This Remote Island Retreat Is One of Canada’s Most Epic Getaways

Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland, Canada, is singular in its stunning design, local craftsmanship, and meaningful connections with the community.

Fogo Island Inn is set along the shores of its namesake island's rugged coastline.

Fogo Island Inn is set along the shores of its namesake island’s rugged coastline.

Courtesy of Fogo Island Inn


The vibe: Contemporary design, rugged landscapes, and a deep connection with a remote island and its community

Location: 210 Main Road, Joe Batt’s Arm, NL A0G 2X0, Canada | View on Google Maps

Book now



The Afar take

Opened in 2013, Fogo Island Inn is set on a 16-by-9-mile island with about 2,000 residents off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, Canada, at the very edge of North America. (Ireland is the next stop, about 2,000 miles to the east.) The inn’s striking modernist architecture along the island’s dramatic rocky shoreline has helped it become an icon among travelers with an eye for design. Yet the inn’s origin story and its reason for being are what continue make this remote island getaway, part of Relais & Chateaux, one of the world’s most alluring retreats.

There is a saying in Newfoundland: “How do you recognize a Newfoundlander in heaven? They are the ones who are trying to get home.” By the mid-1960s, an influx of large-ship international fishing off the coast of Canada seriously depleted the population of codfish on which Fogo Island (and hundreds of other communities) depended. At that time, the Canadian government sought to resettle all the residents of Fogo Island, as it was deemed too expensive and inefficient to offer them modern services. While some residents left, many rejected the proposal and were determined to find their own way forward.

This suite at Fogo Island Inn features floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the ocean and a bed topped with a handmade quilt.

A suite at Fogo Island Inn.

Alex Fradkin/Fogo Island Inn

Zita Cobb, founder of Shorefast, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates Fogo Island Inn, traces her family back seven generations on Fogo Island, all of whom were inshore (small boat, close to shore) fishers. Zita, who grew up without running water or electricity in her Fogo Island home, recalls when her father moved her and her six brothers to the mainland and told her she had to figure out “this money thing.” He had lived off fish credit and barter all his life but could see that the big boats that were overfishing had figured out how to turn fish into cash.

Following her father’s advice, Zita went on to become CFO of a fiber optics company but sold her equity in 2001 and sailed around the world for four years. Then she started Shorefast to help build economic and cultural resilience on Fogo Island. Shorefast supports several other social enterprises, including Fogo Island Workshops, which made the furniture and many textiles for the Inn; Fogo Island Fish, which employs locals to catch cod using the traditional handline fishing method; and Fogo Island Arts, residency-based contemporary art venues for artists, filmmakers, writers, musicians, curators, designers, and thinkers from around the world.

The Inn sources as much from the island as possible and publishes an Economic Nutrition label for guests who are curious about where their money is going (I found a copy at the front desk). It reveals that 65 percent of guests’ dollars stay on the island, 13 percent go elsewhere in Newfoundland, 19 percent stay within Canada, and 3 percent leave Canada.

Between mid-May and June, it's possible to see icebergs in the North Atlantic waters surrounding Fogo Island Inn.

Between mid-May and June, it’s possible to see icebergs in the North Atlantic waters surrounding Fogo Island Inn.

Courtesy of Fogo Island Inn

Who’s it for?

Single travelers, couples, and families with children aged 8 and older who don’t mind the long trip (more on that in “The location” below) will be rewarded with rich cultural encounters and rugged coastal landscapes filled with wildlife—including puffins, snowbirds, a resident population of caribou, and migrating whales in the summer. It’s not ideal for travelers who want a quick, easy getaway or mostly good weather (which tends to be unpredictable here).

Lovers of art, architecture, and design will appreciate the inn’s modernist aesthetic, which contrasts with the softer edges of handmade textiles and furnishings throughout the hotel. The culturally curious can meet communities that were isolated from the mid-1700s to the late 1960s, with a particular emphasis on the Irish community in Tilting six miles east of the inn. Fogo Island is a rare glimpse at an island community where locals have lived off the land for hundreds of years. They have a deep connection with and love for the place, their place in it, and each other.

At Fogo Island Inn there is a three-night minimum; I stayed three nights and felt that was too short. I recommend at least four nights, as that allows three full days, which you need to find your sense of the place.

The location

Getting to Fogo Island isn’t an easy feat. Fly to Gander (no nonstop flights from the United States), then take an hour drive, a 45-minute ferry, and a final 15-minute drive to the Inn. In addition, travel to the island can be subject to weather issues almost any time of year, as befits a very rugged outpost with a temperate maritime climate at the northeastern edge of the continent.

