Review: Fogo Island Inn

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Introduction: A Journey To One Of The Four Corners Of The Earth
Is It Worth Upgrading To WestJet Plus?
Review: Comfort Inn Gander
How To Get To Fogo Island
Review: Fogo Island Inn
Review: Dining & Activities At Fogo Island Inn
Review: Sheraton St. John’s Newfoundland


The Fogo Island Inn is one of the most special places I’ve ever been, both in terms of the hotel itself, and also in terms of the ~2,500 person island it’s on. I’m going to be writing this review in two parts. In this installment I’ll cover the hotel itself, as well as the facilities it offers.

Then in the next installment I’ll write about dining at the hotel, as well as what we did around the island. Rates at the inn include all meals and non-alcoholic beverages, so if you’re visiting Fogo Island you’re likely to have all your meals here (there aren’t really many restaurants on Fogo Island).

See the intro post for more on Fogo Island Inn pricing, and a general background on why the inn was built (this isn’t your typical for profit hotel funded by outside investors).

The Fogo Island Inn is vastly different than anything else you’ll see on the island, and that’s clear from the moment you drive up. Despite how unique it is, it still doesn’t feel out of place, given the landscape.

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Fogo Island Inn exterior

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Fogo Island Inn exterior

As we pulled up to the hotel there were a total of four cars parked there, which threw me off at first, since I figured most guests had rented cars, and this is where parking was. Well, as it turns out, the parking lot was so empty because there were just a few guests staying at the hotel.

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Fogo Island Inn exterior

As soon as we pulled up to the hotel, one of the lovely hosts came outside to greet us. She told us to just leave the car where it is, and they’d park it for us. I can’t help but emphasize enough how every single person that we interacted with couldn’t have been lovelier. They all made us feel like we were guests in their home, rather than at a hotel.

Before our visit I was reading TripAdvisor reviews of this place, and saw many people say “you arrive as guests and leave as friends,” and even as an introvert, I wholeheartedly agree.

Just inside the entrance was a cozy sitting area with a furnace, as well as the front office.

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Fogo Island Inn lobby

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Fogo Island Inn lobby

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Fogo Island Inn reception

However, check-in formalities were limited, and within moments we were shown to our room. The inn has a total of 29 rooms, with most of them being Labrador and Newfoundland rooms. The only difference between the two is that the Newfoundland rooms are on the fourth (top) floor, so have better views. We had booked a Labrador room, though were upgraded to a Newfoundland room.

Th elevator had a map of Fogo Island and its surroundings.

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Fogo Island Inn elevator

Instead of taking the elevator you could also take a staircase, which had nautical themed wallpaper.

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Fogo Island Inn stairs

The fourth floor hallway had hardwood floors and a bunch of natural light. We were assigned room 24, which was the second room on the left.

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Fogo Island Inn hallway

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Fogo Island Inn room exterior

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Fogo Island Inn floorplan

The host who brought us to our room told us a lot about the Fogo Island Inn concept, including reminding us that almost everything at the hotel is sourced from as close to the hotel as possible. So a lot of the furniture is made on Fogo Island, or at a minimum, in Newfoundland. You can really see that when you look at how thoughtfully the room is designed.

There was an entryway in the room with a long bench, a mirror, and a rack for hanging coats, etc.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room entryway

No two rooms at the Fogo Island Inn are decorated the same, so they all have different wallpaper, blankets, pillows, etc.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room

Our host pointed out to us who had made our blanket, and in what year.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room locally made quilts

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room locally made pillows

In the corner of the room was a desk with a furnace next to it.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room desk & furnace

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room desk

Waiting on the desk was a welcome bottle of wine.

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Fogo Island Inn welcome bottle of wine

I loved the furnace. In the evenings we’d call down to have them set it up, and then a guy would come to light it and bring a bunch of wood so that we could keep the fire going.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room furnace

Closer to the window were two chairs, one of which was a rocking chair, and one of which had an ottoman.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room sitting area

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room rocking chair

Behind the bed was an exposed console, which had the in-room safe, slippers, bathrobes, etc. We didn’t use the safe, and come to think of it, we didn’t even lock our door at the inn (they don’t have traditional hotel key cards, but rather have actual keys for each room). The place just has one of those vibes where you feel you can leave everything unlocked.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room

I’m guessing that the Frette slippers were one of the few things not produced in Newfoundland. 😉

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Fogo Island Inn Frette slippers

