~ Complete Guide ~
Why not start your Tassie holiday with a cruise on the ‘Spirit of Tasmania‘ ferry?
There’s a few things you need to know, so keep reading and get all the answers you need for the perfect road trip!
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It makes a lot of sense to start your Tasmania road trip with a sail on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry.
No excess baggage fees, your own vehicle that you know and love, no need to pay for hire car or campervan insurance, and you can even bring your pet pooch!
At the same time we know the options can be a little confusing, and we get a lot of question about how it all works, and what you can expect on the ferry to Tasmania.
Ticket prices? How to bring your pet on the ferry? Should you pay more for a Spirit of Tasmania cabin? Entertainment options…and the list goes on.
That’s why we’ve created this guide – to help answer all your questions and to get your road trip started in the best way possible!
We suggest: Start planning at least 6 months before you want to visit Tasmania
The Spirit of Tasmania ferry to Tasmania is very popular, so it makes sense to start planning your ferry crossing as early as possible.
You can book your tickets up to 12 months before your sailing date.
We recommend booking 6 months ahead for cheaper fares, greater flexibility choosing your dates, and less chance of booking out (especially if you have a tall vehicle).
The Spirit of Tasmania ferry sails in both directions between Port Melbourne in the Australian state of Victoria, and Devonport in the state of Tasmania.
The ferry crosses Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait, with a total route measuring 429km (232 nautical miles).
Depending on weather conditions the Spirit of Tasmania travel time varies between 9 hours and 11 hours from Melbourne to Tasmania, and vice versa.
Remember to allow an extra 45 minutes to board the ferry, and 30 minutes to disembark (it should be quicker than that though).
Demand for the Spirit of Tasmania varies greatly throughout the year – pick your dates wisely and you can save a lot of money!
Summer – December to February – is the most popular time for visiting Tasmania, and berths do book out. A second ship sails during these times to provide greater capacity.
Late summer and autumn – February to May – is very popular for the return sail from Devonport to Melbourne, as this is when many ‘grey nomads’ and other long term travellers leave Tasmania for warmer weather.
Winter – June to August – is the least popular time to visit Tasmania due to the cool conditions and the possibility of a rougher sail, but many agree this is when Tasmania is at its most beautiful. Tickets for the Spirit of Tasmania ferry can be cheaper at this time of year.
The time of year determines how much it costs to bring your vehicle on the boat to Tasmania.
|1 July '18 - 2 Dec '18||Low|
|3 Dec '18 - 15 Feb 19||High|
|16 Feb 19 - 7 Apr 19||Low|
|8 Apr 19 - 5 May 19||High|
|6 May 19 - 8 Dec 19||Low|
|9 Dec 19 - 14 Feb 20||High|
|15 Feb 20 - 29 Mar 20||Low|
|30 Mar 20 - 26 Apr 20||High|
|27 Apr 20 - 30 Nov 20||Low|
Departure days and times vary throughout the year, and are subject to change. There are two types of journey – a ‘Night Sail‘ and a ‘Day Sail‘.
The Night Sail from Melbourne is available year-round and leaves at varying times between 7:30pm and 10:30pm.
The Day Sail from Melbourne operates most of the year, leaving at either 9:00am or 9:30am – some winter months may not have a Day Sail option.
On some days – mainly during winter – there are days with no departures from Melbourne.
The Night Sail from Devonport is available year-round, leaving at varying times between 7:30pm and 9:30pm.
The Day Sail from Devonport operates most of the year, leaving at either 9:00am or 9:30am – some winter months may not have a Day Sail option.
On some days – mainly during winter – there are days with no departures from Devonport.
“During winter, make sure you have a cabin so you get a good night’s sleep before a big drive the next day. In summer if you are on a Day Sail, still get a cabin so you can rest before you have to drive. The cabins are substantially cheaper on a summer Day Sail.”
(Facebook Group Member)
No of ships: 2
Ship Names: Spirit of Tasmania I and II
Ship length: 194m
Passenger Capacity: 1400 people
Vehicle Capacity: 500 vehicles
Sailing Distance: 429km (232 nautical miles)
Sailing Time: 9 to 11 hours
We suggest: Book your tickets 4-6 months before you want to visit Tasmania
Finding out Spirit of Tasmania prices isn’t easy, and the only way to know exactly what you will pay is to create a fake booking on their website.
Things that do affect the Spirit of Tasmania cost include:
Things that don’t affect the ticket price include:
There two ways to get a discount on your Spirit of Tasmania booking.
