The easiest way to travel to Tasmania is via aeroplane. On a clear day, you’ll see stunning aerial views of the state and of the stretch of water separating it from mainland Australia. This bird’s-eye-view of Bass Strait gives you no idea of its breadth . It is not. To fully experience Bass Strait, take a ride on the Spirit of Tasmania.
The two Spirit of Tasmania vessels sail between Port Melbourne and Devonport. They ferry people, pets, vehicles and freight containers. In winter, there are generally sailings every day except Sunday. In summer, day sailings are also available. Both Spirit of Tasmania I and II have restaurants, bars, a reading room, a tourism hub, a playground, a cinema, and so on.
I like the night sailings and my first priority is to be out on deck while the sun is still up. There are many ways to get to the outside decks and I recommend choosing one that isn’t too crowded and faces the sunset. After this, head to Tasmanian Market Kitchen for a meal (dietary requirements are catered for). On Deck 9, you’ll find live music from a talented Tasmanian act. I’m not one for a late night when I know that I’ll be woken up very early so I tend to head to bed after half a set.
You have a choice about how you will spend your night on the Spirit of Tasmania. You can either sleep in a recliner or a cabin. My husband tells me that the recliners are awful but they are much cheaper and other people swear by them. I like space, my own bathroom and lying flat to sleep so it’s an inside cabin for me. For a slightly higher price, you can book a cabin with a porthole (not worth it on a winter night sailing though!). When you get out into Bass Strait, there are waves, very large waves. If you suffer from motion sickness, make sure that you take your medication! Let yourself be rocked to sleep.
Devonport is about an hour’s drive north of Launceston on the Bass Highway. From Hobart, it will take you about three and a half hours (four hours including a stop) to get to the ferry terminal. Once your reach the outskirts of Devonport, follow blue signs for the ferry. The ship begins loading passengers two and a half hours prior to departure (boarding closes 45 minutes before the ship leaves). In Devonport, I recommend enjoying the view from the other side of the Mersey River and taking a bit of time before boarding.
The easiest way to reach the ferry terminal in Melbourne is via the toll roads. You can pay for the toll in advance here. If you are averse to paying tolls, make sure that you leave plenty of time to find your way. I try to arrive at Port Melbourne at least two hours before boarding commences. Parking nearby is limited but you can generally find a two-hour spot and walk along the shore for a while before boarding.
What to Bring
You cannot access the vehicle decks after the ship’s departure. Pack an overnight bag with warm clothes (for out on the deck), toiletries, snacks and medication. Food is available for purchase on board the ship. Due to Tasmania’s strict quarantine regulations, you cannot bring fresh fruit and vegetables, plants or meat/fish with you.
Prices vary according to seasons. There are two methods for booking. Method One: book well in advance so that you get the sailings that you want. Method Two: wait for a last-minute special (but risk missing out on a sailing altogether). Either way, I recommend signing up for the Spirit of Tasmania mailing list so that you’re aware of upcoming specials. If you are taking a ute or 4WD, make sure that you account for the height of your load when booking your tickets.
Enjoy your journey to Tasmania! While you’re in Devonport, why not visit Home Hill (a prime-ministerial home) or sail on The Julie Burgess? If you just need a good feed, go to Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory or Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm. For more ideas for your Tassie adventures, read my posts about what to do in Tassie’s north, north west, south, west coast, east coast and midlands.