Ferry To Tasmania: Everything You Need To Know About The Melbourne To Tasmania Ferry

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One of our favourite trips is the Melbourne ferry to Tasmania. One of the reasons for this is that most of my family lives in Tasmania, but the other is that it’s such an exciting trip for the whole family. Even though we do it at least twice a year, we still find it fun and exciting.

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of driving onboard a big ship and starting your adventure. We all love exploring the facilities onboard and making the most of the journey at sea. Plus, taking your own car (especially with young kids) on the car ferry Tasmania is just so convenient.

If you’re planning to travel to Tasmania by ferry but want to know more information, you’ve come to the right place.

Spirit of Tasmania
Spirit of Tasmania

We’ve included everything you need to know to plan your ferry crossing to Tasmania – from booking your trip, departing Melbourne, the facilities onboard, the journey itself and disembarking in Tasmania – we’ve tried to make this as thorough as possible.

We’ve also included information if you’re taking the Devonport to Melbourne ferry and information about Tasmania ferry prices as well as what it’s like taking the Spirit during the covid pandemic.

We hope this article leaves you with no questions about taking the ferry to Tasmania with car and has you excited to start your adventure!

Click here to download your free Tasmania Road Trip Planner checklist. We’ll help you get ready for your trip! Want help with your itinerary? Find our full Tasmanian Road Trip Planner here.

Why Take A Car Ferry To Tasmania?

When it comes to visiting Tasmania from the mainland you have two options – you can fly or you can take the Spirit of Tasmania.

Before I had kids, I always flew. It is quick (takes under an hour), cheap and convenient as my family could pick me up or I could simply hire a car from the airport. With kids, however, the Tasmania boat trip is just so much more convenient.

Bringing car seats and excess luggage adds up on a plane, not to mention the cost of a hire car in Tasmania has skyrocketed. Travelling to Tasmania by ferry offers you the comfort and convenience of having your own car and taking excess luggage with you without a fee.

When it comes to getting around Tasmania, you really do need a car if you want to get outside of Hobart. If you fly, this means you’ll need to hire one.

The downside of the Australia to Tasmania ferry is that it doesn’t arrive in Hobart.

Where does the ferry dock in Tasmania? It arrives in Devonport, a small city on the North West Coast of Tasmania, approximately a 3 hour drive from Hobart. It is a better option for longer trips and people who want to get outside of Hobart.

We usually visit for up to a week. For us, the cost of travelling on the Spirit of Tasmania is cheaper than flying, plus the convenience just makes it totally worth it.

Besides convenience, it’s also just a fun way to travel! The vehicle ferry to Tasmania offers both night and day sailings, and there are lots of facilities onboard to keep you (and the kids) entertained!

Spirit of Tasmania seating area
Seating area

An Introduction To The Spirit Of Tasmania Ferry

The ferry Melbourne Tasmania service has always been a popular route, especially with the introduction of RORO (roll-on/roll-off) ships – meaning you can drive your car on one side and drive off the other.

Many ships have operated on this route in the past, but none of the car ferry Melbourne to Tasmania ships have been as fast and comfortable as the current ones.

The route is operated by two boats – the Spirit of Tasmania I and the Spirit of Tasmania II. These ships are virtually identical, both weighing over 28,000 tonnes and measuring over 194 metres long, with room for 1400 passengers and 500 vehicles.

Fast and reliable, these two ships offer day and night sailings at peak periods. The ships also had major renovations in 2015 which has resulted in fresh modern décor, increased passenger comfort and improved onboard facilities.

Spirit of Tasmania ship
Spirit of Tasmania

How Does Check-In Work?

Check-in for the Tasmania ferry from Melbourne is very easy. If you’re taking the ferry Melbourne to Devonport from Port Melbourne* you simply follow the signs directing you to the check-in point. There is usually a big line up of cars.

We usually arrive 90 minutes before sailing, but check-in opens 2.5 hours before sailing. Note that it closes strictly 45 minutes before sailing.

Check-in has always been smooth for us. Everything is done from the car where you drive up to a window, show them your documentation, get cabin or ocean recliner keycards (if you have one) and make your way onto the vehicle deck. There are always people to direct you and it has never taken us longer than 30 minutes to board.

