Spirit of Tasmania is the ideal transportation mode when travelling with family and kids, this guide covers all you need to know. The ship is the link between Tasmania and the rest of mainland Australia. It is an enormous passenger ferry equipped with all the latest mod-cons and facilities to ensure a smooth and enjoyable ride. We travelled with Oliver when he was eleven months old who surprisingly had a blast on the ship, albeit it did take him a bit longer to fall asleep being in such a different environment. We sailed overnight, which in our opinion is ideal and gives the best of both worlds, enjoying the ship and arriving well rested in the morning. Yes, you could fly, but where’s the fun in that. Also this way you can bring absolutely everything you will need for an awesome roadtrip, with no mucking around with airports, car rentals and hire places.
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Our Guide to Sailing With Spirit Of Tasmania
Spirit of Tasmania sails both directions between Port Melbourne, Victoria and Devonport, Tasmania. With no road between the two states, the ferry is the only option for land-based transit of passengers, vehicles and goods. Being the only option, the cost is actually subsidised by the Australian government, slightly reducing the fare.
The ship sails through Port Phillip Bay and crosses the narrow strip of sea between the two states, Bass Strait. The total journey measures 429km, or for the keen sailor, 232 nautical miles.
The travel time of the crossing is between 9 and 11 hours. This difference in travel time is on account of maintaining a comfortable crossing in varying weather conditions.
You will also need to check-in at least 45 minutes before departure time whilst disembarking could take up to 30 minutes.
Benefits of Sailing vs Flying
Travelling on Spirit of Tasmania holds many benefits over the faster flying option.
- You can bring everything, including the kitchen sink. Seriously with no ‘luggage restrictions’ and the ability to bring your own vehicle and caravan you don’t have to worry about having to sacrifice bringing certain things. That means no parking or hire car costs and also no hire fees for all your hiking & camping gear, bikes, golf clubs, surfboards or even kayaks. We may have slightly overpacked because of this haha!
- You can bring your pet along with you to enjoy the holiday as well!
- The sail itself is part of the experience of the holiday, with so much fun and activities onboard, sailing most certainly is not a bore and will definitely be memorable for all! After all, travel is all about the journey as much as the destination.
- There is an onboard Tourism Hub to get your knowledge of and Tasmania and Victoria fully up to scratch, you can also purchase National Parks passes there.
Spirit of Tasmania
Spirit of Tasmania is reminiscent of a cruise ship, there are that many facilities and features! With gaming lounges to cinemas and restaurants, there is not much else you could want on board for the interstate journey. There are actually two identical ships, Spirit of Tasmania I & Spirit of Tasmania II. Both measuring an impressive 194m and being comprised of 11 decks and 222 cabins, they are able to take up to 1,400 passengers and 500 vehicles.
Day Sail Vs Night Sail
There are two journey types dependant on the time of year, a Day Sail or Night Sail.
The ‘Night Sails‘ operate year-round from both Melbourne and Devonport, leaving at varying times between 7:30pm and 10:30pm.
The ‘Day Sails’ operate most of the year, however, they sometimes do not operate throughout winter. These leave ateither 8:30am.
Both options have their own pro’s and con’s, however in our opinion the night crossing win’s hands down. You can still enjoy the benefits of the ship’s facilities, but then when you tire, you can retire to a cabin or recliner and sleep through the rest of the journey with ease. This is especially handy if travelling with children. Not only does this make the time pass quickly, but it also saves you a nights accommodation that you would otherwise be spending. Additionally, you arrive fresh and ready to start your road trip from the crack of dawn, much better than arriving only to have to retire for the night without seeing anything!
Then again, at night time you don’t get to enjoy the views from the deck, although to be honest there’s only so much looking out the window that we would be able to enjoy without having boredom set in!
Being an enormous vessel, you have a wide range of choices regarding how you spend your time onboard suited to all budgets and travellers.
The recliners are located in their own room and resemble a chair you’d find in business class of an aeroplane. On the night sails, they are free to use to get a nights sleep, whilst if you want to rest in one on the day sails they will set you back $39. Blankets are also provided on the night sails. The recliners are located in their own section of the ship and look out over the constantly changing view through floor to ceiling windows. If travelling an infant you won’t be able to use a recliner, which to be honest is probably for the best for everyone!!
Of the 222 cabins onboard, there are various categories of room available:
All cabins have been completely refurbished and feature elegant furnishings with a bold new colour scheme. In addition, they have air-conditioning/heating with adjustable controls, a powerpoint, wall-mounted reading lights, hanging space, a desk with a chair and a wall mirror. Bedding, towels and soap are provided.
