French island, what is it? Where is it? What’s on it? Why should I visit? These are probably the first questions that come to your mind when you hear the name. Other questions that may come to your mind such as does it belong to France? Is it full of French People? I can tell you the answer is definitely no to those questions in particular. But I will endeavour to answer many of the other questions you may have and afterwards I’m sure you’ll be saying to yourself “I need to visit French Island!”
Where is French Island?
French island Is the largest island and wildlife Biosphere in Victoria, only 60km south east of Melbourne City. It’s situated on Western Port Bay so once you arrive at Stony Point you can jump on Western Port Ferries foot passenger ferry across to the island.
When was French Island Discovered?
Originally it is said that the island was used by the Bunurong people as hunting ground. They would come from the mainland and collected shellfish and swan eggs. in 1802 the French expedition boat “The Naturaliste” sailed into Western Port Bay. Jacques Hamelin, the captain of the vessel realised that the land mass in the middle of the bay did not belong to the mainland and was actually an island.
He named it “Île de Françoise” or “French Island” as we know it today.
Why visit French Island?
Long Story short? There’s NOTHING there! Well not nothing, but visiting the island brings you such a strange sense of peace, quiet and remote wilderness that makes it hard to fathom that it is so close to Melbourne. Need more of a reason? Here’s a few.
French island Wildlife
In 1880 a small amount of Koalas were introduced to the island which is devoid of the main threats to Koala populations such as Foxes, Dingoes, Deforestation and the sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia. This has allowed the population to absolutely thrive on the island making it one of the most densely populated Koala areas in Australia.
Koalas are one of the only animals that will continue to breed even if there is not enough food and water to go around, so the island becomes overpopulated every few years. When this happens a selection of the Koalas are relocated to areas that are struggling with numbers. The Population of Koalas in the Otway Rainforest on the Great Ocean Road come from French island and in 2017 400 were relocated to King Lake. There is even a breeding program run on the island to try and control the population growth.
As well as an abundance of Koalas, Echidnas are prevalent across the island. There are many birds of prey such as wedge tailed eagles, white bellied sea eagles, whistling kites, swamp harriers, peregrine falcons and more, making bird watching on the island quite spectacular.
Residential shore birds also call the island home such as the pied cormorant and oystercatcher, terns and the sooty cormorant and also migratory species such as the bar tailed godwit and easterly curlew. These migratory birds generally visit the island between November and April.
Going on a 4-wheel drive adventure on French Island is something else. You get the feeling like you’re in a completely different place and not in Victoria and yet from the island you can see the mainland as well as Churchill and Phillip island. You’ll drive through forested areas, visit swamplands and beaches and get panoramic views of the area from scenic viewpoints.
Interesting facts about French Island
There’s a lot that makes it such a unique place and unlike any other island you’ve probably ever visited, especially so close to a major metropolitan city. Here’s a few fun facts.
- Despite being twice as big as Phillip island, only 110 people live there, 9 of those being children that attend the local primary school.
- There’s no mains electricity, water or gas and the residents are not part of any shire or council meaning they are not required to pay rates.
- The only way to get over to the island is passenger ferry and there’s no way to take a car over.
- Once on the island the only way to get around is by bicycle which you can bring on the ferry or hire from the general store, or you can come on tour with us and explore in the 4-wheel drive OKA. Only one of 5 made.
- It’s home to the largest population of disease-free Koalas in Australia and the local populous is often used to repopulate underpopulated areas.
- There is a breeding control program in place on the island to control the rate of population growth.
Get Off the Beaten Track
Nowadays with travelling being more and more in the reach of people, tourist hotspots are getting overcrowded, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find a secluded, special place where you can get that one of a kind photo and truly special experience. Come visit French island and you’ll find that truly special experience and hopefully encounter with local, free wildlife that you’ll always remember.
Did you know that our Phillip Island Tour is one of a kind? We don’t visit a wildlife park like every other tour in Melbourne. We enjoy a 3 hour 4 wheel drive tour on French island’s Wilderness, exploring, having wildlife encounters and enjoying a spectacular lunch with locals.