An image of red houses along the coastline of Fogo Island, in Newfoundland, Canada

Fogo Island has about 2,000 residents.

Iwan Baan/Fogo Island Inn

Effective June 3 of this year, Fogo Island Inn added a new helicopter that takes advantage of the small private airport on the island. The helicopter can be used for transfers from Gander Airport (saving an hour drive and a 45-minute ferry ride, for a cost of US$2,820 per trip, plus tax) and day trips. The inn offers a variety of activities, six of which use the helicopter. The farthest adventure is a day trip to hike in spectacular Gross Morne National Park, 165 miles and an 80-minute chopper ride from Fogo. The park features the second-highest peak in Newfoundland (2,644 feet), Arctic alpine wilderness, glacial carved fjords, and the unique red-and-orange rock formations of the Tablelands.

Those hoping to explore more of Newfoundland and Labrador can combine a visit to Fogo Island Inn as part of a bigger regional trip. Stan Cook, a lifelong Newfoundlander and member of the board of Destination Canada, has been guiding visitors to Newfoundland through his company, Rock + Water, for more than 25 years. He offers itineraries from two to nine days, with various adventure levels, and caters to high-end travelers. He works with Fogo Island Inn and provides the guiding services for some of the day trips as well, such as the Gross Morne trip.

Fogo Island is a rare glimpse at an island community where locals have lived off the land for hundreds of years. They have a deep connection with and love for the place, their place in it, and each other.

Meanwhile, Entrée Destinations has been operating high-end trips throughout Canada for more than 25 years. Owner Marc Telio recently worked with Destination Canada on trips to each province and territory, and Marc created beautiful videos for each. It’s worth checking out his video on Newfoundland and Labrador; about half the footage is from Fogo Island.

The rooms

The Inn has 29 rooms, all with sweeping ocean views. There are thirteen 343-square-foot standard Labrador rooms on the first, second, and third floors. All the rooms have ocean views, walk-in showers, rich textures, and contemporary design. Many of the furnishings and textiles—cushioned rocking chairs, multicolor quilts—are collaborations between local artisans and international designers. The result is a richly textured interior that juxtaposes traditional and contemporary styles. I stayed in one of nine 412-square-foot Newfoundland rooms, which, in addition to the features of the Labrador rooms, offer wood-burning stoves.

This guest room at Fogo Island Inn features a bright red cushioned chair and floor-to-ceiling windows facing the ocean.

A guest room at Fogo Island Inn

Courtesy of Fogo Island Inn

There are also seven suites, including the spectacular 1,100-square-foot, two-story Flat Earth Suite, which has views facing east, north, and south and accommodates up to three people.

Rates for a standard (Labrador) room start at US$2,110 per night, plus tax (prices change seasonally and are slated to increase in 2025). Rates include all meals for two people and inn-provided offerings such as guides, outer apparel, gear, and on-island transport (even a car, if you wish). Rates do not include alcoholic beverages. Solo travelers receive a US$220 reduction in the room rate.

The food and drink

As you would expect, chef Timothy Charles sources his provisions as close to home as possible, with 80 percent of the food coming from Fogo Island and the surrounding region. The Inn has a garden and grass-topped root cellar. The menus change not only season-to-season but also day-to-day. Lunch and dinner always offer three choices of entrée: one meat, one seafood, and one vegetarian. The cod was a highlight for me, and I traveled with a vegetarian, who raved about the vegetarian dishes (including locally sourced sunchokes, baked with cheese and leeks), which some of the carnivores opted for.

Oenophiles will appreciate the guidance of sommelier Scott Cowan, who has a unique collection of wines from Canada, Portugal, Spain, and France, traditional trading partners of the island. Meanwhile, head bartender Ryan Simpson puts creative and local touches on cocktails from the bar. I recommend the Fogo Island Inn version of the Caesar, a Canadian favorite (think Bloody Mary with Clamato), made with Fogo Island buckhorn hot sauce, a cracker baked on premises (in place of salt on the rim), and a crab leg in lieu of a celery stick.

Cod with potato and kale at Fogo Island Inn

Cod with potato and kale at Fogo Island Inn

Steffen Jagenburg/Fogo Island Inn

One night, we had a crab feast in the Shed, a dining structure outside of the main building. Don’t let the name fool you: It is a modern structure with huge windows and sea views but kept simple with kerosene lamps and a communal table. Salads, vegetables, cod au gratin, and local mussels were served family-style, and a guitar player sang throughout the evening. The pièce de résistance was the local Wild Snow Crab boiled in seawater, which, along with shrimp and turbot, became the island’s mainstay after the depletion of cod stocks. The crab was so flavorful, there was no call for butter or even lemon.