- Deluxe Cabin – These are the premium cabins and feature a Queen bed, ensuite, TV, twin windows, table and chairs, heaps of room
- Twin Bed Private Porthole Cabin – Two single beds, ensuite, window
- Four Bed Private Porthole Cabin – Two bunk beds, ensuite, window
- Four Bed Inside Cabin – Two bunk beds, ensuite
- Female or Male Shared Cabin – As above, but shared with other passengers of the same sex if travelling solo.
If you book an infant, a cot will be placed in your room. However, to be honest we recommend you bring your own portacot so they have a bit of familiarity (as long as it is a small one, we have the Babybjorn one and it fit fine). Having a cabin makes a world of difference in waking up feeling fresh and being able to have a shower before starting the day. Or on a day sail its simply a good place to relax!
Prices vary between day and night sails and time of year so best to check through the booking page to get an idea for when you want to go.
As a guide it’s advised to book Spirit of Tasmania 4-6 months in advance to ensure availability and get the best price. In peak periods spaces do fill up early, especially for higher vehicles.
You will then need to advise Spirit of Tasmania of passenger and vehicle details. It is critical to input the right vehicle details as different sized vehicles are stowed in different areas of the ship dependent on size. If bringing a caravan or trailer you will need to measure the total length to ensure you have an appropriate parking space reserved.
Then choose whether you want to do a day or night sail, your accommodation choice and you are all set!
Boarding Process & Checking In
Port Melbourne is smack bang in the middle of the CBD, so make sure you account for any traffic you may encounter. Devonport, on the other hand, is super quiet.
Check-in opens 2.5 hours prior to sailing and closes 45 minutes before departure. On both sails, we gave ourselves plenty of time and arrived when check-in opened. This allowed us to settle into our cabins, explore and start our meals before setting off on our journey, making sure that Ollie would be able to keep to his usual bedtime routine.
The whole check-in process went super smoothly. First, you will drive through a quarantine check-point where they check your vehicle for any fresh fruit or vegetables, as well as check-in any portable butane/LPG canisters and guns. Tasmania has really strict biosecurity laws restricting fresh items being brought in so as to protect the natural ecosystem. Your car will be tagged as passing the inspection.
Then you will continue on to the check-in counter where you will hand over the quarantine tag e-ticket. You will be handed over your boarding passes and key cards to your cabin and told where to head next! After driving onto the ship you will be instructed where to park, after which grab your overnight bag and head up to the decks to explore.
Make sure to grab everything you need for the trip as once the ship departs, you are unable to access your car.
Also, grab one of the flyers in the stairway as you leave the car that tells you where your car is parked. We didn’t on our first trip and struggled to find out the car again in the morning haha!
From there it was up to find our cabin. We were surprised as we walked the corridor how much we felt like we were on land in a hotel. A quick swipe of our keycard and we were in our private cabin, with the window overlooking the sun setting over Port Phillip Bay.
If travelling without a cabin, there are loads of seats around the ship, but it would be best to find a good area of the ship to claim before all the good spots get taken!
Keeping Yourself & The Kids Occupied Onboard
It’s no surprise a big ship like Spirit of Tasmania has loads to do onboard, and the journey will seriously sail by! Here are just a few of the facilities to keep you occupied:
There are two cinemas featuring comfy seats and offering up the latest kids and adult movies. This is a great way to kill a couple of hours, especially on the day sail. You have to buy your tickets once onboard from the kiosk, but be warned seat’s book out quickly, so try get yours asap. We recommend if travelling with kids to try and save watching a movie until the second half of your trip once they have already fully explored the ship.
Kids Game Zone
Ollie may not even be one yet but the second he saw the games room he was clawing at our arms trying to get us to turn there! The Galactica Games room is complete the classic arcade games you love such as car racing, pinball and the usual claw machine! James and Ollie rode on the motorbike game together and kept winning over and over, and clearly Ollie is now a motorbike fan haha! Make sure to bring a few spare gold coins along to have a bit of fun in here!
In another part of the ship, you will find four separate tv and Xbox setups! Whenever we walked past they were all always in use, so clearly quite popular!
You’ll find a decent-sized jungle gym style playground complete with slide, ramp and soft play pyramids. Oliver was the only kid in there when we visited so he had free reign!
To our surprise when walking the corridors we found a cosy area where you could hang out and listen to some live music in some comfy chairs, with a drink in hand.
The Tourism Hub contains all the knowledge you need to know about where you are headed. You’ll find friendly staff and more pamphlets then you could bring with you. You can also purchase Tasmanian National Parks & Fishing passes from here. Staff can even make tour or accommodation bookings for you, so it’s all ready to go when you arrive in Tasmania!
This cosy nook is the perfect spot to chill out and get your read on. In the 48 hours prior to boarding, you can download as many premium magazines and newspapers as you like using the PressReader app, for later offline reading on your cruise or as you travel around Tasmania.
