Thinking of visiting Tasmania? How will you get there?
Option A – Commercial flights
For most people, flying is the most practical way to get there. The cheap fares offered by the commercial carriers to both of Tasmania’s main airports (Hobart, Tasmania’s capital in the south-east, and Launceston in the north) have made this the most popular method of travelling to the island. Despite cheap fares, the downsides are those that are always associated with air travel: i.e. getting to/from the airport; the however-many hours in your seat on the plane (depending how far away you’re travelling from) with ‘fun’ other passengers from whom there’s no escape; limited luggage size – and the possibility of lost luggage; the costs and hassle of a rental car… need I go on?
Option B – Privately owned boat
Sure – if you’re lucky/wealthy enough to own/hire a big sturdy one to get you there. Let’s face it – a tinnie isn’t going to do the job, and how are you going to get around once you’re there?
Option C – Drive you own car/motorbike/vehicle there
Yes. Drive there!
No, there isn’t a bridge. Yes, it does mean driving your car onto a vehicle ferry. One of the twin ships called the Spirit of Tasmania, in fact.
Driving on board:
Did you know?
The route across Bass Straight is technically a highway. For the same reason that the federal government gives funding to maintain bitumen highways (so people can travel around our nation), your vehicle’s passage is subsidised by the federal government. It’s called the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme. In addition to holiday makers and a few business travellers, there are trucks carrying fresh produce from Tasmania (there are strict quarantine restrictions about what can be taken to Tassie), as well as trucks travelling both directions with new cars and various other goods for sale – all this happens before and after you board as the heavier vehicles are generally parked on the ships lowers decks.
Unfortunately your passage is not subsidised, but hey – you have options there too. (Please note that staying in your car overnight is not an option. Even if it’s a campervan.)
In addition to your car and all your ‘essential’ luggage (you can even take a trailer to make sure you haven’t left anything behind that you might need), you can also take your pets onboard. They don’t get to wander the decks with you or stay in your cabin, though. There are cages near port holes on deck 7 which will ensure your furry friends survive the night. They, like people, are not allowed to stay in cars due to safety reasons. Morning reunions are a touching sight.
I realise catching the ferry isn’t a viable option for many people. I flew to Tassie for my first trip there – if I didn’t now live in Melbourne I probably still wouldn’t have been onboard. But if you are fortunate enough to either live in Melbourne, or be able to drive to Port Melbourne, then I reckon this really is the best way to kick off your Tassie holiday. Here’s what it’s like for us:
Leave work, and meet Stephen in the city with the car packed and ready to go. Drive to Port Melbourne (hoping there aren’t any accidents on the way to delay us). Pass security check, collect tickets, then drive on board. Grab your overnight bag (you can’t return to your car until the next morning – no exceptions – so don’t forget anything the small shop on board doesn’t stock!) and disable the motion sensor on the car alarm (you don’t want to return to a car with a flat battery).
Now we’re on board, first priority is to make a dinner reservation at The Leatherwood Restaurant (other people prefer the no-wait buffet option – The Captain’s Table).
Then it’s off to find our cabin (we choose to book a cabin – you don’t have to) and then relax! While you’re waiting for your table at the restaurant, or after dinner, you can wander the decks, have a beer or wine, visit the Tassie info shop (get your National Park passes organised), watch sports or a movie, the kids can have fun in the kids play room, read a book, or – if you’re an adult – play pokies (*shudder*). Yes, it’s sad but true. There are even pokies onboard.
Then turn in for a decent night’s sleep when you’re done. It’s a 6am wake up call the next morning!
I know I could be in the minority when I say this but… if I don’t notice a bit of rocking while strolling the decks (or, even better, rocking me to sleep) then I feel somewhat cheated. I’m not talking so rough as to be tossed out of bed or around the corridors, but enough to notice. It’s all part of the fun.
In the morning you can grab some food in at The Captain’s Table (the restaurant doesn’t open for breakfast) – and if your someone who needs your caffeine intravenously, I guess you’ll be there – but if you can hold on, there’s better on land (ETC if you’re heading along the Bass Hwy or the bakery in Penguin if you’re heading west).
If you have a vehicle, you can return to it (and your pets) when they announce the deck your vehicle’s on is open. They stagger this so people don’t get crushed on the stairs I guess. Load up and wait – but don’t turn on the ignition until the one in front of you moves (to limit fumes for the staff and people still waiting to disembark) – and hope that when the car two in front of you moves off, the driver immediately in front of you is also in their car and ready to go. Frustration can start early in the day if you’re trapped by a late sleeper. Please be thoughtful to your other passengers and be in your car and ready to go when your deck is being cleared.
Then – freedom!! Almost. There’s a queue for a quarantine inspection, but it’s fairly quick painless. As long as you’re not anything from the DPIPWE’s prohibited list, you’re good to go! We’re usually on the road before 7:30am.