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Newfoundland is already a remote destination, but a trip to Fogo island brings it a whole new level. Fogo is an island within an island, so for most visitors is takes several planes, a long drive, and a ferry trip to get there. Yet, it’s becoming one of the most popular places to visit in Newfoundland. So what’s all the fuss about?
I finally had a chance to check out Fogo Island for myself while touring around Central Newfoundland. Beautiful hiking trails, whale watching from the beach, rich folklore, charming communities, incredible restaurants, it’s even one of the four corners of the earth! Yeah, it’s easy to see why so many people are falling head over heels for Fogo. This Fogo Island travel guide will help you plan a perfect trip there, including tips on getting there, where to stay, what to do, fogo island hiking, and what to pack!
How to get to Fogo Island
Fogo Island is located in Central Newfoundland, about 120km North of Gander. There is an airport in Gander, so the most direct way is to fly there and then drive to Farewell to take the ferry to Fogo. However, more then likely if you’re visiting Newfoundland you’ll be checking out some other places on the island so most people just drive to Farewell from wherever they are coming from.
Many people visit Fogo island either coming from St. John’s on the East coast, or Gros Morne National Park in the West. Fogo is in the middle of the two, so it’s about five hours of travel either way. To reach Fogo, you’ll get on the Trans Canada Highway 1 and then turn off onto Highway 430 towards Farewell, where the ferry departs. Many people also combine a trip to Fogo with Twillingate, since it’s just an hour away from where the ferry departs. I highly recommend doing this, Twillingaste is magical!
Unfortunately, you can’t book the ferry to Fogo beforehand, so it’s a good idea to get there at least an hour before departure to ensure you get on as it only takes 64 vehicles at a time. It leaves five times a day, you can check the schedule here. At the departure port in Farewell there is a bathroom but not much else.
Most ferries goes to the Change Islands first, and then to Fogo, which takes about an hour and 15 minutes. If the ferry is going direct to Fogo it only takes 45 minutes. It costs $22.50 for a vehicle and $8.50 per adult. You can walk on, but I recommend taking a car so you can explore this beautiful island. You can also book a direct charter flight from the St. John’s airport, but this isn’t going to be cheap!
How long to spend in Fogo
Fogo is just 20 miles long and 9 miles wide, so you could drive it in a day if you wanted too. I’d recommend spending longer then that though, especially if you want to go hiking. We spent one night in Fogo and I didn’t feel it was enough, especially when you consider that you have to take the ferry there and back. If I were to go back, I’d stay at least two nights.
Things to do on Fogo Island
Learn about the history of Fogo island on a walking tour
If you’re interested in learning more about Fogo’s fascinating history, join AL’s Walking Tour of Tilting and Oliver’s Cove.
We met with local Al Dwyer in the charming town of Tilting, which is the only Irish settlement in Fogo. The accent of those from Tilting, including Al, sounds remarkably Irish, similar to what you would find along Newfoundland’s Irish Loop. Al is also a great story teller, and a wealth of information about the area.
We walked through the Tilting heritage site, where you can see well-preserved fishing stages and salt box houses. It’s a beautiful place to take photos.
From there, we followed along Oliver’s Cove Trail which is a gorgeous place to go hiking. Al had a story to go with every place we walked by. It was fascinating to learn about what life was like when the Irish first came to the island and the challenges that they faced.
While walking by a garden, Al pointed out that is the only arable land on the island. Despite the fact that the climate on Fogo island was much harsher then what they Irish left behind, it was still a better choice for them to come here.
The trail continued along the gorgeous coastline, passing through notable landmarks such as the Devil’s Rocking Chair, where some of the Newfoundland tourism commercials were filmed. At the end of the walk, we were looking back at Tilting with a gorgeous view.
Go Iceberg Hunting
Depending on when you’re visiting Fogo, you may be treated to a fantastic show of icebergs. Every spring, giant glacial works of art break off from Greenland and float down the coast Newfoundland, passing through what is known as Iceberg Alley. Fogo Island is a prime location to see those icebergs!
Whale and Wildlife Watching
During the summertime, it is not uncommon to be able to spot whales from the shores of Fogo Island, given that Newfoundland is one of the best places to go whale watching in the world. Humpbacks and Minkes are the most common whales you can see here, but many other species are there – including dolphins! If you want to get closer to the whales (or icebergs), you can also join a boat tour.
Fogo island is also home to a number of other wildlife species including birds, puffins, and a healthy population of Caribou which were placed on Fogo Island in the mid-twentieth century. It’s one of the best places for whale and puffins in Newfoundland.
Visit the Fogo Inn
If you’ve heard of Fogo, you’ve likely heard of the Fogo Inn, the 5-star luxury hotel built on the island in 2013. The idea came from Zita Cobb, a local who went away to study and came back several decades later a multi-millionaire with a desire to turn the economic situation of Fogo Island around.
While locals have been surviving on Fogo island for years, the increase in tourism thanks to the Fogo Island Inn has breathed new life into the economy. As local Al put it, the Inn gave Fogo much needed oxygen.
The inn was built with sustainability in mind, with 100% of the hotel’s operating surpluses reinvested into the communities. They even commission local residents to make furniture for each of the rooms (which you can purchase)!