Scattered around the ship you will find various TV’s playing the usual stations, so don’t worry you won’t miss that game that you have to see!
School Holiday Entertainment
During school holidays (December to April) the whole family will be kept entertained with local entertainers on hand, including face painting, singers and a roaming entertainment host
Free Media Streaming
Free media streaming is available in all public areas (excluding cabins). Stream free-to-air TV on your own device.
Wifi is available in public areas for a fee, just in case you can’t cope with the forced digital detox. We found that our Telstra phone reception stayed in range until we went to sleep for the night so we were able to ensure Oliver’s sleep music could stream hah!
Dining options on Spirit of Tasmania
There are loads of meal and drink options onboard to suit all tastes and hunger levels
Tasmanian Market Kitchen (TMK)
This self-service buffet was our first port of call, and boy did it deliver. The buffet serves up a huge range of Tasmanian inspired marketplace favourites and has all tastes catered for from salad to roast dinner and dessert. Especially yummy was the roast pork and unlimited crackling (I know super-naughty!). Depending on the time of day the TMK serves up Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner so you can well and truly eat your heart out. It will set you back $28.50 for adults, $15 for 15 and under, $10 for 10 and under and free for under 5’s. Ollie actually got a half-decent feed for free as a little person haha! When we woke up in the morning we were still full from dinner, a great success. They also have high chairs for your little ones.
The Terrace Lounge Bar
A bit more relaxed dining is the Terrace Lounge Bar, a bright lounge area with comfy chairs and TV’s throughout. You’ll be able to grab decent pizzas and paninis as well as a range of bar snacks.
The Pantry offers the convenience of delicious coffees, freshly prepared sandwiches, snacks and breakfast items. For a lighter bite to eat The Pantry has you covered.
How rough is the journey?
Spirit of Tasmania is equipped with some serious stabilisers and is massive, however, it can still get quite choppy out in the open waters of Bass Strait. Us oldies were in bed before getting out of Port Philip Bay, at which point it was dead flat. During the night when Ollie woke up, we were at a steady rock, enough that it was a bit of an effort to walk to the bathroom. Although we didn’t need them, it might be a good idea to take seasickness tablets if you get prone to being sick, and especially for kids. Our return journey was probably as rough as it could ever get due to an enormous wintery storm passing through much of the country. The ship was going up and down the waves like in a movie, however, it was still gentle in the way it was happening and we felt completely safe, although it did make sleep a bit harder..especially for Ollie who ended up sleeping in the single bed with Paige!
If you’re not awake already, you will be awoken 45 minutes prior to arrival through the ships speaker system. Disembarking is super straight forward, as long as you remember where your car is! Remember that card we told you to grab when leaving your car, this is the time to bring it out and check what floor you were on. We forgot to grab the card the first time and kept going from level to level as the doors opened.
The different levels disembark one after the other with each level getting access as the previous one clears. We drove straight off and out into Devonport. Often there is a quarantine checkpoint set up to check for fresh food items, however, on that morning, there was nothing. So we just had to patiently wait for all the cars to disperse before being able to jet into town to watch the sunrise over the Mersey Bluff Lighthouse!
Good for families?
In our opinion, a big YES. There is just so much to keep them occupied from the view to the arcades, cinemas and consoles. In fact there’s so much fun stuff that if you’re on a night sail you may have trouble getting them to bed! Much better than being cooped up in airports and aeroplanes.
Oliver was 11 months old and between teething, the ships rocking and a new portacot, the only way he would sleep was in the single bed cuddled up with Paige. This worked out fine though and they both managed to get a good sleep.
A cabin is probably a pretty critical purchase if travelling with small children just to give yourself some of your own space, day or night.
Even though Ollie is just a young tacker, you can tell he loved the whole experience and loved staring out the window.
What we thought
For us, sailing Spirit of Tasmania was as much about the experience as it was the journey. We had a blast, ate some great food and had a decent night’s sleep. What more could you ask for? You definitely don’t get any of that when you fly on an aeroplane.
The simplicity of it all makes everything so easy, especially when travelling with loads of luggage and little ones in tow. Not having to mess around at the other end trying to sort out a rental car and having all of your own stuff makes it a very attractive option.
Our cabin was spotless and the ensuite was oh so handy in the morning to have a hot shower. Although we were both in single beds we still were comfy, had a great sleep and woke up relatively fresh for 6 am. Although these days 6 am tends to be Olivers latest wake up time anyway haha!
Spirit of Tasmania is the ideal kickstart to your road trip to Tassie and in seriousness, we only have positives to say about it.
Hopefully, this guide about Spirit of Tasmania has come in helpful, but as always, if you have any questions, comment below!
Also, if you are off roadtripping with your little one, be sure to check out our blog on ‘Road tripping with a baby‘.