Tasmania is well known for its abundance of free camps, picturesque locations and easy touring routes – so it’s not surprising that taking your own caravan to explore this magic island state is becoming more and more popular.
The only way to do this is to cross the 240 km of sea via boat on The Spirit Of Tasmania. Many baulk at the cost of this, which for us was $2,210.00 return!! Yes, that is a lot of money. But once we disembark we have our home on wheels with us, as well as all our creature comforts and ‘adventure toys’! We plan to tour Tasmania for 8 glorious weeks so paying the fee was a no brainer for us. This price included our ticket for our family of four – 2 adults, 1 child and 1 infant (infants under 3 travel free of charge), an overnight cabin, as well as our adventure truck and 22ft Jayco Caravan – all up we measure 14.5 meters in total length.
Book early and save
We booked our ticket months in advance which saved us a lot of money. It was a little tricky for us having to guess our date of sail as we are living on the road travelling full time (and who wants to be ‘locked in’ to a date right?), but booking in advance is a must if you don’t want to miss out, especially in the busy periods. (We met a family in Victoria who left it too late and missed out as the dates they wanted to travel were already booked!).
Hot Tip: Subscribe to the Spirits email newsletter to keep on eye on travel deals and specials a few months before you plan to book. Also, check with the various caravan park memberships as you may be able to save by booking through their website.
Day or Night sail?
The trip takes 12 hours, and in the busy periods you can choose to depart Melbourne at 7am or 7pm. The sail across Bass Strait can get pretty crazy if you cross during bad weather or big swells which we are sure is not fun so we booked on the night sail. With our two mini blondies we liked the idea of putting them to bed while we sailed so they could sleep through any bad seas and hopefully avoid any possible seasickness. Travelling at night also meant we arrived in daylight hours ready to start exploring Tasmania. (As opposed to disembarking at night and having to look for somewhere to camp for the night).
On our trip over we had smooth sailing with only a little rocking of the boat. Once onboard we enjoyed a well deserved drink while the kids played in the play area (located on deck 10), which did a great job in tiring them out! We then had dinner ($25 buffet dinner/kids under 5 eat free) and decided to keep the kids up late to watch a movie in the cinema to ensure they were REALLY tired before heading to our cabin for bed. It was a great night.
There are 2 options available for your Spirit travel. You can either book your own private room/cabin or stay on deck on a recliner chair in a private lounge area. If you are travelling with an infant like us (under 3 years old), you cannot book a recliner, you have to book a cabin. There are a range of cabins available depending on your budget and travel needs. They range from a whiz-bang Deluxe Cabin complete with double bed, twin windows and TV, to a simple room with 4 bunk beds and a shower/toilet. As we were travelling at night we decided a simple Private Cabin would do us just fine. These cabins are also located in the centre of the boat which means you feel less rocking of the boat too.
Booking – know your stats
At the time of booking, you will also need to know the details of your tow vehicle (make, model, body shape etc.) as well as the exact length of your caravan/trailer. When you insert these details the total combined length of your rig will be generated – be sure to check this length is correct. If it is not long enough you can amend the total length by adjusting your caravan details. A family we were travelling with had misjudged the length of their rig – or the booking form generated the wrong amount for them at the time of booking and they were charged an extra $300.00 upon check-in!!
Preparing for sail
There are strict quarantine controls for travelling to Tasmania as well as safety regulations so you will need to be well prepared before you sail. If you are on a big road trip / Lap of Oz like us, we recommend staying a few nights in Melbourne to allow you to prepare.
Caravan parks close to the port of Melbourne:
- 13km – Discovery Parks BIG4 Melbourne
- 16km – Melbourne BIG4 Holiday Park
- 17km – Honey Hush Caravan Park
We had an email a few days before we sailed outlining a few key elements and what to remember, along with a pre-sailing checklist :
You will need your booking information / eticket so if you cannot print it out don’t worry – I simply took a screenshot on my mobile and had that ready at check-in.
Check-in commences 2.5 hours prior to departure and closes 45 minutes before departure. You do not want to miss that boat!!! As part of our preparations we had a ‘dry-run’ into the Port of Melbourne without the caravan to ensure we knew where to go. We also got there with plenty of time on the day. We were checked in pretty quickly without too much queuing which meant we could relax, watch the sunset and give the kids a play.
A word of warning:
Melbourne is infamous for its low bridges and a few days earlier we had a bit of a ‘bridge-uation’ when arriving into Melbourne towing our caravan. We turned down a road only to be met with a 2.9 meter high bridge that we wouldn’t fit under!! We literally had to STOP TRAFFIC in peak hour and reverse the van up a hill and around a corner to escape!! (The Blondies know how to make an entrance lol!!).
So you want to make sure you are well aware of the roads and bridges you need to travel on to arrive in Melbourne AND to get to the port safely. We’ll be posting some tips soon on what we have learnt on our travels so far and especially the importance of knowing the height of your rig (stay tuned).
