Hop Over to Change Islands
Extend Your Stay—Hop Over to Change Islands
By Valerie Howes
Guests to Fogo Island often bemoan having to leave so soon. One way to stretch things out is to spend a few hours (or days) on Change Islands—just a 20-minute ferry ride away.
Fogo Island and Change Islands are neighbours who share more than just a ferry service; they are tied by their fishing heritage and traditions. Each year there’s a friendly competition between the skilled boat builders and rowers from Fogo and Change Islands, who compete—alongside a few come-from-aways—in the Great Fogo Island Punt Race to There and Back., you can skate, slide or drive across the thick Atlantic ice.
The population of Fogo Island (2,244) is about ten times larger than that of Change Islands (208), and spread among 11 culturally distinct communities, while most people on Change Islands live in a close-knit community in the Town of Change Islands.
While both populations were battered by the collapse of the northern cod fishery, Fogo Island has a diversified fishing co-op today, and Change Islands is famous for its squid industry. It also lays claim to being the fishing stage capital of the world, with over 200 stages and store built around the coastline.
Arthur Scammel, who grew up here, was inspired by the place to write the beloved folk song, “The Squid Jiggin Ground.” And artist Gerald Squires, one of Newfoundland’s most celebrated artists, was also born and raised here. You can see his life’s work this summer in an exhibit at The Rooms, in St John’s.
There are seven hiking trails to discover along hilly and coastal paths through fishing communities. Just be sure to stop in at the Change Island Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary, where local volunteers work tirelessly to preserve an endangered outport treasure—the stocky and wily little Newfoundland pony.
Peter Porter's extraordinary Olde Shoppe Museum is a place to discover eclectic relics, including a church organ, antique pop cans, and a chair made from a wooden flour tub—inspiration for the Bertha chair at Fogo Island Inn.
In a restored family fishing stage, a young designer, Heather White has created a studio and store, Seal Harbour Designs, where she crafts with her mother, Sadie. Stop in to buy hand-stitched moccasins or jewellery and enjoy the views across the water.
Step in out of the wild setting into St Margaret’s Anglican Church—a pretty white-painted place of worship with an ornate wooden arched interior. It’s celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.
And if you want to stay for a traditional meal—say Jiggs dinner or fish and brewis—book ahead with Beulah Oake at Seven Oakes Island Inn. Beulah has been making guests feel at home at this grand 19th-century fish merchant house for over 30 years. She’s the original innkeeper in these parts!
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