Staycation on French Island

When you can’t get away for a proper holiday, a staycation is the perfect solution. At the end of the Easter break, I jumped in the car and tootled on down to French Island, taking in some sights (and picking up my companion for the trip) along the way. 
My man is a sustainable fisheries specialist, so we can’t show you his face in this post… but we can show you some of the contemporary stylings of the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne.

As it was Easter Monday when we visited, there were lots of family activities on, but for this particular activity, being accompanied by a child was fortunately not a prerequisite.

Yes, another pic of me with a snake… this one was a young carpet python I think. I was too busy keeping its head away from mine to find out! 
Once we had bothered the poor python enough, we stepped out into the fresh air and explored the gardens. I hadn’t visited in years so there was a fair bit that I hadn’t seen. I love the landscaping at Cranbourne, it showcases and mirrors Australia’s native scenery to great effect.

A pom pom plant!

As with all great gardens, attention is given to little details as well as to the overall view.

Love the arid effect created by boulders and a Queensland bottle tree.

Some plants look as if they’re made up of completely separate elements. This grass tree, for instance…

Would you ever guess there are spikes sticking out the top like this?

Eyes back to the ground, there are plenty of little plants to look out for.

It’s the red earth that’s the most striking aspect of the gardens though. I’ve never been to the red centre of our land but I imagine it looks something like this (although I doubt there would be little signs everywhere explaining what the plants are).

Garden explorations over, we journeyed on to the Tyabb Packing House to ooh and aah over its vintage and second hand treasures before heading to Stony Point and boarding the ferry for French Island. Even though it’s so close to Phillip Island, French Island has far fewer visitors as you can only get there by ferry. There are only about 80 residents, the roads are not paved, there is just one general store and there is no electricity or mains water. There are, however, a lot of koalas – the densest disease-free population in the world, apparently.

This one was just outside the McLeod Eco Farm, where we stayed. We went for a little wander along the coast on arrival. The island-y looking things are mangroves, the southern-most specimens in the world.

The farm was once a prison, with cells that looked like this:

These days, they’re a little bit cleaner and are used to accommodate school kids on camps. Apparently even when it was a prison, it was low security and the inmates were treated well – in fact when some of them were nearing the end of their time, they would pretend to escape just so they could be sentenced again and could stay on the island! I have to admit we were not quite as enthusiastic about the place, but that is largely due to the weather. Rain put a stop to our plans to explore the next day – all we managed was a 10-minute walk along the beach before we set off to catch the ferry back to the mainland.   

There was a bit of a welcoming party back at Stony Point.

Before heading home, we drove to the Port Phillip Estate winery which reminded me of the headquarters of some mad scientist in a Bond film because, although I loved the modern feel of the architecture, it took us a while to work out how to actually get into the place!

We finally found this door, which swung open automatically (reinforcing that mad scientist kind of atmosphere)…

 … to reveal the restaurant and this beautiful view over the vineyards…

You would never know that this verdant view lay behind the imposing exterior. Oh, and no mad scientists caught us for their experiments, although my co-traveller did trial some of the wine and has not shut up about it since! It was an impressive way to end our little trip – and will definitely tempt us back again some time in the near future.

残念ながら、メインな目的のフレンチ島での冒険はあまりできませんでした。フェリーに乗って夕方の5.30ごろ宿泊先のMcLeod Eco Farmに着いたけれど、夕ご飯を食べる前には木に寝ているコアラを探したり海辺でちょっと散歩したりする時間しかなく、その後はもう暗くなりかけていたからゲストハウスで本を読んで寝ました。島にはジェネレータの電気しかなく、水道のお水もないので、かなりエコなところです。泊まったところは実は元々刑務所でした!でもお化けとかには運良く会わなかった!
次の日はハイキングする予定でしたが、起きてからずっと雨だったので結局帰りのフェリーに乗って、Port Phillip Estateのワイナリーでちょっとしたお昼とテースティングしました。どちもよかったけど、何よりも建築と景色が印象的でした。ボンド映画の悪役のHQに見えた建物の入り口が最初分からなかったけど、大きい門みたいなドアに近づいたら自動的に開いて、素晴らしい景色が目の前に現れました。同じエリアにはワイナリーなど、たくさんあるから、今度はもっとその辺を見たいと思います!