*Note as of late 2022 the Victoria to Tasmania ferry will be sailing from Geelong.

How Long Is The Melbourne To Tasmania Ferry?

When it comes to how long does the ferry to Tasmania take, the ferry to Tasmania time depends on when you go. Generally, when the ferry to Tasmania timetable operates as per scheduled, summer crossings take around 9 hours and winter crossings take closer to 11 hours.

Between September and April the Spirit of Tasmania also operates day sailings Melbourne to Tasmania by ferry. The advantage of these are that you don’t need to purchase a cabin or seat, thus saving a bit of money.

If I were alone I’d find the day sailings quite boring. However with kids, I actually prefer it. There is plenty for them to do and enough time for me to relax. The night sailings during summer are more challenging as the excitement makes it hard for the kids to sleep, you don’t depart until 9pm (this does fluctuate depending on the day you travel) and the wakeup call comes around 4:45am – grumpy kids the next day!

Don’t be deterred when thinking how long is the ferry to Tasmania as it’s nice to have enough time to roam and explore, but I recommend avoiding night sailings in summer if you want plenty of sleep.

Ferry From Melbourne To Tasmania Timetable

Between September and April, the Spirit of Tasmania usually operates day and night sailings, with the ferry departing at 9am and arriving in Devonport at 6pm for day sailings, and departing at 9pm and arriving at 6am for night sailings – although these vary a bit day-to-day.

The ferry Tasmania timetable for the remainder of the year departs at 7:30pm, with both the ferry to Melbourne from Tasmania and the ferry to Tasmania from Melbourne each arriving at 6am the next morning.

Disembarkation

Disembarking the ferry from Victoria to Tasmania is probably the easiest part of the trip. There is a wakeup call about 45 minutes before arrival into Tasmania. Certain vehicle decks are called to their cars first, and then the next round of calls are made.

When you make it to your car, you simply wait until you are instructed to drive off. When arriving in Tasmania, you do need to pass through a biosecurity checkpoint where you will be asked to declare anything banned from entering the state (fresh fruits/vegetables etc).

If you didn’t take a car, you simply walk off once the boat arrives.

Onboard The Spirit Of Tasmania

One of the most exciting parts of the journey is exploring the ferry Tasmania Melbourne facilities. While there’s limited time to explore on a night crossing, there’s still a lot on offer and plenty to do on day crossings.

Facilities

Spirit of Tasmania cinema
cinema

The Spirit of Tasmania offers a range of facilities including two cinemas, a kids play area and game zone, a reading room, tourist centre, pokies, activities and live music.

The two cinemas are located on deck 7, with each showing different recently released movies. The cinema is a great way to pass time on the ferry to Tasmania Melbourne trip with kids and adult movies playing, and while you do need to purchase a ticket, they are cheap ($10 for adults, $5 for kids).

The tourist centre is also located on deck 7. We love visiting this spot as there’s so many brochures with plenty of ideas of things to do around Tasmania. There’s also a reading room located on this deck which is a comfortable area to sit with a book or iPad and relax.

On the upper decks you’ll find more seating areas, as well as a game zone for kids on deck 9 with arcade style games and live music in the Terrace Lounge Bar (although this is currently halted due to covid).

Spirit of Tasmania games area
Games area

The Top Deck Lounge on deck 10 is our favourite spot to relax. Located near the kids play area with a relaxing beach style décor, we loved it here and it was one of our favourite parts of the ship. You’ll find deck chairs with a view looking out to sea and plenty of drink options.

The deck chairs are super popular during busy day sailings so get in quick if you want to secure one! There’s also a gaming station nearby with Xbox games for kids.

The summer period offers kids more activities on day sailings with face painting and entertainers roaming the ship.

If you want to make the most of the facilities, book a daytime crossing. We have been disappointed during the short night crossings as we boarded so late that it was time to get the kids to bed, and were already disembarking early in the morning. Also, not everything is open when you catch a late night crossing.

