For many, an island getaway conjures images of soft sandy beaches, palm fronds, oversize sunglasses, and colorful cocktails. That’s far from the scene at chilly, windy Fogo Island, where unless you visit in summer, taking a dip in the ocean is probably not in the cards.
To get here, you’ll need to fly to Newfoundland, Canada and cross the Atlantic on a ferry, but once you finally arrive, you’ll feel a strange sense of calm. Even though Air Canada had canceled multiple flights and lost my bag on the way over, it didn’t really seem to matter now, because I was here.
The unique architecture is just one of the many draws. (Fogo Island Inn)
The biggest draw to the island is the bespoke Fogo Island Inn, a starkly white building rising from the rocky promontory. The architecture is inspired by local fishing stages. When the inn opened last May, founder Zita Cobb invited every resident on the island to stay for a night. She wanted the community to embrace the inn and for the inn to serve Fogo Islanders.
“The quality of our everyday life is in the tiny nuances,” Cobb says. “Some little detail of something that could have been beautiful that is mediocre makes you sad. So we try not to miss any opportunity to put joy in the details — to put love in the details and put Fogo Island in the details.” That philosophy is expressed in the local woodworking and quilting found in each room and the friendly locals you’ll encounter at the inn and biking into town on your own.
Overlooking Fogo Island (Photo: Douglas Sprott/Flickr)
Hospitality here comes naturally; the inn is both cozy and majestic but never ostentatious. Since my luggage and consequently all of my clothes were lost, the inn graciously offered to wash my things overnight so I would have clean clothing the next day. In the morning, one of the lovely housekeepers ran my clothes up to my room, neatly folded and still warm. That kind of care comes from the heart, and Fogo Islanders have this bonhomie in spades.
Partridge berries (Photo: Calypso Orchid/Flickr)
I visited in October, during berry season, so there was plenty of foraging to be done. More than a dozen types of berries grow wild across the island, and none are poisonous, so I could eat anything and everything I came across. I tried marshberries and partridgeberries, plus all kinds of briny micro greens. But my favorites were the bakeapples, or cloudberries, used to garnish croissants and cocktails at the inn. They have a tart but creamy flavor that I loved. Only after devouring an entire bowl did I learn that these were the rarest and most expensive berries of all — $60 a pound. What’s more, the ice in my cocktail came from one of the many icebergs that float past the island each spring.
Would I return? Absolutely, although maybe during another season to see a different side of the island. There are seven seasons here in all — berry, ice, and trap berth in addition to the usual suspects. While I loved tasting all the different berries I found just outside my room and foraging with the chef, maybe next time I’ll visit in the summer to fish for cod, or watch the caribou and seals if I can handle being at the mercy of the elements in winter.