Behind that console was the bathroom, which featured a sink and mirror, and then a partitioned off walk-in shower and toilet.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room bathroom

The shower had great water pressure and temperature control. It would have been nice if they had a bathtub as well, though I realize space is limited in the hotel.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room shower

Toiletries weren’t branded, but seemed to be very high quality.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room toiletries

I also appreciated the heated towel rack, given how cold it can get in the area.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room heated towel rack

The toilet was Japanese-style, which I always appreciate.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room toilet

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room toilet controls

The room was absolutely lovely, though the highlight was the view. I don’t think I’ve quite ever had a room with a view like this. We were visiting in late April, so I wasn’t expecting it to be this cold or icy. Fogo Island claims that they have seven seasons, and it was supposed to be spring, rather than pack ice season. The weather partly limited outdoor activities, but from inside it was a sight to behold.

It’s not often I unwind, but sitting in a rocking chair having a cup of tea and watching the scenery really put me at ease. There was something calming about the environment outside, about how there was no visible life and no changes whatsoever. It was like staring at a beautiful painting.

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Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland room view

Our host familiarized us with our room, and then five minutes later returned with some welcome tea, freshly baked bread, and molasses. Ford typically avoids eating bread, but he not only tried it, but ended up having the whole thing. It was that good.

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Fogo Island Inn welcome service — tea, fresh bread, and molasses

There’s something else this hotel does that I find to be an incredible concept, that I’ve never before seen at any luxury hotel. The hotel offers what they call a daybreak basket. At around 6AM they put your preferred coffee or tea in front of your room, along with freshly baked scones or muffins, as well as an energizing juice.

As someone who is addicted to coffee, and usually likes to sip on coffee for about an hour or two before going to breakfast, I LOVED THIS. Usually I’m slow to get out of bed every morning, but here I popped out of bed like a road runner the second I remembered there was a fresh pot of coffee, along with warm scones or muffins, in front of our door.

Seriously, isn’t that an amazing concept? I’d love to see more hotels adopt this. After staying at the Fogo Island Inn we spent a night at the Sheraton St. John’s, and quite possibly my biggest disappointment was when I woke up the first morning and realized there wouldn’t be a daybreak basket. UGH, life is hard. 😉

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Fogo Island Inn daybreak basket

There was wifi throughout the hotel, and it was both fast and free.

Now let’s talk a bit about what there is to do at the Fogo Island Inn, starting on the first floor.

On the first floor, just past reception, is the inn’s restaurant and bar, where all the meals are served. I’ll talk much more about that experience in the next installment.

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Fogo Island Inn bar

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Fogo Island Inn restaurant

On the opposite side of the lobby of the bar and restaurant was the library, which had all kinds of books and games.

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Fogo Island Inn library

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Fogo Island Inn library

Then on the second floor of the hotel was the gym, which was basic but sufficient, given how secluded the hotel is.

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Fogo Island Inn gym

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Fogo Island Inn gym

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Fogo Island Inn gym

Then there was a cinema with a few dozen seats. That might seem random, but several times a day they screened shows about Fogo Island and the area, and they occasionally have speakers there. They screen the documentary “Strange & Familiar” at least once a day, which is a must see. It’s about Zita Cobb (the Fogo Island Inn founder) and Todd Saunders (the Fogo Island Inn architect), and really helps you understand the Fogo Island Inn’s role in the community. Here’s a trailer for the film:

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Fogo Island Inn cinema exterior area

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Fogo Island Inn cinema

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Fogo Island Inn cinema

There are also some tasty snacks in the cinema, for what it’s worth. 😉

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Fogo Island Inn cinema snacks

Also on the second floor was some meeting space, which wasn’t being used during our visit (when we checked in I think a total of four rooms were occupied, including our room).

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Fogo Island Inn meeting space

Then on the fourth floor, near our room, were the steam rooms and hot tubs.

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Fogo Island Inn sauna & hot tub entrance

There was almost a reception area of sorts, even though the area wasn’t staffed.

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Fogo Island Inn sauna sitting area

There were showers near the sauna and steam room.

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Fogo Island Inn sauna showers

Then there were two outdoor hot tubs. They’re usually covered, but you just phone down when you want to use them, and they’ll set them up within a few minutes.

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Fogo Island Inn hot hub

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Fogo Island Inn hot hub

Ford and I used the hot tub at sunset on our last night at the inn, and it was just magical. The whole scene was so beautiful it almost didn’t seem real.

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Fogo Island Inn hot hub

Even in the middle of the day there are some insanely cool views from the hot tub deck.

