French Island National Park
French Island National Park is located in Western Port, just off the Mornington Peninsula. This ever-changing landscape is shaped by water, from rocky shorelines and sandy beaches to mangroves, saltmarshes and wetlands that shift with the tides and seasons.
Heathlands and open woodlands provide a home for wildlife, such as the Long-nosed Potaroo and Victoria’s most significant koala population. Critically endangered Eastern-barred Bandicoots have also been released into the bushland of the island. French Island has more than 580 indigenous plant species, including over 100 native orchid species. Over 230 bird species have been recorded on French Island, including rare birds such as the White-Bellied Sea-Eagle, King Quail, and the Orange-Bellied Parrot, as well as 33 species of waders that forage along the coast at low tide.
In the mud-flats, shell-fish, crabs, worms and other small animals provide rich pickings for ibis, herons and egrets. You may also see migratory waders, such as the Eastern Curlew, feeding on Ghost Shrimps and crabs, while the tiny Red-necked Stint searches nearby for worms and small crustaceans.
Plan a day trip to enjoy the short, half or whole-day walks from Tankerton Foreshore Reserve. Discover the island habitats by bushwalking through heathland and woodland along the 5km Old Coast Road walking track, or follow the shoreline along Fairhaven Beach at low tide to see roosting shorebirds. The West Coast Wetlands Walk (9.6km) climbs to the Pinnacles at 60m above sea level, offering expansive views of Phillip Island, Western Port and the wetlands.
Explore French Island with your mountain bike via the roads and cycleways, from the shorter Redbill Manna Gum Woodland Ride (8km) to the full-day Gartsides Ride (24km).
French Island is not accessible by car, unless destined for a permanent residence. If you need longer to explore, set up a beachside base camp at the Fairhaven Campground, 5km from the jetty. Try to spot koalas, Purple Moorhen, Swamp Harriers or Cape Barren Geese.
Things to do in the area
Wildlife and Nature
French Island supports a large population of the Long-nosed Potoroo, as well as containing the most significant population of koalas in Victoria. The koalas reproduce so successfully that they eat themselves out of house and home. Each year over 200 are transferred to reserves in other parts of Victoria.
Wetlands, mangroves and salt marshes provide spectacular habitat for water birds year round, including the soaring sea eagles. Over 230 bird species have been recorded, as well as 33 species of waders which forage along the coast at low tide.
In the mud-flats, shell-fish, crabs, worms and other small animals provide rich pickings for ibis, herons and egrets. You may also see migratory waders, such as the Eastern Curlew, feeding on Ghost Shrimps and crabs, while the tiny Red-necked Stint searches nearby for worms and small crustaceans. Some birds fly from breeding grounds in the Northern Hemisphere.
Tours and adventure experiences in parks
One of the best ways you can get into nature is with a Licensed Tour Operator.
There are more than 400 Licensed Tour Operators across Victoria who are ready and waiting to help you experience and connect with Victoria’s spectacular parks and waterways.
Discover more than 60 different types of nature-based experiences including hiking, mountain biking, boating, four-wheel driving, indigenous culture tours, birdwatching, surfing, diving and so much more.
Licensed Tour Operators know all the best places to go and will plan and prepare your visit to ensure you are safe and can enjoy your nature-based adventure to the fullest.
How to get there
French Island National Park
French Island National Park is accessible by ferry from Stony Point and Cowes. Stony Point is located 80km south-east from Melbourne CBD.
Take the Western Port Ferries passenger ferry from Stony Point across to French Island. The trip takes 10 to 12 minutes and delivers you to Tankerton Jetty on French Island.
Tickets are available for purchase on the ferry or online. Check Western Port Ferries or phone (03) 5257 4565 for the ferry timetable and weather conditions. Ferry services can be cancelled at very short notice.
The only roads in the park open to vehicles are Link Road, Clump Road and Causeway Road (south of the junction with Link Road). Seasonal road closures apply.
When you're there
Download the French Island National Park visitor guide for more information about the park and a map.
Visit Western Port Ferries for all up to date ferry timetables and weather conditions.
Old Coast Road Track – 5km, 1.5 hours one way
Starting at Tankerton Jetty, this track leads to the campgrounds, with two lookouts for views across saltmarsh and Western Port. Walk through heathland and messmate heathy woodland. Enjoy wildflowers in spring and look for the White-bellied Sea Eagle.
West Coast Wetlands Walking Track – 9.6km, 3.2 hours return
Starting at Fairhaven Campsite, heat towards The Pinnacles Lookout, enjoying wildflowers, birdlife and seasonal Deuchers, Heifer, Little Heifer, Pobblebonk and Punt Swamps. The Pinnacles offers expansive views of Phillip Island, Western Port and the wetlands.
Fairhaven Northern Beach Walk – 4km, 2 hours return
View shorebirds and migratory waders, saltmarsh and Fairhaven Beach along this walk from Fairhaven Campsite.
Need to know
French Island National Park
Visiting a park can be more of a challenge for people with disabilities, however in Victoria there are a wide range of facilities to help people of all abilities enjoy our wonderful parks around the state.
Assistance dogs are welcome in Parks Victoria parks and reserves. Entry requirements apply for parks and reserves that are usually dog prohibited, such as national parks.
Ross River virus has been identified on French Island. As Ross River virus is spread through mosquitos, visitors to the island are strongly advised to be equipped with insect repellent.
French Island is a unique and pristine habitat for many animals. When visiting, hiking and cycling around the island, be prepared to encounter local wildlife, such as snakes and lizards.
Medical assistance is limited on French Island. The usual response to a call to 000 for assistance is by air ambulance helicopter. Please ensure your first aid supplies are well equipped. Ambulance services are not free, or covered under Medicare, please consider your options, including Ambulance Victoria membership to protect against the cost of ambulance treatment and transport.
Change of Conditions
Nature being nature, sometimes conditions can change at short notice. It’s a good idea to check this page ahead of your visit for any updates.
Fairhaven Campground (French Island National Park)
No vehicle based campingThere is no vehicle based camping allowed at Fairhaven Camground
How we keep it special
We aim to ensure that our valued parks, and the natural assets and cultural heritage they hold, can be enjoyed now and by future generations.