Ever since the Fogo Island Inn opened it’s doors to the public back in 2013, I’ve dreamed of staying there. The building and interior design are stunning, and the social and economic values of the Inn are to be admired. I hoped one day I’d stay at the inn, I just didn’t think it’d really happen.
I worked this past (Canadian) Thanksgiving and as a result had most of the following week off. Josh and I are always game to escape life for a bit, so we looked into flights off the island. Tickets were a thousand dollars each just to go to Toronto. Yeah, no thanks. Since vacationing on Newfoundland is something I have been trying to do lately, I suggested we check out Fogo Island. I also suggested we make a reservation at the Fogo Island Inn dinning room while there. Because let’s face it, a stay was definitely out of my budget. Josh agreed this would make the trip worth it.
Much to my surprise, Josh called me the next day and asked what I thought about staying at the Inn for one night (!!!). The inn has a mandatory two night booking policy, but Josh was convinced he could talk them into allowing one night only. I did tell him that was a lot of money to spend on one night, but I wasn’t about to say I didn’t want to stay there. So he booked a one night stay for us. You guys, DREAMS REALLY DO COME TRUE. Not joking, I’ve been dreaming about staying here for a long time.
Fogo Island Inn – Where it Started
Fogo Island Inn is an initiative of the registered Canadian charity Shorefast Foundation. Shorefast was founded by Zita, Anthony and Allan Cobb back in 2003. Following the belief that all businesses can be social businesses, they created the inn as a social enterprise. All of the surpluses from the inn are diverted to the Shorefast Foundation and then redistributed into the community through different programs and projects. The aim is to create a progressive economic future for Fogo Island and Change Island residents, without disrupting the cultural strength of the place. It’s a truly admirable effort, and one that’s made a huge difference on Fogo Island. This small island is now a travel destination world wide.
Because the inn is a social business, they do not accept tips. 15% of the pricing for all rooms, drinks, and food, goes to a staff bonus pool. Tipping in hotels, aside from bellhops and servers in bars/restaurants, is something I’m unfamiliar with. Not going to lie, this was a welcome policy.
Todd Saunders is the architect that designed the inn. He is a native Newfoundlander that currently resides and works in Norway. It is not hard to see the Scandinavian influence in the striking design of the inn. Nor in the strong commitment to implement environmental protection strategies above government standards. The inn has an all wood interior and exterior, with solar panels that provide energy for the laundry and in-floor heating, and a rain collecting system that provides water for the toilets and laundry.
The Journey to Fogo Island
They only had a room available on a Wednesday, so we hit the road early at 5:45am. We wanted to arrive as early as we could and the boat to Fogo only runs so often. Fogo Island is not exactly easy to get to, being an island off an island. If you’re from Newfoundland, it’s a drive and a boat ride away. If you’re not from Newfoundland, you’re looking at multiple boat rides, and a drive, with the potential of several plane or helicopter rides. We got to the ferry in Farewell 45 mins before departure, with only a few hiccups along the way. The signs for the ferry are small and we may have missed one and got a little lost.
On departing the ferry, we drove to Joe Batt’s Arm. There was a small sign that said parking for the inn, so we pulled in there. A no entry sign was posted next to a long dirt road leading up to the inn, with a small parking lot to the left. We were unsure what to do. In the parking lot was sign to call for shuttle service. So, Josh called the number and asked if we could have a shuttle to the inn. He forgot to mention we were guests. The lady who arrived was a little confused when we tried to take our bags out of our car to put in their vehicle. Oops. Turns out we had missed the correct driveway, which was just up the road from where we were. She instructed us to follow her vehicle and that we would drive right up to the doors. I guess the shuttle service is for tours? Oh well, after a 6 1/2 hour journey we had made it!
Our Stay at the Inn
The entrance to the inn is open and inviting, with a wood stove and a gorgeous view of the ocean on first site. At check-in it was suggested that we do our half-day tour of the island the next day. When I asked if we could do it after check-out they were more than happy to accommodate us. This allowed us more time to enjoy the inn. We arrived at around 1:30pm, and after check-in were brought up to our rooms by the same lady who greeted us in the shuttle. The room was coldddd. We were told they could come in a half hour to turn on the stove, and we could maintain it with wood down the hall. She also showed us how to use the different amenities of the room and took our tea preferences for our daybreak basket next morning.
As she was leaving, we were brought in a tray of fresh baked bread with butter, molasses, and tea. We hadn’t really eaten that day in our rush to catch the boat, so we gobbled that up fast. Not sure there’s anything better than fresh bread and molasses. In fact, it’s a fail safe dessert at home. After our snack, we called to see if we could have lunch. Josh wasn’t sure if he had purchased the full board for our stay. Luckily he had, as we found out later the week there was pretty much no where else to eat on the island. The receptionist told us they stopped lunch at 2pm usually, so at 1:50pm, we had just made it. The food did not disappoint and there was good selection for Josh to choose from as well (he is pescatarian).
After lunch we headed back to the room, but the fire still hadn’t been lit yet. A quick call to the reception fixed this, so while I got cozy in the room, Josh went to the gym. It is a small gym, but one with spectacular views of the sea and new equipment.
