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It's not easy to get to Francois (pronounced France-way), an outport community on the south coast of central Newfoundland. You can't drive here, because no roads connect the hamlet to the rest of the province.

Adventure Canada ship arrives in Francois
Adventure Canada ship arrives in Francois
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Most people fly to Stephenville and drive Route 480 to Burgeo, where they park their cars and take the year-round ferry 60 kilometers (37 miles) west to Francois. Time for the ferry trip from Burgeo to Francois, with a stop in Grey River, is 4.5 hours.

Cruise ship visit

We traveled to Francois on an Adventure Canada Newfoundland circumnavigation cruise. From the Atlantic Ocean, the remote village is not visible.

All we could see were 183-meter (600-foot) grey granite headlands, carpeted with green shrubs. A white wooden lighthouse marked the opening to the spectacular fjord.

Everyone gathered on the decks as our cruise ship traveled along a narrow channel between the high cliffs. At the foot of the fjord, a haphazard cluster of buildings climbed up the slope from the water's edge.


This was our second visit to Francois. During our first cruise, fog and heavy rain obscured the village and created waterfalls that gushed down from the cliffs.

One of the locals later told us that during the Second World War, German U-boats came at night to replenish their fresh water from the falls. Residents blackened their windows. They and the intruders pretended that they didn't see each other.


The second time we visited Francois was on an Adventure Canada cruise to Sable Island. It was a bright, sunny June day.

Colorful homes in Francois, Newfoundland
Colorful homes in Francois, Newfoundland
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The population of Francois (90 people) doubled as passengers went ashore. The first thing we noticed, other than the fishing vessels docked next to stilted boat houses, was the color of the homes.

Interspersed among white buildings were cherry-red, grape-purple, lemon-yellow and lime-green clapboard and saltbox houses. The second thing we noted was that Francois has no roads, just paved paths lined with white wooden railings.

Guided tour

"We travel by ATVs in summer and Skidoos in winter," said Deborah Baggs, a friendly resident who guided our tour of Francois. (Passengers divided into small groups, each with a local person as a guide.)

Deborah pointed out St. Simon and St. Jude Academy, the only school in Francois. "It has 13 students and two teachers," she said.

"High school students learn on-line, with supervision. After grade 12, they go to Corner Brook, Stephenville or St. John's to continue their education."

Francois post office
Francois post office
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

General store

Francois has one general store. A walker in our group, who went inside to buy an ice cream cone, described it as "a combination of Canadian Tire and Loblaws." The store closes at lunch and dinner times, but opens in the evenings.

We walked by the Francois Post Office. A Canadian flag hung on a white pole outside. Two wooden Adirondack chairs tempted weary strollers to rest their feet.

"Our mail goes out four days a week," explained Deborah. "It's sorted in Stephenville."

WiFi access

We were surprised to learn that an isolated settlement like Francois had WiFi and satellite TV. There is no cell phone service. People use landline telephones.

The community has no doctors or nurses. A team of first responders communicate with the closest hospital and call in a helicopter, if necessary, to transport patients there. It lands on a flat ledge carved into the steep cliff above the village.

Outport life

The fire department is comprised of volunteers. Water comes from a reservoir above the village. It never dries out, thanks to even higher lakes and cascading chutes of water. Three diesel generators in the power plant provide electricity.

The law-abiding village of Francois has no need for a police department. However, RCMP officers patrol the surrounding sea in fast Zodiacs for illegal fishing.

We walked by the only church in Francois. Built in 1919, it has lay clergy, but no resident minister.

A husky dog observed us through a window of a house farther down the path. The backyard of a green saltbox home was filled with eye candy — daffodils, forsythia and a menagerie of plastic figurines.

A little red building housed a bleating goat. Chickens clucked in a nearby pen.

 Francois signs
Francois signs
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Local pride

Punctuating the idyllic ambience, were three signs that portrayed the pride Francois residents feel about their community (and their sense of humor).

The first sign read: "A Clean Town is a Happy Town" below a painting of Francois and its towering cliffs. The second sign depicted a puffin, the flukes of a diving whale and a sunset with the words: "Candy Rock Bridge — Built in 1989 by The Men of Francois."

The final signs were on a white outhouse. "Francois's Private Reading Room" was painted on one side. On the other side was a painting of a skunk holding a balloon reading: "Fertilizer For Sale."

Fishing for work & pleasure

What do Francois inhabitants do during the day and evening? Some are retired. A few work outside the community. Many are fishermen who catch lobster, snow crab, cod and halibut and ship them to Burgeo on the ferry.

Others work in the school, store and post office. During their leisure time, they hike Francois' trails to pick wild berries in summer. During the winter, they explore the backcountry on snowmobiles.

Cruising along Newfoundland's south coast

We met Darren Durnford, who manages the power plant, and his wife, Christine, who does home care. "We love Francois," said Christine.

Darren Durnford entertains at scoff 'n' scuff
Darren Durnford entertains at scoff 'n' scuff
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

On days off, they cruise up and down the south coast of Newfoundland to explore local towns and abandoned outports, such as Rencontre West. Outdoor-lovers, the Durnfords have a cabin from where they can go fly-fishing for salmon.

Francois Day festival

Every summer, Christine and Darren help organize Francois Day (2015 dates: August 13 to 15). Visitors and locals celebrate with games, fishing competitions, boat races, fireworks and a community supper and dance.

Multi-talented Darren is also Francois' one-man band. He sings, plays the accordion, guitar and fiddle, all by ear.

Scoff 'n' scuff

"Whenever anyone organizes a wedding or a funeral, they invite the entire town," said Christine. That evening, the hospitable people in Francois invited all the passengers on our ship to the Community Hall for a scoff 'n' scuff (the Newfoundland name for a dinner and dance).

Everyone was soon up dancing to Darren's music. (A duet sung by Darren and Christine was especially memorable.)

We met a couple from Kingston, Ontario, who liked Francois so much that they bought a house there for $8,000 on Kijiji. Although there is a guest house in Francois, many people buy summer vacation homes here to enjoy outport life and the close-knit community.

The local ladies served us coffee and covered a table with plates of homemade cookies, marshmallow bars, partridgeberry tarts and lemon squares. A cake, decorated with "Welcome to Francois," displayed an aerial photo of the community that we came to love during our short visit.

Desserts prepared by villagers for Adventure Canada passengers
Desserts prepared by villagers for Adventure Canada passengers
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Resettlement vote

Unfortunately, the friendly folks of Francois may have to relocate if more than 90% of the population vote for it in the next referendum. (Only residents living in the community more than 185 days a year are eligible to vote.)

When the Joey Smallwood government first targeted Francois for resettlement in the 1960s, the population voted against it. In the 2013 referendum, people again voted against relocation, turning down government incentives to buy their houses for more than a quarter million dollars and then lease them back as summer homes.

Parents said that they wanted to raise their children here. Others said that relocation would break up families.

This was not the first resettlement vote. It won't be the last.

It's just one more reason to savor life in Francois before it succumbs to the fate of many other relocated Newfoundland outports.


Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Adventure Canada

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

L'Anse aux Meadows UNESCO Site Tour - Visitor Center, Trail and Sod Huts

Tablelands Hiking Trail - Gros Morne National Park Newfoundland

Fogo NL Tour and Marconi Site Wireless Interpretation Centre

Newfoundland Traditional Music in Black Duck Brook - Port-au-Port

Newfoundland Foods, Cuisine and Traditional Dishes