There is something magical about islands, especially small islands. The very word can conjure an image of a tropical paradise, hammocks and palm trees. But a Canadian island? Fogo Island may not be tropical, but it has a unique magic of its own and the power to enchant for a memorable autumn break.
Many visitors have been entranced by the diversity of Newfoundland, itself an island and Fogo is the largest of the islands off the northeast coast. It is roughly 25 by 14 kilometers, small enough to experience in its entirety in a weekend and a marked contrast to the vastness of Newfoundland.
Although Fogo Island is remote it is readily accessible to the modern traveler seeking to explore one of Canada's earliest settlements. The nearest airport is Gander from where you take route 235 to Farewell; from there a ferry service which can take vehicles operates regularly, sailing either direct to Fogo or via the Change Islands. Most travelers enjoy the maritime experience, especially as the island of Fogo is sighted; it's always a thrill to approach a small island and to set foot on it.
Choice of accommodation on the island is diverse: at the top is a luxury hotel, there are homely Bed and Breakfast style guest houses or, if you prefer total privacy, you could rent a house and look after yourself. There are half a dozen restaurants, all offering good local cuisine. The Flat Earth Coffee Roastery is renowned for its freshly brewed coffee and as it is near the ferry terminal, people leaving Fogo commonly take with them freshly roasted coffee beans.
Flat Earth? The Flat Earth Society has designated Brimstone Hill at the end of one of the island's trails as one of the four corners of the flat earth; a sign warns of the danger of stepping off into the void noting, however, that nobody has yet been lost in this way.
Fogo Island is above all scenic. There are seven well-sited trails to hike all of which offer breathtaking views over the interior and the shores of the island. Sturdy footwear is essential as the trails are rugged; some of them are moderately demanding, yet not beyond the abilities of agile older children. The Brimstone Head Trail is designated as "strenuous" and there is certainly a steep section. From the summit there is a rewarding view over the ocean with clearly visible icebergs. Boardwalks and stairs are well-constructed and maintained and it is easily possible to complete more than one of the shorter trails in one day and be rewarded with stretched muscles, stunning photographs and a deep sense of satisfaction.
The Waterman's Brook Trail is the longest at over seven kilometers the round trip, and is labeled "moderate" in difficulty. It could be a day's gentle amble if that pace is more to your liking, with wonderful scenery and possible glimpses of the caribou who inhabit the interior of Fogo.
Autumn weather on Fogo Island is mild with daytime temperatures of around 12C. Be prepared with wind and rainproof clothing. A sunny day can often transform everything, however, creating new opportunities for the keen photographer.
Over 2000 people live on the island, their speech retaining interesting echoes from their English and Irish forebears who settled on Fogo centuries ago. There are now eleven settlements on the coast with picturesque clapboard houses and ancient cemeteries. Towering over the tiny houses is the now famous Fogo Inn, five star modern comfort. Visitors to the island who are not staying at the hotel can be given a tour; it is wise to book ahead for this as it is a popular activity.
Escape from our busy lives is a common dream and a short autumn break is a way to refresh and revitalize ourselves. Magical Fogo Island is the perfect place to live that dream.