The best way to find out about Spirit of Tasmania deals is to:
The following discounts are also available:
To give you an idea of typical prices we created fake bookings for four common scenarios in high season.
|Couple + Car||Couple + Caravan||Family + Car||Family + Caravan|
|Depart||Sun, 15 Dec||Sun, 15 Dec||Sun, 15 Dec||Sun, 15 Dec|
|Return||Sun, 12 Jan||Sun, 12 Jan||Sun, 12 Jan||Sun, 12 Jan|
|Type||Night Sail||Night Sail||Night Sail||Night Sail|
|Vehicle||Holden Commodore||Toyota Landcruiser||Holden Commodore||Toyota Landcruiser|
|Caravan||-||Yes (6m/20ft length)||-||Yes (6m/20ft length)|
|Accommodation||4-bed inside cabin||4-bed inside cabin||4-bed inside cabin||4-bed inside cabin|
We suggest: Book your tickets 4-6 months before you want to visit Tasmania
To help you buy the best tickets – and to save you money – we thought we would take you through the Spirit of Tasmania bookings process, explaining each of the booking options in more detail.
It’s important to know that you can amend your booking FREE of charge using their online system up to 24hrs ahead of sailing.
Select your dates, and whether you want to a return or one-way ticket. Choosing your dates is indicative only, as you will lock in your final dates later in the process.
A one-way ticket can be useful if you are unsure how much time you wish to spend exploring Tasmania.
Don’t leave your return booking too late, especially during peak season. We’ve heard many stories of travellers needing to cut their holiday short, or being forced to spend an extra month or more in Tasmania due to unavailability of a berth on the ferry. Some might see this as a good thing
There are pros and cons to both the Day Sail and the Night Sail.
✓ More time to enjoy the cruise
✓ More time to enjoy the entertainment options
✓ More time to try food/drink options
✓ More time to book tours
✓ More to see during daylight hours
✓ Good for light sleepers
✗ It’s a long time to keep the kids occupied
✗ Earlier start to the day, so less time to prepare
✗ Need to stay the night before in Melbourne
✗ You may arrive in Tasmania in the dark
✓ More time to prepare and arrive on time
✓ Save on accommodation costs
✓ Wake up refreshed and ready to start your road trip
✓ More accommodation options on arrival
✓ Don’t need to entertain the children for as long
✓ You can sleep through potential sea sickness
✗ Less time to enjoy the facilities on board
✗ Early wake up before disembarking
✗ Less things to see from on deck due to the dark
✗ Not good for light sleepers
“As someone who suffers severe sea sickness I suggest booking the Day Sail with a cabin (the seas are normally rougher at night). Close the blinds, read a book, or as was the case my last trip, sleep most of the day away.”
(Facebook Group Member)
This section is pretty self-explanatory – just enter the number of passengers who will be travelling together.
Adults are considered to be 16 years and older, while children are from 3 to 16 years of age.
Children under 3 sail free!
If you love travelling with your furry friend then you’ll be pleased to hear that you can take your dog on the Spirit of Tasmania!
There are two options – using a kennel, or keeping your dog in your own vehicle. Whichever option you choose, your dog needs to have been Hydatid wormed within 14 days of sailing.
Keep reading to find out more…
During the sail pets are kept in cage kennels on a lower deck with excellent ventilation.
One thing that we noticed when researching this subject is that the information on the Spirit of Tasmania website is slightly different to their Conditions of Carriage.
On the website it says they will provide water during the journey. However in the paperwork they say that you are responsible for providing enough water for the journey. To be sure, make sure you check the amount of water your pet has before leaving the deck.
To help your pet settle in and stay warm on the open air deck we also suggest you leave their favourite blanket or chew toy in the kennel.
Unfortunately for safety reasons you can’t visit your pet during the sail
A kennel will cost you $22 each way.
We found a fantastic video by recent Tassie road trippers – Overland Obsessed – that shows them boarding the Spirit of Tasmania with their very cute pup.
It’s perfect for showing you how to board the Spirit of Tasmania, what happens when you get to the kennels, and how to get your dog settled.
For more information from the Spirit of Tasmania website, click here.
Keeping your dog inside your vehicle is a great option if you have concerns about keeping your dog in a kennel, and how your dog will handle the sea crossing.
The Spirit of Tasmania neither promotes nor recommends this option, but it is permitted so long as you follow the correct process.
To do this you need to:
Spirit of Tasmania staff will not be checking on your dog, so it is completely up to you to ensure their comfort, and that they have adequate ventilation and water to last the trip.
The ship may encounter rough seas, so make sure their water isn’t going to tip over. Toilet training is also recommended
You will need to record your vehicle details, including make, model and year.
It will also ask whether you have a bike rack or roof rack attached, and total height.
If your vehicle or motorhome is taller than 2.1m it won’t cost you any extra, but it is necessary so they can book you into a high berth.
