Friday, 23 February 2018

Mysteries of French Island

I was recently hosted on a tour of French Island, in Western Port Bay southeast of Melbourne. This was a test run for a new series of tours being offered in conjunction with the ferry service which links the island to the mainland.

This was an intriguing invitation. Though it's long been possible to reach the island by ferry, there was no way to get around once there. There's no public transport on French Island, and its road surfaces aren't ideal for cycling.

I knew only a little of the history of the island; specifically that it was named in 1802 upon the visit of the French ship Naturaliste, part of the Baudin expedition to Australia. Other than that, it was a closed book to me.

The first thing I saw after disembarking the ferry was this impressive 4WD vehicle which Naturaliste Tours had purchased to penetrate to the most difficult parts of the island, which is largely a national park:


There's a lot of interesting wildlife on French Island. On our way to its southeast corner we passed this difficult to see echidna, shuffling along in the grass by the side of the road:


Then we broke out from bush into this large open space, an abandoned farm which had an eerie desolate air, with its empty farmhouse and old (but recently re-roofed) chicory kiln:




Near a nearby rocky beach, our guide pointed out many discarded shells, remnants of millennia of Aboriginal use of the foreshore:



On our way to French Island Vineyards, we spotted a koala up a tree:


The winery was a decorative contrast to all this wild nature, and we sampled some its wines while having lunch:


 


We finished our tour with a visit to the striking wetlands at the other end of the island, proof of the variety of its landscapes:




Then it was onto the return ferry to Stony Point on the mainland, and two trains back to Melbourne's CBD. Well worth the trip, and a fascinating insight into a lesser-known island on the city's doorstep.

Details of Naturaliste Tours' French Island tours can be found by visiting its website.