Twice as big as Phillip Island, this place is a wildlife paradise in the heart of Western Port, south-east of Melbourne. It has the healthiest and most prolific colony of koalas in Australia, more than 250 bird species and the rare longnosed potoroo. Seventy per cent of the island is national park, with environments ranging from mangrove salt marshes to heathlands and open woodlands, supporting 600 plant species, and 100 native orchids, including at least one that is only found here.
There is no bridge to the island, so you will need to either catch the passenger ferry from Stony Point or a small barge from Corinella in which you can bring your car if you must, but you are better to bring a mountain bike or hire one from the general store.
French Island is perfect for a day tour, either on your own or with the highly recommended eco-accredited French Island Eco Tours in which you will almost certainly see active koalas up close. You can camp on the island, with free camping by the beach at Fairhaven, although it is 5 kilometres from where the ferry comes in. Alternatively, stay at McLeod EcoFarm, a certified biodynamic 220-hectare farm that grows garlic and vegetables, and has beef, lamb, pork and eggs. You can eat gourmet organic meals prepared by chefs from ingredients grown on the farm. About 50 per cent of the power comes from sun and wind, and there is a nine-hole organic golf course. There is accommodation for more than 100 people here, ranging from bunk rooms for two to a guesthouse with double rooms, and there are campsites as well.
Ferry information: (03) 9585 5730
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