Every day the inn has activities and presentations for guests to attend. The only one we were able to go to was a video presentation by Zita Cobb at 6pm in the cinema. So after getting ready, we headed down for that. It was a slide show presentation on the social business aspect of developing the inn. She was well spoken, friendly and continued to engage the guests to make it an informal event. It lasted about an hour and I truly enjoyed learning a few things from the founder herself!
We decided to make it a late supper, heading down for 8pm. Much to my surprise, they gave us a glass each of Dom Perignon! Josh had told them it was our anniversary, which it was, and I guess they do this for their guests 😊 Our meal was nice, though I realized after ordering a smoked pork dish, that I really am not a fan of pork. Oh well! After supper we got a drink at the bar. I asked if we could bring the glasses up to our room, and the reply was “Of course! This is your home, just call down if you’d like another drink brought up for you.” I don’t know what kind of home they live in, but I am not lucky enough to have my own servant/bartender 😂.
My Favourite part of the Inn
When you’re from Newfoundland, there’s an attachment to place that a lot of people do not understand. I’ve often heard those from away comment, somewhat bewildered, on how important families and friends are to Newfoundlanders. The longing you feel for home when gone is hard to describe, but it feels like an ache. At least that’s what it’s like for me. The Inn has managed to capture this feeling. It’s in the rooms, in the people who run the hotel and the activities they provide for guests. I can only speak from my own experience, and I’m not even sure Josh felt the same way.
I remember waking up in the morning, the fire had gone out in the wood stove and the light was coming in through the curtains. It was still somewhat dark, so I knew that dawn wasn’t far gone. I felt so comfortable and at home in that moment, more so than any other during our stay. The rooms at the inn are not glamorous, but quirky and beautiful in their own way. The mismatched decor and fun wallpaper, the coziness of the wood stove and the amazing view from the window, all add up to something special. I got out of bed not long after waking to get our day break basket. This was a lovely bircher muesli, homemade fruit juice and tea. Cozying up back into bed, sipping my tea, I thought of how much I love Newfoundland. How special and lucky I am to call this place home. To me, that’s where the magic of the Inn lies.
A Few (minor) Things I Disliked
#1 I was a little surprised myself, but eating in the restaurant made me a little bit uncomfortable at first. I’ve dined in fine dining restaurants before, but this felt different. Despite the casual atmosphere, there was a sense of privilege and I guess I felt a little out of place? I’m not sure why this made me uncomfortable, it’s to be expected at a hotel this expensive. For a more welcoming “Newfoundland” type experience for guests, I feel the dining room should have been made slightly larger to accommodate a few outside reservations. Perhaps with a separate entrance apart from the main doors, in order to maintain the guests comfort and privacy. As it is, the tables are very close together, which makes having conversations a little hard without the feeling of being overheard.
#2 People will assume you have money. I guess I assumed that of others during my stay as well (hypocrite) 😅. But more than once during our stay we were asked what we did for a living, and when I replied that we worked in hospitals, the response back every time was “Doctors?”. I get it, who in their right minds would spend that amount of money on a hotel room for one night, unless they made a crap load of money. But for a split second it made me feel like my job less than. We found ourselves rationalizing why we were there. I cringe when I think back that I replied with “oh no I’m just an x-ray tech”. “Just”, come on Nicole… Not making assumptions is the way to go people, a better response back to us would have been “In what area do you work?”.
#3 The toilet paper is crap (pun intended). Yeah, trivial I know. They had bidets on the toilet, but I still had to use toilet paper to get clean. I guess in their attempt to be green they had eco friendly toilet paper. Well it is thin and sticks to your butt. Not 5 star quality in my opinion haha.
#4 The hot tubs were on the roof and thus inaccessible during our stay. Normally this would be a bonus, but it was incredibly windy on Fogo Island while we were there. Some sort of barrier from the wind would have made them accessible to guests, even if they were on the roof. This way you’d still be able to gaze up at the stars, and enjoy the hot tubs at the same time.
Fogo Island: Our stay outside of the Inn
We traveled to Fogo Island in the off season. I now realize this is not something you want to do. We were honestly pretty bored the rest of our stay on Fogo. I accidentally booked a stay at an airbnb that did not have wifi. It was beautifully decorated and if this were the summer, I’m sure we wouldn’t have cared. But as it was, there was nothing to do on Fogo apart from hiking and visiting a few shops. The weather when we were there was VERY windy and it also rained a lot. I love hiking, but not in windy rain and not when I’m on my period, which I was. We did get a small hike in, but that was it. There’s also no where to eat except one restaurant, which was mostly all fast/fried foods. All the other restaurants are seasonal, so keep this in mind if traveling during off season.
The Verdict: Was it Worth it?
Yes and maybe no. Hear me out. The inn does so much for the community, that in supporting it, you are supporting local Newfoundlanders, and you are bound to have a great time while there. Is it worth that much money? I don’t know. They really make a huge effort to make you feel welcomed and at home. We were fed 4 meals, plus the snack, daybreak basket and send off lunch bag. They also gave us two handmade knotted luggage tags as a farewell gift, with a cute little note attached. The food was delicious and inspired. But all that said, if you’re from Newfoundland, it may not be worth the money, unless you’ve got lots to spare. We already get what makes this place special, it’s a part of us. I do think two nights is necessary to truly get a feel of the place. One night was rushed, and as we found out later, only something they do for Newfoundlanders. But for those from away, you will truly have a wonderful experience.