Spirit of Tasmania seating area
Seating area

Food

You won’t go hungry on the Spirit of Tasmania and while food is not included in the fare to Tasmania by ferry, there are plenty of options.

On night sailings, we eat beforehand if we can. There’s just not enough time to enjoy a meal when you’ve got kids that need to sleep and you need to be up early the next morning. However during day sailings, there’s plenty of time to sample the food!

TMK (Tasmanian Market Kitchen)

The TMK or Tasmanian Market Kitchen is the main restaurant onboard located on deck 7. This is a self serve buffet where you can fill up a plate from a selection of mains and salads. You also get a dinner roll and drink included. The food is good quality and tasty. There’s also a range of desserts which cost extra.

Spirit of Tasmania restaurant
Tasmania Market Kitchen

The food is not super cheap here but the value is fair. Adults cost $27.50, kids under 15 cost $15, under 10’s cost $10 and under 5’s eat free. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This does not always open for dinner when you have a late night crossing.

Bar 7

Also located on deck 7 is Bar 7. This is a lively bar with a wide range of drinks available for purchase with many Tasmanian wines, beers and spirits on the menu. They also have non-alcoholic options like coffee, tea and juice. There are places to sit comfortably and the Admirals Gaming Lounge is also nearby.

Terrace Lounge Bar

The Terrace Lounge Bar is located on deck 9 and is another comfortable place to sit. On day sailings they serve pizzas, burgers and paninis. They also have a wide range of drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, available for purchase.

Spirit of Tasmania dining area
Dining area

Top Deck Lounge

As mentioned, the Top Deck Lounge is our favourite part of the ship with comfortable deck chairs and positioned close to the kids play area. Again, there’s a range of drinks on offer here including wine, beer, spirits, non-alcoholic options like soft drink and juice, and snacks like pizza, ice-cream and toasties.

The Pantry

If you want to purchase something quick and easy, The Pantry is the onboard shop with lots of drinks, sandwiches, snacks, souvenirs and more available for purchase.

Spirit of Tasmania eating area
Eating area

Cabins

Cabins are not included in the ferry from Melbourne to Tasmania cost and it’s not necessary to purchase one. However, I highly recommend one, even on a day crossing. They don’t cost much more and it’s really nice to have somewhere private to relax during the day.

There are many seating areas on the ship but these quickly become full on a day crossing.

Spirit of Tasmania hallways on cabin decks
Hallway on cabin deck

On night sailings you will need either a cabin or recliner. The options are listed below.

Deluxe Cabins

These are the top cabins on the ship with a queen bed, nicely sized ensuite, sitting area, TV and fridge. These cabins are spacious and offer lots of room to relax, have 2 portholes and space for 2 cots. Toiletries are included as well as towels, linen and pillows. They’re also the priciest cabins onboard but are the most comfortable option.

This would actually be my preferred option for a day sailing if it were possible to book for a family of 5 due to the extra space which, in my opinion, is more beneficial than having extra beds.

Porthole Cabins

Spirit of Tasmania outside cabin 2 berth
2 berth outside cabin

Porthole cabins come as either 2 or 4 birth cabins. They are simple but comfortable with a desk, a small ensuite and a porthole for watching the ocean. You can also fit one cot in here but it is a tight fit.

I would suggest a porthole cabin for day sailings when its nice to watch the ocean. There’s near to no room for extra luggage however. Linen, pillows and towels are included.

Inside Cabins

Spirit of Tasmania inside cabin
Bigger inside cabin – we would get this whenever we requested a cot

Inside cabins lack a porthole but they can be more spacious and sleep up to 4 people. These rooms can also fit up to 2 cots.

This is my preferred option for a night sailing where it’s too dark to see anything out the porthole anyway. Again, they include a desk, ensuite and towels, linen and pillows.

There are also shared male/female cabins available if you’re travelling solo.

Spirit of Tasmania bathroom
Typical bathroom

Ocean Recliners

Ocean recliners are the most affordable accommodation option. They are fairly comfortable and located in a private area at the back of the ship overlooking the sea. Chairs recline and have USB ports and tray tables, and blankets are provided on night sailings.

