French Island General Store offers ultimate off-the-grid sea-change

298 Tankerton Rd, French Island - for herald sun real estate

The French Island General Store is listed for sale at $1.6m-$1.7m.

The only store on a Victorian island once frequented by Kylie and Dannii Minogue is being offered as the ultimate sea-change.

If you can afford the $1.6m-$1.7m asking price.

As the only retailer on French Island, the unique property at 289 Tankerton Rd acts as a local grocer, cafe, post office, newsagency, bottle shop, petrol and LPG station, bike and car hire venue, accommodation provider and tourism hub.

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And it does it all without mains gas, electricity or water connections, with the island so far off the grid residents don’t even pay council rates.

That seclusion has attracted its share of famous faces, with Kylie and Dannii Minogue both spending time there while their family owned a property on the island.

And a farm that is currently for sale is thought to have been a love nest for former deputy PM Jim Cairns and his former private secretary Junie Morosi; the pair at the centre of one of Australia’s greatest political sex scandals.

298 Tankerton Rd, French Island - for herald sun real estate

Most of the general store’s tourist visitors arrive by boat.

The general store stocks a variety of groceries and products.

Now it is becoming an increasingly popular tourist spot.

Tanya Le Serve bought the general store with her parents, her brother and his wife, six years ago.

“We have turned it around from somewhere you could just get a pie or sausage role,” Ms Le Serve said.

“We now serve things like chicken parmas, and we get a lot of tourists coming over to us.”

The store has its own chickens, as well as a vegetable garden and fruit trees, with much of their own produce finding its way onto plates in the cafe.

298 Tankerton Rd, French Island - for herald sun real estate

The store offers takeaway food and treats.

298 Tankerton Rd, French Island - for herald sun real estate

Home grown ingredients are used in the store’s cafe.

During lockdowns Ms Le Serve became a lifeline for the island, which is regarded as regional Victoria though its nearest connection to the mainland is Stony Point — which is considered metropolitan Melbourne, meaning a permit was required to travel between it and the island.

While residents could take a ferry to Cowes on Phillip Island or a barge to Coronet Bay, many opted to rely on their local.

“A lot didn’t want to go off the island, so we were selling everything from potting mix to fruit and veg,” she said.

The general store became a lifeline for many of the island’s residents during lockdown.

The general store also has one of the island’s most sophisticated solar power setups.

Even before the pandemic, business was booming as a growing number of tourists looked to go off the grid, taking the ferry across to the island and a courtesy bus to the general store where they hire a car or bike and go sightseeing or “koala counting”.

“It’s like stepping back in time,” Ms Le Serve said.

“It’s a real hidden gem.”

While still loving the island lifestyle, the family has decided to sell as a result of a strong property market and demand from sea-changers.

298 Tankerton Rd, French Island - for herald sun real estate

The property is about 3km from the ferry access, with a courtesy bus bringing tourists to it.

298 Tankerton Rd, French Island - for herald sun real estate

A pair of two-bedroom homes on the site offer space for guests or an owner to live on site.

“If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen — we love living on the island,” she said.

“If it does, we will do as long a handover as the next owner needs, so they can learn the ropes.”

Andersen Property Specialists director Scott Andersen is handling the listing and said he expected it would appeal to “someone looking for a lifestyle change”.

In addition to the business, the 5900sq m property includes 15 car parks, petrol bowsers, a commercial kitchen attached to the cafe, an extensive solar panel array with batteries connected and a pair of two-bedroom residences.

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