Driving across the island of Newfoundland, staring at the wall of trees as it shifts, transitioning through a range of species as you pass the mouth of each peninsula. Spruce, spruce, fir, aspen, birch! Birch! They parade by as we launch our drooping winter shoulders to the connected dots of New World Island. A ferry line, a boat approaching, a sun setting behind the island from which we were leaving, casting wild hues over the one we were approaching.
A map. Four artist studios blend into the starkness of the landscape and provide a point of refuge and creativity for artists from all over the world. And a great treasure hunt for visitors to the island.
To the south end of Joe Batt’s Arm with the sun hanging low, through fair grounds and beyond the open mouth of the crashing Atlantic. Climbing out precariously over rocks and ice to stand before the waves that crash so close you feel the spray in our eyelashes. The Inn rises bold and stark on the rocks opposite, glowing in the last of the sun. A boardwalk, up and over some snow-coated manner of moss and juniper and rock, to the dark length of the Long Studio. Peering through windows, a quick refuge from the wind. A view of a harbour.
Barrens rising up over the community of Deep Bay, crossing pathways and veins of rock, climbing towards the heavy sun. A lookout pointing back towards the town, caribou tracks pointing forward. Scrambling after them in the fresh snow. The Bridge Studio appears through the hills, jutting out above the frozen pond at the top. The quietest studio. Bounding across the barrens to an edge. Tumbling. Scraped knees. Weaving back down and through the town, spying a single caribou. Following her to the herd as they turn from the sea and head back out over the hills.
In the growing dark we traced the vein of a thin boardwalk from the road well-worn – the road that links the Town of Fogo to Joe Batt’s Arm – to a tower rising dark and haunting. A quiet moment before the calm waters of this bay, lapping only feet from the tower on three sides. So fitting to be seen in darkness.
Through the old town of Tilting to the point, the pathway heading from grasslands into the cliffs oceanside. A beacon. The last studio pounded with waves and the wind. The wind! Along the shore, high above, past a fence, some small house or shed marking our progress from the distance across rolling hills. A sheltered moment cradled by the spine of a rock. Catching our breath.
Reasons to Visit Fogo Island in the Winter:
- Less crowds mean a lot of things. Happier locals who want to chat, beautiful hiking trails all to yourself, and the starkness of starkness when not crowded with tourists.
- It’s really not THAT cold. It hovered near 0 degrees the entire time. The wind, however, gets pretty wild. And bitter. And there was that snow storm.
- Get a great deal on accommodations with off-season rates.
For Real Advice:
- The ferry to and from Fogo Island can be a little tricky. We were only delayed leaving by one extra day, but there have been several interruptions in service in the last month. Be wary if flexibility is not in your favour.
- Very few restaurants are open and the grocery stores can be a little sparse when the ferry service is interrupted. It may be wise to do some grocery shopping before leaving mainland Newfoundland. Particularly if produce is your jam.
About this adventure:
- The studios are part of the Artist Residency program with Fogo Island Arts. You can find out more about the residencies here.
- The studios, as well as the Inn, were designed by Gander-born, Norway-based architect Todd Saunders. Read more about him here.
- Bed and Breakfasts and vacation rentals are the way to go in Fogo. There is a pretty extensive list on the town of Fogo website here.
- Ferry information can be found at the Department of Transportation website here, but more up-to-date info can be found on the ferry Facebook page here.