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Fogo Island Inn hot hub view

Before I visited I was surprised to learn that the hotel doesn’t have a spa. What $1,000+ per night hotel doesn’t have a spa? However, after visiting I totally get it. That’s not the type of place this is. This is an inn where you feel like you’re visiting family and they’re cooking you great food and treating you like their guests. The concept of a spa would almost seem out of place and uncomfortable, in a way.

Like I said, in the next installment I’ll talk more about food at the hotel and activities in and around the hotel. As a hint, it partly includes really really cute Newfoundlands.

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Newfoundlands at the Fogo Island Inn

Fogo Island Inn bottom line

To me the experience of visiting Fogo Island felt transformative. When it comes to super expensive hotels, you have places that feel like luxury factories, where there are hundreds of guests and you feel like a number, despite paying a ton. Then there are some small, intimate hotels where you feel like you’re actually getting a good value. I’ve written in the past about Aman hotels, which I consider to be pinnacle of hospitality. To me, the Fogo Island Inn felt like an Aman. I’ll talk more about the incredible service in the next installment, and equally, some of the locals we met.

I’ll once again share the video created by the inn, featuring Zita Cobb, the founder. I think it beautifully sums up the spirit of this place:

Lastly, as I explained in the introduction, if you’re looking to book the Fogo Island Inn, they have fixed pricing, so there are potentially two ways to score a deal on a stay at the Fogo Island Inn:

  • Book through Virtuoso, which will come with a room upgrade subject to availability, a $100 hotel credit (that can be applied towards alcoholic drinks, since most other things are included), and early check-in and late check-out, subject to availability; the rate is the same as the publicly available one, and any Virtuoso advisor should be able to get you those benefits if booking through them (Ford can do so, and can be reached at fordb@travelsociety.com)
  • Book through the Citi Prestige Card to get a fourth night free

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Comments

  1. Great review, just so happens I watched a TV programme covering the same hotel. Looks lovely

  2. Another amazing trip report. I look forward to part two.

    Incidentally the BBC did an hour-long programme about this hotel recently, as part of its series entitled “Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby”. If you’re in the UK then you can catch it on BBC iPlayer. It certainly does look like a completely unique hotel.

  3. Nice to see this property reviewed.

    Take a look at Southern Ocean Lodge – a similar concept on an island south of Adelaide!

  4. Yeah, not for me. I get it’s a spectacular location but for $1200 a night those rooms look like you are staying at grandma’s log cabin.

  5. Great review! Just FYI- the Enchantment Resort does something similar in Sedona. They give you the morning paper and a bucket of ice with some fresh Orange Juice each morning. You just open the door and it’s there!

  6. I know this is a word that Ben uses a lot, but with my usage please bear in mind I am using British understatement – this place looks INCREDIBLE.

    I saw the BBC programme on it a couple of weeks back, and i thought it looked curious and interesting and potentially my kind of place – having read Ben’s review I want to go. Love the views of the pack ice. Perhaps April 2018?

    The point made about luxury factory hotels is such a good one – one can spend $500++ on a smart big brand hotel, and yes the linens are nice, and the toiletries smell good and the pool is clean etc etc, but you’re in room 8934 and you do wonder – is it anything really special?

  7. I totally appreciate every review on this site and it is my go to site for links to magical reward credit cards. I trully appreciat OMAAT.

    For me, this “Inn” reminds me of assisted living fascilities. All that is missing from the pictures is a wheelchair and we would be good to go.

    I too would appreciate a morning basket. I would seek out the knife and certainly engage in self injurious behavior- just so I could get an ambulance ride for something to do and a change of scene. 🙂

  8. Hahaha, Dan Allen, clearly this Inn isn’t for you. Not everyone appreciates a quiet retreat in the heart of nature, where the main activity is just absorbing the natural beauty. And among those of us who would enjoy it, there are times in our lives when such a retreat is the right thing, and other when it’s just not what we want or need.

    I appreciate this review as it’s a hotel and location I’d actually consider visiting. I’m much less interested in the reviews of chain hotels. It’s hard to get excited by them, because they all tend to be so similar – if not in style and substance, then in their impersonality towards their guests.

  9. @Lucky thanks for this. Being originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, I agree that the warmth of the people in Atlantic Canada is simply remarkable. This place looks incredible – and it sounds like a wonderful trip, so far.