However they don’t recline fully and they can be difficult to sleep in. The lights at night are also dimmed but not fully switched off.

Spirit of Tasmania recliners
Recliners

Taking Your Car

Taking your car on the Spirit of Tasmania is very easy. You add it to your booking when making your reservation.

When embarking, you simply drive onto one of the colour coded vehicle decks as directed.

Take note of the colour of the vehicle deck and door so you can remember where to return to your car! You wont get to return to your car during the journey so it’s important to bring everything with you that you might need.

Spirit of Tasmania car deck
Car deck – they squish them in but it’s very straightforward

Before arrival, passengers on certain vehicle decks will be directed to return to their cars and drive off first so it’s important to take note which one your car is on.

Taking The Ferry Tasmania To Melbourne With Kids

Spirit of Tasmania play area
Play area

It’s quite straighforward and a lot of fun to take the Melbourne Tasmania ferry with kids. I have done it many times with my three and we’ve had a good time.

The only downside for me is that when it’s an overnight crossing, it’s impossible for younger kids to get enough sleep to be truly rested. If they are like mine, they’ll be hyper when they get onboard and it’ll be hard to get them to sleep and then they need to get up early.

There are many facilities onboard to help with kids like the games areas, playground area and cinema. They love just roaming the ship and exploring too. Despite having taken the boat from Melbourne to Tasmania many times, the novelty does not wear off. It’s fun.

I definitely recommend getting a cabin whether you are travelling at night or during the day. On a day crossing, the boat can feel crowded in public areas and kids (and you!) need somewhere to rest and regroup. At night, you’ll need it to know your kids are right there with you so you can relax and sleep.

Spirit of Tasmania play area
Play area

At night, there is no point getting an outside cabin in my opinion with kids. During day crossings, I highly recommend one though.

If you are travelling at a time when day crossings are available, I recommend doing one Melbourne to Devonport ferry crossing at day and one at night. That’s what we always do and it works out well to give different experiences.

You can also get cots for younger kids – more info on that below. The good part about this is that we have always been given a bigger inside cabin when we have needed a cot with more space for everyone.

Ferry To Tasmania Cost

While I wouldn’t call the ferry a cheap ferry to Tasmania, a ferry Tasmania fare is cost effective when you compare how much we spend on flights and car hire.

When it comes to the car ferry to Tasmania cost, you need to pay for your tickets (adults are pricier than kids 3-15, and kids under 3 travel free), the vehicle and for a cabin/ocean recliners.

The best ferry fares to Tasmania are generally day sailings during the September to April period. You can also save money by not purchasing a cabin, although they really don’t cost that much more and are great for relaxing (especially with young kids).

How much is the ferry to Tasmania? The cheapest ferry to Tasmania price I have found is comfortably under $1000. This is a return fare for our family of 5 on a day sailing with a car and no cabin. I can easily spend much more than this on flights for 5 as well as a hire car in Tasmania where prices have skyrocketed!

However, with a good cabin and a night sailing at a peak period, I could also double this.

All in all, I think the cost of ferry to Tasmania is affordable for our family especially compared to flying. Prices do jump at peak periods so it’s better to book ahead. I usually book 11 months ahead for December/January for the best price.

Spirit of Tasmania 4 berth outside cabin
4 berth outside cabin

How To Book The Boat To Tasmania

It’s very easy to making a booking online.

You can make a booking on the Spirit of Tasmania here.

You can book the ferry to Tasmania up to 11 months before travel and you can cancel for free within 48 hours of booking.

Devonport Ferry Terminal Tasmania

The terminal for the ferry Devonport to Melbourne is located in East Devonport.

Free parking can be found on the The Esplanade if you’d like to take a walk around, and there’s a petrol station nearby. Otherwise, there really isn’t much else there.

Spirit of Tasmania leaving Devonport
Leaving Devonport

Melbourne Ferry Terminal

Currently the terminal for the ferry Tasmania from Melbourne service is located in Port Melbourne with parking available at Station Pier. There isn’t much to see in the terminal itself but the surrounding area of Port Melbourne has lots to offer.

