Introducing French Island
Exposed, windswept and wonderfully isolated, French Island is two-thirds national park and it retains a real sense of tranquillity – you can only get here by passenger ferry, so it’s virtually traffic-free, and there’s no mains water or electricity! The main attractions are bushwalking and cycling, taking in wetlands, checking out one of Australia’s largest koala colonies and observing a huge variety of birds.
Pick up the Parks Victoria brochure at the Tankerton Jetty for a list of walks and cycling routes. All roads on the island are unsealed and some are quite sandy.
The island served as a penal settlement for prisoners serving out their final years from 1916 and you can still visit the original prison farm.
The ferry docks at Tankerton; from there it’s around 2km to the licensed French Island General Store, which also serves as post office, and tourist information and bike-hire centre, and has accommodation ($110 per person). Bikes can also be hired at Tankerton Jetty.
Located 10km from Tankerton to the Bayview Chicory Kilns, where fourth-generation local Lois will give you a tour of the historic kilns (by donation), show you a few resident koalas and whip up chicory coffee and Devonshire teas in her rustic cafe. Chicory (a coffee substitute) was the island’s biggest industry from 1897 to 1963. You can camp here for $8/5 per adult/child.