coffee, tea and pastries outside your door every morning.
Some Fogo Island suites can sleep up to two adults and two kids. Baby cribs are available. Kids 12 and under stay and dine free with an adult on the full-board rate.
The inn’s environmental impact has been carefully considered. Locally sourced, sustainable building materials where chosen whenever possible for everything from floors to furniture. Recycling and composting programs, rainwater catchment systems and renewable solar and wood-burning energy sources are in place throughout. Also, local, organic and seasonal food is a priority – the hotel even established the Fogo Island Agricultural Co-op.
Nab one of the tables by the window for a front-row seat when the glowing sun dissolves into the sea.
Anything coastal-inspired goes: pair an oversized nubby fisherman-knit jumper with slim jeans.
Two glassy walls of windows angle together and resemble the bow of a ship reaching out towards the churning North Atlantic waters. Blonde wood floors and crisp, whitewashed walls round out the minimalist space, without distracting from the view. The Kitchen Collective's elegant menu highlights just-caught seafood, local produce and foraged plants and berries as they change with the seasons.
Claim one of the royal blue stools at the light-wood-topped bar. Or cosy-up in front of the fireplace with a signature 'Old Pal' cocktail – a potent riff on the Negroni made with Canadian whiskey (instead of gin), Campari and sweet vermouth poured over ancient iceberg ice chipped right from the sea.
Breakfast is available from 7am to 10am; lunch is from noon to 2pm and dinner is served from 6pm to 9pm. Pop by the bar for a cocktail from 11am until 1am.
A room service menu with quick bites is available around-the-clock.
The Fogo Island Inn is nestled within a tight-knit fishing community on remote Fogo Island off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
Fly into Newfoundland to St John's International Airport (445 km away from Fogo Island) and then connect via a charter flight, a helicopter ride (www.uhnl.nf.ca) or on a ferry from Farewell to Fogo Island. There's also the option of connecting via charter flight from Gander International Airport. The Smith24 team can arrange all flights and transfers.
A car is convenient for exploration, and there are several reliable car hire companies at the airports. Try Avis (www.avis.com).
If not connecting via charter flight from Newfoundland to Fogo Island, you will need to take the M/V Winsor Ferry (www.tw.gov.nl.ca/) from Farewell. A 45-minute ride, the ferry shuttles both passengers and cars several times a day.
Worth getting out of bed for
Tranquil and remote, Fogo Island is a collection of 11 communities where a life focused on fishing, boat-building and native arts has not changed much since the villages were established by Irish immigrants in the 18th century. Fogo Island Inn is located in Joe Batt’s Arm, a sleepy village where gathering with neighbours or stargazing is the extent of the nightlife. Which – after a full day spent outdoors hiking along the craggy coastline, exploring the bay in a traditional wooden skiff or on a fishing excursion – may be all the diversion you’ll need for the evening.
The inn has a host of guides for natural adventures such as multi-day intensive hikes, educational geological walks, fishery tours and contemplative island rambles. There is also a strong emphasis on the arts, and the inn offers various artist-led drawing, painting and creative small group sessions. You can also hike to Long Studio, one of the artist-in-residency studios, to view its unique architecture – although tours inside the studio aren't always guaranteed.
The island is tied to tradition, and eatery Scoff is dedicated to preserving memories and culinary traditions. The daily-changing menu is packed with locally grown vegetables, meat, seafood and regional craft beers – look out for salt cod pierogis, pickled herring on toast and Fogo island shrimp. Swing by Bang Belly Thursday to Sunday for lunches of soups, sandwiches, pastries and warming drinks; it’s also open for dinner on Wednesday nights and film screenings on Friday nights.
To say our expectations were high is like saying icebergs are kind of cold. We'd seen the early stages of Fogo Island Inn’s dramatic stilted rectangular creation and angular artist studios in a magazine long before architect Todd Saunders’ inspired design was made a reality on this rugged, rocky coast of Canada’s easternmost island.
It also sounded impressive that every detail – from environmentally conscious engineering down to hand-loomed artisanal rugs – connected back to the island too. Boat-builders had been re-deployed as furniture makers, and patchwork bedspreads had been made by hookers (‘Wow. That is novel’, you think; actually, it’s their nickname for quilters).