Important: If you provide the wrong vehicle height and there isn’t a spare berth that can fit your vehicle then you may be stopped from boarding the ferry!
You need to let them know whether you will be towing anything with your vehicle, and the total length of the caravan or boat.
When calculating the length make sure you include the drawbar and anything attached to the rear of your caravan eg. bike racks or a jerry can. They will then add the length of your caravan to the length of your vehicle to work out your total parking space.
Important: They do check this, and if you under-report your length you may need to pay more.
You will also be asked to record the height of your caravan. As for your vehicle, having a caravan taller than 2.1m won’t cost more, but is essential information.
After finalising your vehicle details you get the chance to lock in your dates, and to choose a ‘Night Sail’ or ‘Day Sail’.
The booking tool will show you a full week, including the price of a ‘Day Sail’ or ‘Night Sail’ for each day of the week. This is where you can tweak your itinerary and snag a cheaper fare!
There are plenty of accommodation options to suit every type of traveller and budget.
There are a number of different Spirit of Tasmania cabin options:
All cabins include an ensuite, pillows, sheets, doona, towels and soap.
*Prices are indicative only, as they appear to vary throughout the year – but they give you a good idea of what to expect
Recliners are a good option on a Day Sail if you’d like your own private chair with great views.
Recliners are FREE on a Night Sail, or $39 on a Day Sail.
Recliners are like the chairs you see on an airplane in business class. They are located in their own room – cinema style – with floor-to-ceiling windows for great views.
A ‘Day Ticket’ is FREE, but is only available on Day Sails.
This ticket allows you to walk freely around the ferry, and to make use of the plentiful lounge chairs when you need to take a break.
We recommend paying a little extra for a 4-bed Inside Cabin.
We suggest: Book your accommodation in Victoria and Tasmania 3-6 months before departure.
Lots of travellers tell us they they were so glad they booked a night in Melbourne before sailing on the Spirit of Tasmania.
Likewise, a lot of road trippers also liked spending a night near Devonport on arrival or prior to departure back to Melbourne.
These are the best value accommodation options that are as close as possible to the ferry terminals, and that provide free car parking.
We strongly recommend booking your accommodation in Melbourne and Devonport after you have booked your ferry ticket.
The ferry isn’t cheap, and you may need to tweak your dates to get the best price. For that reason it’s best to plan your accommodation around the ferry, rather than vice versa.
Discovery Parks Melbourne – 15km from the pier.
If you’re doing the Night Sail Discovery Parks Melbourne have a handy deal where you can pay $10 for full use of park facilities until it’s time to catch the ferry – book ahead to do this.
Big4 Melbourne Holiday Park – 20km from the pier.
Ashley Gardens Caravan Park – 15km from the pier.
Overnight Street Parking
We’ve read reports from other travellers that you can park your campervan or motorhome on the Port Melbourne foreshore and stay overnight for free.
However spaces are very limited, so we recommend booking a caravan park instead.
We suggest: Check these items 2-3 weeks before departure.
✓ Buy your sea sickness medication – Travacalm or Kwells are popular over the counter medications. Ginger tablets or acupressure bands have also been found to help some travellers.
They are also very easy to order online:
✓ Allow enough time to check in and board the ferry – The terminal gates open for quarantine checks 2.5 hours prior to departure, while boarding commences 1.5hrs prior to departure. Final check in 45 minutes prior to departure.
✓ Plan your driving route – If your motorhome or caravan is 3m or taller, don’t take Montague Road from central Melbourne to the ferry terminal as there is a low bridge that is only 3m tall!
✓ Plan your meals – There are plenty of meal options on the Spirit of Tasmania (see below), but to save money you might prefer to pack your own. Subway is a great option, but remember that Tasmania has strict quarantine laws that are enforced before you get on the ferry, so don’t pack something that is only going to get thrown out by the quarantine officers.
✓ Worm your dog – All dogs travelling on the Spirit of Tasmania must be Hydatid wormed within 14 days of travel. At the quarantine checkpoint they will ask for evidence (eg. dated receipt, or vet’s note).
✓ Mild sedation for your pet (if necessary) – If you are worried about how your dog will handle the crossing, see your vet and ask whether mild sedation is a good idea or not.
✓ Plan your day bag – Every traveller on the ferry is allowed to take one bag on board (66cm x 46.5cm x 27.5cm, and no weight restrictions apply):
✓ Prepare for the quarantine and security check:
✓ Print out your ferry tickets – You will be asked to present your tickets prior to boarding.
The Spirit of Tasmania boarding process is very simple and easy to follow.
The team that greet you in Melbourne have been helping travellers get their cars, campervans, caravans and motorhomes onto the ferry for decades and they have got the process down to a fine art.