For lunch, be sure to visit the Storehouse, a restaurant a half-mile down the road from the inn, also funded by Shorefast. It is designed to be a community gathering spot, and I loved the fish (cod) and chips and was surprised to learn that dining here is included in the room rate.

Staff and service

Zita has gathered a passionate and gracious team, headed by Managing Director Amanda Decker-Penton. Amanda left her career in nursing in rural Alberta to return home to Fogo Island just prior to the opening of the inn in 2012. She epitomizes what Shorefast is accomplishing: creating satisfying employment opportunities that allow current-generation Fogo Islanders to stay or return home. Amanda lives with her husband and daughter, just down the road from the inn and her parents and next door to her sister, brother, and their families.

Lorie Penton, lead outdoor activity guide for the inn, was also raised just down the road and was thrilled to return home to take visitors on walks of the island. She took us on an exploration of the area around Oliver’s Cove and seemed to know every plant, creature, and rock we came across. Lorie is an avid runner, doesn’t let any weather slow her down, and forages botanicals for medicinals and to make tasty teas.

Two people hike Fogo Island, with a group of homes in the background

One of the best ways to explore Fogo Island is on foot.

Mike Dell/Fogo Island Inn

Clem Dwyer is a retired schoolteacher who now guides and drives for the Inn part-time. He was with us for much of our visit and filled us with local stories during our Oliver’s Cove hike, another hike at Brimstone Head, and our nighttime visit to Phil’s shed in Tilting. Newfoundland has a tradition of kitchen parties, during which folks gather round the stove, play instruments, drink, tell stories, sing, and dance. Many hosts have built sheds in their backyard as a larger alternative.

Phil and Maureen Foley have been hosting visitors in their shed since the Inn was completed. In fact, when the Inn was being built, Shorefast brought in a group of tradesmen from Ireland to help with the construction, and they routinely celebrated Saturday nights at Phil’s shed. On our visit, Phil’s brother Martin, also a retired schoolteacher, regaled us with songs, Clem told stories, we all danced to an accordion, and being of Irish descent myself, I even tried my hand at singing one of my dad’s old songs. It was great craic.


Fogo Island is a rugged place and not the easiest to visit or experience. However, the ground floor to the main building and all other buildings on the property are wheelchair accessible. There is one standard room (Labrador) and one suite (Fogo Island Sunset) with wheelchair-accessible bathrooms. All rooms are accessible by elevator. There is no braille or similar enhancement.

Seeking wholeness, not wellness

I asked Zita whether Fogo Island Inn was in on the wellness zeitgeist that has been sweeping through the hospitality industry. “If I start talking about wellness, then it is time for me to hang it up!” She feels that the commercial world sells us things that tear us up, then markets “wellness” to give us a feeling of dealing with the symptoms, without getting to the core of the issue.

“Time well spent on small islands gives us a chance to at least feel the promise of wholeness—maybe because small islands are whole unto themselves,” she said. “Maybe when people talk about wellness, they really are looking for wholeness.”

The Shed at Fogo Island Inn has views of the ocean through floor-to-ceiling windows.

The Shed at Fogo Island Inn

Iwan Baan/Fogo Island Inn

Fogo Island was truly an isolated place for hundreds of years. There are 10 communities on the island, and before the 1960’s, they hardly interacted with each other, much less outsiders. A vibrant Irish culture is still alive on Fogo, with some tracing their lineage on the island to the mid-1700s. I heard many brogues on the island as thick as in Ireland, which is so hard to fathom, knowing how long ago their families emigrated to Newfoundland. Of course, this isolation is changing along with easier travel and modern technology. But the locals are determined to maintain their lifestyle, which entails a deep connection to the place and to its past.

I think this is the “wholeness” of which Zita speaks. Fogo Islanders have a strong sense of topophilia, an emotional connection to the place, including a sense of identity and shared love. When Zita approached islanders with the concept of opening an inn on the island, one of the responses was, “How large of an inn? We can only love so many people at one time.” Hence, the Inn has only 29 rooms.

Today, Fogo Island Inn is still the only inn on the island and offers a very distinctive sense of intimacy for a visitor who craves a deep relationship with the place. From $2,110

Greg Sullivan is the cofounder and CEO of AFAR. You can reach Greg at
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR