The Seven Seasons of Fogo Island, Newfoundland, Canada
“People long for space…” muses Zita Cobb, high tech multimillionaire Innkeeper; entrepreneur, and creator of the (recently) world-famous Fogo Island Inn.
“…And space you will get on Fogo Island.” Zita continues, staring at me from across a table at a cozy cafe. “You experience a real place with real people. There’s a feeling of community here. No one locks their doors. In the short days of winter three hundred years past, community was a requirement for survival.”
So where is this magical place? Go any farther North, and you’re basically in the arctic circle. Go any farther East, and the next stop’s Ireland. You can see the Northern lights in winter, spot icebergs in summer, and, depending on the season: ride bikes, experience a shed party, hike on sandy beaches, row a punt, snowshoe, sea kayak, pick berries, ride skidoos, fish, swim, birdwatch, listen to live music, meet resident artists, geologists, and locals so hospitable, you would swear they were straight out of Central Casting. Whales and puffins are plentiful, and even polar bears make a cameo now and then. This stunningly beautiful locale, the most rugged of wild wildernesses, is now home to the finest Inn on planet Earth.
This place is Fogo, a remote island which is a short ferry ride from the big island of Newfoundland. Traveling this far, to one of the last pristine spots on the globe, you feel like you are half in the regular world, and half somewhere else. Somewhere more magical. “A salty Narnia” as described by Newfoundland icon Alan Doyle. A place more special, simple, clean, bright, harsh, friendly and pure than you could ever imagine. If you are looking for “The True North Strong & Free,” this is it. You’ve made it to the far east of the western world, literally one of the far-flung “four corners” of the planet.
Back to the cafe. Pale sunlight streaks across the room. Zita’s wise face shines with the healthy glow of fresh salt air. The window behind Zita affords a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean, where a few small icebergs (growlers) and even smaller ice chunks (bergy bits) float around in the brilliant blue harbor. Like God’s own ice cubes rattling around in a dark blue martini. After a pleasant silence, Zita continues, “Fogo reminds you of what it feels like to live within yourself.”
Between bites of partridgeberry pudding, the Innkeeper’s eyes dart about, always looking for what can be fixed, what can be improved, what can be perfected. Presently, this most unlikely of high-tech baronesses (worth $100 million or more), is trying to get a loan of a punt (local fishing boat), so one of her more flamboyant European guests can venture out onto the frigid North Atlantic and row one himself. Word leaks out into town, a punt is shortly located, and an accord is settled upon. The guest can go out in the punt and row, but a solo trip is deemed too foolhardy for the uninitiated. So an experienced local fisherman will accompany. There is no problem too big or too small to solve, in Zita’s quest for perfection.
Juxtaposed against the breathtaking, sparse coastline is the modern, yet quaint, Fogo Island Inn. The property is super environmentally friendly, right down to wood burning saunas and a kitchen garden. With just 29 rooms, the inn is exclusive, yet offers the best of everything: from gym and spa facilities, to theatre, to the option to purchase all-inclusive fine dining. Every detail is considered. “Daybreak baskets” are delivered outside your door at dawn, with fresh baked bread and molasses, coffee, tea, and juice. If your budget allows, book the “Flat Earth Suite” – a two story corner room, with a view so commanding, you feel as though you are the captain of a ship. The knowledgable staff also has the inside track on how to circumnavigate the ferry lines, handle reservation systems, and basically take care of all logistics, so the traveler can just let the experience unfold and focus on adventure, relaxation and fun.
As this most perfect stay at the Fogo Island Inn winds to a close, Zita offers some final words of wisdom; deep understanding only forged through journeying paths less taken. “The Inn is not necessarily a quest for comfort. Yes, it’s five star. But it’s more about staying true to the spirt of our culture. To get in touch with nature, connect to something bigger than yourself, and give back to yourself.” It seems there are no strangers here. When you leave Fogo Island, you’ll be leaving home.
The first decision to make when visiting Fogo is – what season?
Fogo Island is big and small – big enough to be interesting, yet small enough to get to know. It has been called a welcoming wilderness. Each of Fogo’s seven seasons provides a different perspective for understanding the island better, and perhaps yourself. With hot summers, snowy winters, spectacular ice season, hopeful spring, trap berth season and the world’s best berry picking in the fall; there’s no wrong time to visit this magical location.
ICE – March
SPRING – April-May
TRAP BERTH- June
SUMMER – July-August
BERRY – September-October
LATE FALL – November
by Jesse Stirling | photos by Alex Fradkin