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Culture and heritage

Boats from the French expedition ship, Le Naturaliste, sailed into Western Port in April 1802 and spent a week checking the maps of George Bass. M Brevedant circumnavigated the island and called it 'Ile De Francoise'. There is no official record of European settlement on the island prior to 1842. The first island pastoral run was leased in 1850. Chicory growing began in the 1890s and the industry thrived for more than 60 years.

McLeod Prison Farm was established on the island in 1916. Long term prisoners served their final years there.

About 70 permanent residents, many of them descendants of the first settlers, have made the fertile soils in the southern half of the Island productive farm land, but the less disturbed northern part has now been declared French Island National Park, covering about two-thirds of the island.