Our caravan park provided us with a print out of the map on the best route to take with the caravan, it was a little confusing so we are glad we did the dry run.
As we were sailing overnight we didn’t have to be at the dock until 5pm so you have a full day in Melbourne with your caravan. We chose to book an extra night’s stay at our caravan park and left there at 4pm in the afternoon. This allowed us to have a relaxing day, take the kids for a swim in the pool and pack our bags etc. without any fuss. Alternatively, you may even be able to store your van at the caravan park for you for the day if you inquire when you book. Once you travel into the Port of Melbourne it is hard to find a spot to park with your caravan if you are early. If you are looking for a place to pull up we did pass an oval on Graham Street, not too far away which may have some space to park until boarding time but best to scout this out before the day.
Carriage of dangerous goods
You can read about this here. In short – your gas bottles must be off. Which means that your fridge and freezer can’t be on for over 12 hours. Coming from 7 days at Wilsons Promontory the week before, we ran down our fridge supplies in preparation to defrost our fridge the day before we sailed. We just kept a few things like milk etc. in our Engel car fridge.
Jerry Cans and Boat Fuel Containers filled with diesel ONLY can be transported. Jerry Cans and Boat Fuel Containers filled with other dangerous fuel eg petrol, aviation fuel and non-standard fuels are prohibited from carriage. In the event petrol residue is identified inside an empty Jerry Can or Boat Fuel Can, passengers must fill the container with water before being allowed to travel.
Quarantine / bio-security requirements
You must comply with Tasmania’s strict biosecurity regulations. Any fruit, vegetables, plants, fish or fish products cannot be brought onto the ship and must be declared and/or disposed of prior to boarding. For more information you can visit the bio-security requirements page.
If you are carrying fishing or aquatic equipment, such as fishing rods, fishing tackle, boats, kayaks, etc they must be declared at each port to the quarantine officer. It’s best to ensure your fishing gear is washed, clean and dry before departure.
What to take on board
Once you are on the boat you cannot access your vehicle or caravan so make sure you take everything you will need for the 12 hour trip. If travelling with little ones take the usual – Pj’s etc. and a change of clothes incase of any accidents or sea sickness, as well as a few extra layers for the aircon and activities/snacks (no fresh food).
Remember where you parked
Upon boarding make sure you remember what vehicle deck you have parked on to assist locating your car on disembarkation. There are parking reminder flyers available on every vehicle deck stairwell to assist. Also, take note of what side (left/right/ port/starboard) of the boat you are on as there are different stairwells for each.
Cabins contain bedding, linen, towels and soap. If you book for an infant a cot is provided free of charge (but you may want to bring along some bedding/blankets etc. for bubs). You can take an overnight bag onboard with personal toiletries, medication and clothing and leave the rest of your luggage in your car. Our room was pretty basic but clean and roomy enough for the little time that we spent in it.
I made a quick visit to a pharmacy in Melbourne before our departure and purchased some Kwells (sea sickness tablets) as I have suffered from seasickness in the past. Kwells for kids is also available for kids aged 2 and above. I also travelled with some of my DoTerra Oils that help with seasickness and things like ginger snap biscuits help too. Luckily we didn’t need these but i’d definitely make sure you are prepared especially if you have little ones.
Food and entertainment
There are many options on board including a buffet dinner ($25 per adult), kids under 5 yrs eat free. As well as a pizza bar and a simple shop to purchase snacks / hot pies etc. There is a soft playground on board, arcade games, TV, and 2 cinemas screening movies at 8pm and 10pm – so there is plenty to keep you busy. There is a continental breakfast available in the morning but you need to be up super early to ensure you are ready in time to disembark. I just packed a few breakfast fruit pouches (baby food) to give to the kids and keep them happy until we were off the boat.
There is an announcement via the loudspeaker 45min prior to disembarking which also served as our wake up call. Our vehicle level (5) was the first called so we simply packed our bags and made our way to the deck area and enjoyed watching the sunrise. Once back in our car we were off the boat in about 5 mins and looking for a place to eat for breakfast. (We found a great cafe just off the boat in an old church with loads of room for the kids to run around.)
A few extra tips:
- When parking your caravan on the boat engage your caravan hand-brake and make sure all cupboards are secure in your caravan and nothing can move around in the case of big swells.
- If you can, push in your caravan towing mirrors.
- In case you were wondering you can travel with pets but they will need to be checked into the onboard kennels, or they can stay in your caravan but you will have to sign a disclaimer – you can read more here.
- Take some cash with you in case the EFTPOS machines do not work when you are out at sea.
- There is a tour information desk onboard so it’s a great opportunity to research and make your travel plans.
- We have also been advised it is a good idea to take photos of your rig (car and caravan from each side) while on the doc before boarding in case any damage is done to your setup during travel.
We really enjoyed our trip on the Spirit of Tasmania and would highly recommend it! With a little preparation and planning, it’s a pretty straightforward process.
Have I missed anything? Please share any tips in the comments below.
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