“I did a Night Sail last month – over and back – and getting the car on and off was easy. The staff are all friendly and very helpful.”
(Facebook Group Member)
Once you have left the vehicle holding area you can not return to your vehicle until you dock in Devonport – so don’t forget to…
We found this great video by Our Family Escape that shows you how they boarded the Spirit of Tasmania (give them a follow if you like what you see!)…
You’ve done the hard work, now it’s time to relax and enjoy the cruise!
There are two cinemas on board, showing latest release movies for both adults and children at multiple times throughout the cruise. It isn’t free, but it’s a great way to spend the time.
Throughout the sail you’ll find musicians popping up to keep your toes tapping.
Want to get away from it all? The reading room is the perfect place to curl up with a good book.
Chill out with some light TV entertainment at one of the many public TVs scattered throughout the ship.
This colourful and safe play space will be a magnet for the littl’uns. There’s slippery slides, a jungle gym and plenty of other fun things to keep them occupied.
Free Digital Magazines
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.
Kids Game Zone
Filled with arcade games and plenty of comfy lounges, your kids will have hours of fun.
School Holiday Entertainment
From December to April the Spirit of Tasmania makes things really special for the children on board, with musicians, face painters, entertainers and other exciting activities.
If you would like to watch a movie in the cinema, make sure you buy your tickets as soon as you board the ferry. It is very popular and seats book out fast.
We recommend using your cruise on the Spirit of Tasmania to do a digital detox, but if you need to get online you’ll find WiFi is available in all public spaces for a fee.
Travellers tell us that Telstra has the best coverage for the crossing, with just a small section in the middle of Bass Strait where you will lose signal.
In Tasmania the best way to dress for comfort is in layers – and this works just as well on the Spirit of Tasmania.
Feeling warm? Simply remove a layer. Feeling cold? Throw on an extra layer from your day bag.
Climate control is excellent in all public spaces during the day and you won’t need anything particularly heavy to stay warm.
If you’re in a recliner for the Night Sail you’ll also be provided with a blanket which should be enough to keep you warm.
If you plan on getting some fresh salty air on deck then we strongly recommend taking a warm jacket, as it’s going to be brisk – especially in winter.
All cabins have adjustable climate control, and can take up to an hour for the new settings to take effect.
Baby-changing facilities are available at multiple locations across multiple decks.
Just because you have special needs does not mean a cruise on the Spirit of Tasmania is off limits.
They have the people and the equipment to help you embark and disembark safely, and the ship layout has been designed to cater for all passengers with special needs.
Let them know at the time of booking.
Tasmania is renowned for its amazingly fresh and delicious food and drink, and you will get your first taste of this incredible cuisine at either the Tasmanian Market Kitchen (TMK) or The Pantry.
Antipasto plates, roast dinners, dessert platters, massive buffet, and heaps of options for the kids – they’ve got every base covered.
Still feeling hungry? The Spirit of Tasmania run a fantastic program called the ‘Flavours of Tassie‘, where you can taste a range of gourmet Tasmanian products while chatting with the producers themselves!
And when it’s time for a beverage or two you’ll love the extensive selection of premium Tasmanian beers, wines, ciders, spirits, and non-alcoholic options. Anyone for a Moo Brew? 😀
There is a Tourism Hub on the ferry where you can continue your holiday planning.
Staff can even make tour or accommodation bookings for you, so it’s all ready to go when you arrive in Tasmania!
If you plan on visiting Tasmania’s National Parks then a ‘Parks Pass’ is essential.
It’s easy to register online before you leave, but if you’ve forgotten or would rather do it face-to-face then you can sort it all out at the Tourist Hub.
At the same time you can also organise any fishing licences you may need.
Smoking is not permitted indoors, however there a number of designated smoking areas on outside decks.
Disembarking from the Spirit of Tasmania is super-easy and is a lot quicker than boarding the ferry – it is likely you’ll be on dry land in less than 30 minutes.
Disembarking happens in stages, and they will tell you exactly when your stage is planned to commence.
If you’re on a Night Sail you’ll get a wake-up call about an hour before the disembarking process starts.
If you want to eat breakfast on the ship we recommend getting up early as the kitchen gets very busy with people making coffees and buying snacks etc. the closer you get to arrival.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful in planning and booking your sail on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry!
It also means there are only 3 steps left to plan your Tassie road trip…
Click on the links above to find out more!
Are you interested in connecting with other travellers and Tassie locals?
We’ve also got a fantastic community on Facebook who are super keen to help you with road trip inspiration and advice.
It’s the perfect place to ask questions and to plan an awesome itinerary that perfectly suits your style of travel – Click here to join our Facebook group.
If you’ve got any questions at all please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
Happy road tripping!
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