The Trans-Canada Highway cuts a long and lonely course across central Newfoundland on its way from Clarenville, at the base of the Bonavista Peninsula, to Deer Lake, a distance of 450km. There’s little to see amid this vast forested wilderness beyond the Terra Nova National Park, and to make the most of this region you need to get off the highway and head to the isolated outports along the coast. Some 100km north lie the old fishing port of Twillingate and the wonderfully preserved Fogo Island, each on a craggy broken coastline that attracts icebergs by the score from April to June.
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In 2006 Canadian billionaire Zita Cobb decided that she wanted to return to her childhood home on Fogo Island, an isolated place devastated by the cod moratorium, and help to revive the economy. Locals reacted cautiously at first, but since then the island has become the envy of many an outport community: grants and loans have improved infrastructure, and an innovative arts programme has boosted tourism. Yet all of this has simply highlighted what the locals knew all along – that the air here is cleaner, the ocean saltier, the people friendlier and the scenery more enchanting than anywhere else on the planet.
The town of FOGO was the first part of the island to be settled, around 1720 by Poole-based merchant John Slade. It’s an extremely picturesque place, surrounded by rocky hills and containing several historic churches, notably St Andrews, dating from 1841. Nearby is craggy Brimstone Head, renowned locally for the dubious distinction of being proclaimed one of the “four corners of the world” by the now defunct Flat Earth Society – it’s a chilling, nerve-tingling spot regardless, with an easy trail to the 90m summit for the best views on the island.
Visit in the early morning, or just before the sun goes down, and you may not want to leave the bewitching village of TILTING. Gorgeous clapboard cottages, saltboxes, creaky wharves and boathouses cling to the rocks around the placid harbour. The village is proud of its Irish heritage, and the best way to soak it up is to just wander the streets, though if the sun is out, you should also make a trip to Sandy Cove Beach, one of Canada’s best stretches of sand.