This article originally appeared in the first issue of Boundless Magazine in November 2020.
Writer | David Duran
After my transcontinental flight from the west coast of the United States landed in Newfoundland and Labrador, my journey from Gander to the ends of the earth was still a short drive and ferry ride away.
While standing on the bow of the ship, ocean mist gently spraying my face, I reflected on my journey to this point. It actually began about a year ago, after watching a Netflix series about legendary hotels. One particular episode about the Fogo Island Inn left me enthralled. On this tiny island of modest villages and towns, with a population of barely 2,200 people, you find the stunning representation of modern architecture that is the Fogo Island Inn, awe-inspiring and unexpected in the best possible ways. I knew right then that I had to see this structure up close. When I arrived on the fabled island, this wasn’t the only surprising architecture to be seen.
Designed by Newfoundland and Labrador– born, Norway-based architect Todd Saunders, the inn is perched on stilts that sit on the North Atlantic coastline, which means that all 29 of its suites offer floor to-ceiling views of the ocean and sky. After walking into the main space and making my way past the lengthy, modern bar, I entered one of the inn’s most iconic spaces: the formal dining room, which features dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows that provide the perfect escape. The view of the ocean waves crashing below made it feel as if I was sailing to the unknown. After spending some time chatting with the lovely staff, I learned that almost everything in the inn, from the furniture to the food, was handcrafted or sourced locally. These small but thoughtful touches made the experience more personal and special. Knowing that everything around me came from the island allowed me to gain a better sense of place and introduced me to the vibrant community beyond the inn’s towering walls. That first night, as I cozied up on my bed with the hand knitted blanket and looked through the expansive windows into the inky darkness of the Atlantic Ocean, I was comforted by knowing that someone on this tiny island had taken the time to craft the beautiful blanket that was keeping me warm.
Beyond the inn, Saunders was tasked with creating four equally impressive artists’ studios. These unique structures, similar in style to the inn, house the Fogo Island Arts’ international residency program that encourages artists from a range of disciplines to live and work on the island. Artists are provided with accommodations and studio space, as well as weekly stipends to offset the costs of materials, shipping, and daily living expenses, in addition to creative inspiration provided by the natural surroundings and modern structures just beyond their doorsteps.
Once learning of these beautiful studios, I set out to explore the rocky outcroppings of the island. Part of the fun was finding the studios, as they aren’t exactly a stone’s throw away from the inn. Guided by friendly locals who were happy to talk with me, I spent a full day exploring rolling green hills, unexpected ponds, and fishing villages around the island on my quest to find them.
To give the artists some extra privacy, the studios are situated in wide-open spaces that can make finding them tricky if you don’t know what you are looking for. Thankfully, one of the staff drew me a map that featured the names and locations of the studios along with tidbits about each place, turning my search into a welcomed treasure hunt.
After finding the third studio, I saw someone else and waved her over, thinking she was on the same hunt. It turned out that she was not a tourist but in fact the artist in residence, heading to her studio space. I was excited to talk about the art she was working on, but before I could muster up the courage, she asked, “Aren’t the locals here just amazing?” And just like that, I found myself engaged in a lengthy conversation about the friendliness of the folks living on Fogo Island. While we chatted, I made mental notes about the places she told me to visit because, although the main attraction is the inn and the studios, Fogo Island has so much more to see.
The contrast between the architecture on the island and the landscape is undeniable and had a genuine impact on me. The inn will spoil you, from the warmth of the staff to the attention to detail within the suites, to the culinary and cocktail adventure that awaits you in their dining room. Making your way to one of the most exclusive and remote parts of the world takes time and patience, but once there, it feels like a journey you’d be happy to make again.
Discover more about Newfoundland and Labrador on Canada's east coast.