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Passengers watched in anticipation as our Adventure Canada cruise ship prepared to dock in Fogo, Newfoundland (population 700). The community is located on the province's largest offshore island, northwest of Musgrave Harbour, across Hamilton Sound and east of the Change Islands.

Adventure Canada ship docks at Fogo, Newfoundland
Adventure Canada ship docks at Fogo, Newfoundland
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

When Fogo Island first appeared on a European map in 1529, it was named fuego (meaning fire) by Portuguese fishermen. As they looked for codfish offshore, they spotted fires, likely built by the now-extinct native Beothuk people who made Fogo Island their summer home.

Town of Fogo

How big is Fogo Island? Its size is 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) long and 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) wide. The total area is 238 square kilometers (92 square miles).

Fogo Island (population 2,500) is comprised of 11 small communities which amalgamated into the Town of Fogo. Our tour of the community of Fogo began in the Lions Club.

Newfoundland hospitality

Sandy Crawford, director of recreation, heritage, culture and tourism, welcomed us and gave an overview of Fogo Island attractions. The best-known tourist draw is Fogo Island Inn, built by local businesswoman and entrepreneur, Zita Cobb. "The 29-room hotel and its award-winning restaurant put Fogo Island on the map," said Crawford.

Accordion-player Brent Walbourne and spoon-player Aaron Brown entertained us with traditional Newfoundland tunes. Author Roy Dwyer, from the community of Tilting, told us stories about the old days on Fogo Island. Local ladies served us Flat Earth Coffee and their delicious homemade scones, date squares and carrot muffins with cream cheese icing.

Colorful homes beside Fogo Harbour
Colorful homes beside Fogo Harbour
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Walking tour

The desserts energized us for our tour of Fogo. After hiking up Brimstone Head Trail for panoramic views of the community, we began our walking tour. Adventure Canada arranged a shuttle bus for passengers who preferred to ride.

As we strolled along Main Street, with maps of Fogo in our hands, we passed neat stacks of firewood, basketball nets and freshly laundered clothing drying on lines strung from colorful clapboard homes. Two boys swept the dust off a section of pavement leading to a goal net and invited passengers to play street hockey with them.

Fogo sign depicts icebergs and fishing stages
Fogo sign depicts icebergs and fishing stages
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

What to see

A painted rock, labeled Fogo, depicted red wooden fishing stages and the gigantic icebergs that float by Newfoundland's east coast in early summer.

Some of the walkers stopped at the nearby This & That Store to shop for crafts and souvenirs. The rest of us visited the five museums in Fogo. (There are five more museums in other Fogo Island communities.)

Fogo museums

Bleak House is a heritage site that is maintained just as it looked in the 1800s when the Slade and Earle families lived in it. In Experience Fogo, displays of tools for shoemaking, farming and woodworking portray life on the island for previous generations.

Built in 1888, the School House Museum was one of the first one-room schools in Newfoundland. The United Church Museum dates back to 1925.

Marconi Wireless Station

We visited the Wireless Relay Interpretation Centre, located in a beautiful wooden building near the Lion's Den walking trail.

To our delight, Andrew Shea, mayor of the Town of Fogo welcomed us. As we toured the museum with him, he gave us personal descriptions of the historical displays and the old Fogo Wireless Station that operated from 1911 to 1933.

Mayor Andrew Shea gives passengers a tour of the Wireless Relay Interpretation Centre near the Marconi Station Site
Mayor Andrew Shea gives passengers a tour of the Wireless Relay Interpretation Centre near the Marconi Station Site
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Historical artifacts

Fogo's Marconi Station was the second center to receive the mayday call from the stricken Titanic. In addition to information about the old Canadian Marconi radio transmitting station, which provided fishermen and island residents with wireless maritime communications, the Interpretation Centre houses other heritage items.

We gazed at Maritime Archaic Indian tools, discovered beneath a Fogo house, and clay pipes, bottles and dishes found at sea after shipwrecks.

Other tools on display included a kit for making sails, a splitting knife to remove bones from cod, a handmade tobacco-cutter and tools for making twine.

Everywhere we looked we found something interesting, from a Fogo merchant's desk to a telescope used in 1812. As we viewed some oilskins, Mayor Shea explained that they were made from flour sacks, dipped in linseed oil to make them waterproof.

Fogo Co-op

The fishing history of Fogo Island is still relevant today. Newspaper clippings and photos explained how the mainstay of Fogo's economy, cod fishing, collapsed in the early 1960s.

The formation of the Fogo Island Shipbuilding & Producers Co-operative Society in 1967 resulted in the acquisition of a shipyard in Shoal Bay and a fish processing plant at Wigwam Pond. Together, they saved Fogo Islanders from the resettlement that befell other Newfoundland fishing outports.

Fogo Island fishermen are still members of this co-op. Today, crab-fishing has replaced cod, but quotas are dropping, causing economic repercussions throughout the communities.

Fogo, Brimstone Head and Fogo Harbour viewed from Wireless Interpretation Centre
Fogo, Brimstone Head and Fogo Harbour viewed from Wireless Interpretation Centre
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Enlightened by this knowledge, we walked out to the wooden veranda outside and discovered one more reason for visiting the Wireless Interpretation Centre. It faces a spectacular view of Fogo, the harbour and Brimstone Head.


Town of Fogo Island

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Adventure Canada

More things to see & do on Adventure Canada Newfoundland Circumnavigation cruises:

Francois Newfoundland - How to Get There and What to See and Do

Newfoundland Wildflowers and Granite - Southwest Coast Garia Bay Hike

Norstead Newfoundland — How the Vikings Lived and Built Ships

Lookout Trail Hike - Gros Morne National Park Newfoundland