Baycation 2013, Part II: Fogo Island
I have to admit, I had never, ever considered going to Fogo Island. Until recently my only knowledge of the place consisted of the coverage provided by Here & Now when they were having issues with the ferry. However, with the new multi-million dollar upscale hotel now open for business in Joe Batt’s Arm, I figured “hey, if it’s good enough for Oprah, I guess I’ll go over for a look”.
We departed Dildo Run Park at 7:30 am and rode the 46km to catch the 9:00 ferry at Farewell. We thought that we had plenty of time, but were quite surprised to find ourselves behind a long string of cars, campers and 18-wheelers in the ferry lineup. Imagine our relief when we got to the ticket office and after paying for our return fare (less than $20 for two bikes and two riders) were told to go to the front of the line! Another advantage of traveling by motorcycle!
We were very concerned about the well-being of our bikes on the ferry, and had brought ratchet straps so we could tie them down. The crew members told us not to worry about it, since the water was so calm that morning that nothing would move. We reluctantly listened to them, but they were right…the ocean was just like a pond. Good thing too, because I get motion sick on the Metrobus.
The crossing took about 45 minutes, and we docked on Fogo Island with an entire day to spend exploring. We motored across the island to the town of Fogo and checked in at Peg’s Bed & Breakfast, a very nice spot in the heart of Fogo, owned by Eileen and Gerald Freake. Gerald sat and chatted with us while our room was being prepared, and we found out that he’s a fellow biker. He rides a 1992 Harley-Davidson Softail, one of the only two Harleys on Fogo Island.
We had lunch in a small chicken place at the intersection of the road leading to Joe Batt’s Arm. We were informed by our server that they had run out of chicken, I guess this kind of thing is to be expected when you’re on a rural island. The pizza was good though, and we continued on to the now-famous hotel in Joe Batt’s Arm.
The Fogo Island Inn was built by Zita Cobb, a native of Fogo Island who made millions in the fiber optic industry in the US. She wanted to put her money back into the island, so she built a hotel in Joe Batt’s Arm, with rates in the summer ranging from $850 to $2950 per night (each resident of Fogo Island has been invited to stay a night in the hotel for free).
The hotel’s architecture is…unique. From a distance it looks like something made from white Legos, a monstrosity looming over the rest of Joe Batt’s Arm. We weren’t sure if we were actually “allowed” to ride our bikes right up to the hotel, but we did anyway. We had a look around the lobby, library and art gallery. The sparse, minimalist interior coupled with the completely white motif made the ocean and sky look incredibly vibrant, I guess that was the point.
After spending long enough at the hotel we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon doing some hiking, and returned to our lodging. Both Gerald and Eileen were very helpful, telling us about the attractions in the area and Gerald even gave us a lift out to the Brimstone Head hiking trail. It’s called one of the four corners of the earth, a huge hill that towers over the town of Fogo. We sat for a while and watched a lone whale swimming in the ocean beneath us, and then headed to the other side of Fogo to hike more trails. We didn’t have time to take in the full network of trails, as it was getting late, but we managed to get some great shots.
We had supper at the Beaches restaurant, a stone’s throw from where we were staying. I had pan-fried cod, the fillet was huge and it was fried to perfection. And so fresh! After supper we headed back to the bed & breakfast, had a beer and headed to bed. We didn’t have any late nights during this trip, riding and hiking all day takes its toll!
We started the next morning with a wonderful, healthy breakfast prepared by Eileen: fruit salad, cereal (with your choice of raisins, almonds and flax) and homemade whole wheat bread with a selection of homemade jam. As we planned to catch the 1:45 ferry had ample time to kill and headed out to the other side of the island, to Tilting.
The previous evening Gerald had told us about Tilting, a place more Irish than Ireland. That struck me as incredibly interesting. My roots are in the Irish Loop community of St. Shott’s, and as far I was concerned the Irish invasion of Newfoundland didn’t go any farther than the Avalon. I was wrong! When you enter the community, the sign reads “Failte a Tilting”…Irish Gaelic for “Welcome to Tilting”.
The community itself is like stepping back in time, most of the houses are the old salt-box style and very well kept up. We stopped at a dead-end to take some pictures, and a resident shut off his lawn mower and came over to chat with us. When he opened his mouth, I thought he was from Ferryland! What a brogue!
We had time for lunch before catching the ferry, so we stopped at Nicole’s Café in Joe Batt’s Arm. Even though we didn’t have a reservation we were lucky enough to get a table. This little spot was absolutely beautiful, it rivals any café in downtown St. John’s. The menu consisted mainly of traditional Newfoundland food or some variant thereof. I had baked beans and toutons, and Mark had a crab pannini. The food was fantastic, and reasonably priced. No wonder they’re doing a booming business!
After lunch we scooted back across the island and boarded the ferry. Another beautiful day on the water, and within 45 minutes we were back on the main rock in Farewell to continue our journey. Fogo was definitely worth the trip, we thoroughly enjoyed every minute over there and highly recommend Peg’s B&B.
Next stop, Musgrave Harbour. Stay tuned!