Hearing that the award-winning chef is committed to foraged, locally grown and North Atlantic seasonal deliciousness sounded too good to be true. Except this is Canada, guys; where being helpful comes as naturally as it does to New Yorkers to slam the horn in a traffic jam or for Brits to tell a waiter how lovely their meal is when they hate it.
There was a puff of pride from this travel writer born in the land of the maple leaf. But also intrigue; I recalled Newfoundland as the butt of schoolchild jokes… And now these Newfies, characters seemingly from a far-off Neverland, were hosting one of the most interesting boutique hotels in the world.
What more mythical a place to go for a just-married jaunt? (Although, bikini-friendly alternatives did come to mind as I packed thick woollen socks and waterproofs). However, a destination that was an adventure in itself was what we craved. A planes, boats and automobiles situation was appealing: a flight from London to St John; a teeny 12-seater plane to Gander; a drive across the island of Newfoundland; finally a ferry to Fogo Island.
When we eventually arrive on Fogo Island, Fabian, one of the inn’s team of locals was there to meet us in a 4x4. Passing dense pine forests, the landscape was reminiscent of Sweden and it felt properly remote. Fabian informed us that even though it was almost summer, only three weeks before they had to cut through thick ice to make the ferry crossing.
We learned all about the island and its Irish heritage from this eighth-generation islander whose accent could have tricked us into thinking he’d only just moved here from the Emerald Isle.
We were on a honeymoon, but this didn't stop the locals being so friendly that they hung out with us for every moment. Romance here is a world away from how you expect it to be interpreted in Asia or the Caribbean, say… And we liked this. (Assuming that Fabian wouldn’t be joining me and my new Mr when we headed up to the rooftop hot tub at sunset…)
Even the name of the inn’s village or community as they call them – Joe Batt’s Arm (‘arm’ meaning peninsula) – is unique. And no matter how many photographs you scrutinise of this 29-room hotel (which looks different in every light), you can’t anticipate the warmth of the atmosphere that greets you as you walk into Fogo Island Inn.
Hygge, the Danes call it; no coincidence that there is a shade of Scandinavia here – Saunders, the architect originally from Newfoundland, has spent his professional life in Norway. The ambience also comes from the fact this is an extraordinary everyone-pitches-in community project. Zita Cobb, its founder, has created a social enterprise with the inn at the heart of it.
We happily learned all about it. Every night the comfortable state-of the-art cinema (with its tray of sweet and savoury snacks to plunder) screens a talk or documentary about Cobb’s special Shorefast Foundation.
The next couple of days went like this… lie in bed gazing through floor-to-ceiling windows at icebergs floating down from the Arctic, with fresh-from-the-oven baked goods and thermos of coffee left for us in a wooden hamper at dawn. Pull ourselves away from our room to indulge in crumbly scones, eggs, maybe some crab or bacon under chandeliers made from fishing-net ropes in the staggeringly special restaurant. Head out for a coastal walk or bike ride; then eat more, maybe a lobster platter, or take a boat ride with local fishermen to a deserted island for a picnic feast.
In the movies you speculate where this seductive scene is leading… here you need to picture us in fluoro-orange all-weather floating jackets. It’s not your honeymoon cliché. And that’s a good thing.
Every night, we’d head to our room and lie down on our hand-made quilt looking out right over the sea, and unusual for newlywed pillow-talk, perhaps, we’d spend the next hour processing the genius of Zita’s revolutionary business project which revived a dying local economy, and we ponder how such a hospitality model could transform communities all over the world.
Zita has instilled a pride in among the 2,000 islanders and has put Fogo on the map. It also demonstrates a groundbreaking new style of luxury travel where even the most spoiled sybarite would agree is an extraordinary type of comfort: there’s a remarkable attention to detail and cossetting service without a whisper of pretension.
It’s proper feel-good stuff. In fact, we coined a new term for where you feel properly content, lungs full of sea air immersed in a special community – we call it the Fogo Feeling. And there’s only one place where you’ll experience it: right here at the edge of the earth.