    One small point: what you are calling a “furnace,” virtually everyone I know, in Canada anyway, would call a “wood stove.” A furnace would be the big thing which would provide overall heat to your home, typically run on natural gas or oil. Wood stoves are smaller and much cosier 🙂

  10. Lucky, you should consider doing reviews of some of the luxury lodges in Australia. I stayed at the Saffire Freycinet in Tasmania last year and it was spectacular, and somewhat reminiscent of this in that it was fairly secluded but an amazing all-inclusive experience at a small property with a ton of individual attention. And while the Australian lodges are typically expensive, my understanding is there are great travel industry rates available that Ford presumably has access to.

  11. Looks like my kind of place. I flirted with the idea of a road trip up to Newfoundland (yes, all the way from Texas) a few years ago but ended up dong something else. This reinforces that I need to make that happen some day. Except I think we’ll go in summer. My wife hates the cold. 🙂

    P.S. As someone who had St. Bernards around the house growing up, those Newfoundlands are adorable. But it’s like having a small bear once they’re grown up!

  12. Further to my earlier comment, i’ve just looked into flights and amazingly (and tantalisingly) it seems you could do the journey to the Inn from London (NB: UK, not Ontario!) within a day. And you don’t even have to get up particularly early in London.

    LHR to Gander via a change in St John’s (Air Canada, obviously) (who knew there was a direct flight from Heathrow to St John’s, on an A319?). Departs LHR 11:10, arrives Gander 15:30 (layover in St John’s is 1 hr 15 which seems tight but i’m guessing it’s not a huge airport).

    Last ferry to Fogo Island according to the schedule posted by Ben is 20:30. So that gives you 5 hours to clear immigration, pick up the hire car, and drive to the ferry – which would seem ample based on Ben’s experience.

  13. So, how much did you Lucky pay? Was this a comped stay for a promotional review?

  14. Those dogs are also called newfies. They’re big yet sweet tempered, hence a gentle giant.

  15. Lovely review Lucky so thanks.
    Sounds like you’re appreciating the superior value and experience provided by boutique hotels compared to the big chains :).

  16. Lucky given that you stayed there for free I would have loved it as well. But I dont see you ever spending that much for a hotel that offers this.
    There are Airbnbs in Iceland that have the same views and cost $200-$300

  17. @Ivan Y, his boyfriend paid for it if that’s what you mean. Or are you just implying that it’s a sponsored stay, in which case you are wrong. try again

  18. I appreciate the location of the inn, the solitude, and the intimate nature of the service. However, if I’m paying more than $1,000 per night, I don’t want it decorated and furnished like an old B&B. If I wanted to stay at a local resident’s house, I’d stay at a local’s house — hopefully, for less than $1,000 per night. Nonetheless, to each their own!

  19. Looks like a pleasant enough place to spend the night, but at those prices the whole thing seems more like an elaborate prank than a bonafide hotel.

  20. Great honeymoon experience! So you popped like a road runner in the morning… there’s something to be said for going slow and steady…;)

  21. Since you like the morning basket concept, check out Omni hotels loyalty program. After your first stay, you get coffee or tea delivered your room daily!

  22. The Hotel Ivy in Minneapolis delivered coffee or tea to your room to accompany your wakeup call.

  23. For $1,000 a night, they’re making a fortune. Yes, the hotel probably cost a lot of money to build. Yes, the cost of doing business is probably higher in semi-remote Newfoundland, but for $1,000 they only need to sell a couple rooms to pay the bills. I expect a real bottle of champagne for free at that price.

  24. A heartfelt thank you for bringing this unique place to my attention through a sincere and considered review. I eagerly anticipate the second instalment but remain bemused at the thought that $1,000 per night for such an experience is considered by some to be expensive.

  25. A vast majority of the hotels I’ve been to in the middle east of both chain and local variety have offered a card you fill out before you go to bed and breakfast/coffee/tea/etc. are at your door at the time of your choosing. Not a new concept by any means but still appreciated.

  26. Did you and Ford take showers together in the sauna? Strange to not see privacy in the showers.

  27. I have absolutely loved this series. As a long time fan of Great Big Sea I know the names of all of these places but never had any interest in visiting until seeing your photos. Thank you!

  28. Great Report – I also saw this property covered on the BBC a couple of weeks ago. I agree entirely with the statement about the value of such experiences and comparison with large luxury properties. I managed to spend a couple of nights at Claridge’s in London in April at a special spring rate of $500 per night. It was worth every penny because of how the staff made you feel. Beats bling every time.

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