Unfortunately, the inn is closed this year due to COVID (not that I can afford to stay here anyway..) But when it’s open, you may be able to see inside by either calling ahead and requesting a tour, or booking a reservation at the restaurant inside. They always put the needs of their guests first, but I’ve been told they do accommodate non-guests with these requests if possible.
Even if you’re not going inside, it’s still worth going to see the Fogo Inn from the outside. The architecture is so impressive, as it stands on stilt like structures in front of the Atlantic ocean.
Go on a scavenger hunt to find the artists home
Along with the Fogo Inn the Shorefast Foundation was started, which is an artist residency program and loan program. The artists-in-residence come to the island to do research and disconnect, and live within the communities of Fogo island.
The artists work out of four contemporary studio buildings that were designed by the same architect that built the Fogo Inn. All the studies are self-sustaining and completely off the grid. They are scattered across the island, so a fun way to spend an afternoon in Fogo is to go try and find them all on a self-guided scavenger hunt. The four are named Squish Studio, Long Studio, Bridge Studio and Tower Studio.
Fogo Island Hiking
Fogo island is the perfect place to get lost in nature, there are dozens of hiking trails scattered across the island.
One of the easier and most unique trails you can take in Fogo is Brimstone head, which is believed to be one of the four corners of the flat earth by the Flat Earth Society. Whether this interests you or not, it’s worth going up here for the view. We went to the top for sunset, which was just gorgeous. On one side, you can see the town of Fogo, and on the other the Atlantic ocean with the sun setting over it. It’s only about a 15-minute walk to the top.
There are also a number of other hiking trails in Fogo. Oliver’s Cove Path which I mentioned earlier in the walking tour with Al, is a really nice trail along the ocean. There’s also Turpin’s Trail in tilting where you can see the first ground radar station in North America, and Waterman’s Brook Trail which ends at a waterfall.
Visit Sandy Cove Beach
Fogo island is home to one of Newfoundland’s most beautiful beaches, Sandy Cove beach. It’s located in the community of Tilting, and is the perfect place to cool off if you’re visiting during the summer. Yes, you can go swimming here!
Explore the Communities
Some 3,000 friendly locals make up the 11 distinct communities on the island. The main community on the island is the Town of Fogo, where you can find restaurants, shops, and accommodations. This is a great area to stay in, but it’s well worth driving around the island and exploring some of the others.
Tilting is one of the most picturesque communities, with its well preserved salt box houses and fishing stages. In fact, Tilting was named a national historic site of Canada. There’s also a festival that happens every year in Tilting called Féile Tilting, which celebrates the Irish heritage and traditions of the community.
Some other’s you may want to visit at Joe Batt’s arm (home to the Fogo Inn), and Little Seldom and Seldom, which has the Fogo Island marine interpretation centre.
Fogo Island Restaurants
Upon arriving in Fogo, we were starved so we headed straight to the Bangbelly Cafe, a locally owned restaurant in the town of Fogo. They have such a diverse menu with so many delicious sounding things, but I eventually decided on the special which was a shrimp Bahn mi. You can also upgrade your fries to potato wedges AND nacho toppings, which of course I opted to do.
The food was delicious, definitely check this place out if you’re in Fogo! Bangbelly also has great covid measures in place, with plastic walls around each table yet somehow it still looks cute.
Another great restaurant we ate at is Scoff, which is Joe Batt’s arm. If you don’t know, Scoff means ‘food or a meal’ in Newfoundland English. I opted for the mac and cheese which to my delight came with dressing on top of it.
When it’s open, you can make a reservation to eat the restaurant inside the Fogo Inn, which was voted as one of Canada’s 100 best.
If you’re visiting during the summertime, definitely head to Growlers ice cream shop which is in Joe Batt’s arm.
Places to stay on Fogo Island
The ultimate place to stay on Fogo Island is the Fogo Island Inn, but I realize most of you don’t have that kind of money, so here’s some other options:
For something more affordable, check out Peg’s place. This is where we stayed and it was perfect. Centrally located, and right across from a gorgeous view of Fogo. The women who co-runs it, Eileen, made us a delicious breakfast and had lots of suggestions on what to do. It’s not fancy but it’s very comfortable and clean.
The Old Salt Box Co. is another popular place to stay on the island, which will give you the chance to stay in a traditional Newfoundland salt box house.
If you love the outdoors and want to save some money, you can go camping at Brimstone head where there is a privately owned RV campground that only cost $10/night. It’s a great location, close to the town of Fogo yet next to the ocean.
What to pack for Fogo
Like all of Newfoundland, the weather in Fogo is crazy. Perhaps even more so. On the Fogo Island Inn website, they joke about the seven seasons. During our walk in Tilting, I had made a classic Newfoundland mistake and worn a tank top and shorts because it was 30 degrees and full sun when we left the town of Fogo. Along the walk, it started to downpour on me and I got completely drenched because I didn’t have anything else with me. You can never, ever trust the weather in Newfoundland!
When packing for Newfoundland, you need to be prepared for multiple seasons in a day. A rain jacket is a must, along with a warm sweater and layers such as merino wool. If you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll also want some cool clothes as it can be very hot (but can quickly change). During the winter, you’ll want a quality jacket with hat, scarf, and gloves. It’s also a good idea to bring a pair of quality hiking shoes, as the paths here can be muddy.
Fogo Island is such a magical place to visit. I loved my time here and wish we could have stayed longer! If you’re seeking a remote destination with unique experiences, look no further than Fogo island.