In 2022, the Melbourne terminal will move to a purpose built ferry terminal in Geelong. This is expected to offer guests much more including a passenger lounge, kids play area, café and undercover parking. The Geelong terminal is expected to replace the ferry from Tasmania to Melbourne terminal from Spring 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Get A Cot For My Baby/Toddler?

It’s easy to get a cot if you need one as they will place one in your cabin when you add an infant (a child aged under 3 years old) to your booking, free of charge. You do need to bring your own linen however.

The Spirit of Tasmania recommends inside cabins for parents that need cots – these are more spacious and can fit up to 2 cots. Deluxe cabins can also fit 2 cots. Porthole cabins can only fit 1 cot at a tighter fit.

How Much Luggage Is Allowed On Board?

There is no clear carry-on luggage restrictions for customers who bring their car, but the carry-on allowance for passengers without a car is one medium suitcase measuring 66 x 46.5 x 27.5 cm with no maximum weight limit.

You shouldn’t need to bring much onboard as cabins and ocean recliners are pretty well equipped and there is plenty of food options onboard.

Is There Somewhere To Secure Luggage If I Don’t Have A Cabin?

It is possible to hire a locker onboard to store valuables. These are located near the entrance to the ocean recliners. The lockers are not huge but there’s enough space to store a bag and a few other items. There is a fee to hire one.

Spirit of Tasmania

Is There Wifi?

Wifi is available onboard but it’s pricey – up to $20 for a crossing. It’s also not available in the cabins so you can only use it in the public areas. They do offer free streaming Wifi however to watch free to air TV on your devices.

Is It Rough? Will I Get Seasick?

Bass Strait can actually be quite a rough patch of sea. This certainly isn’t always the case but if you are prone to motion sickness I’d bring tablets with you. You can also purchase them onboard however it’s always better to take them prior to travel.

Having said that we have never had any big issues with motion sickness and these modern ships are fairly stable. You can also get an inside cabin to reduce the impact – laying down I just feel I’m being rocked to sleep!

It’s definitely rougher on night crossings than day ones.

Can Pets Travel On The Ferry Melbourne To Tasmania?

Yes! There are pet kennels available on decks 3 and 5. You can book a kennel for your pet at the time of booking. There are different sizes available. Note that dogs need to be treated for hydatid tape worm at least 24 hours before departure and you need to show evidence of this (just the receipt and used bottle).

You can’t visit pets during the sailing but the staff do check on them and provide water. You will need to bring some bedding too as it is not provided.

Also note that certain wildlife pets are not allowed onboard.

Can I Tow A Trailer Or Caravan?

Yes. This is easy to add when making your booking, just note there is an additional fee.

What Can I Not Take With Me To Tasmania?

Tasmania has very strict biosecurity rules regarding what you can and cannot bring into the state. Basically all fresh fruits and vegetables are banned, as well as fish, seeds, bulbs and anything contaminated with soil.

Note you will be checked at the border. I don’t think there’s ever been a time I haven’t had my car inspected by a sniffer dog trained to detect these items.

It’s worth checking here for a comprehensive breakdown, but the best advice I can give is to just leave fresh food and produce at home.

What Is It Like Travelling On The Spirit Of Tasmania During The Coronavirus Pandemic?

We have continued to travel on the Spirit during the pandemic.

Travelling when state borders are open has not been much different to before the pandemic except no live music and you need to wear a mask except when eating and drinking or in your cabin or car.

We also travelled on it during 2020 when the border was shut during Melbourne’s second wave. Basically everything was shut and you could just stay in your cabin where some snacks were provided. It wasn’t fun at all.

You can read more about that in our article about hotel quarantine in Tasmania here.

Spirit of Tasmania gaming area
Gaming area

Final Words

The Spirit of Tasmania is definitely our preferred way to travel to Tasmania. It is convenient, affordable (compared to flying for us) and fun – especially when you’re travelling as a family. I love that we can pack up the car and arrive in Tasmania basically as we left. Whilst the shorter peak season night crossings can be more challenging due to the lack of sleep, I still love the ferry to Tasmania car option.

If you’re considering going to Tasmania by boat and you’ve got more than a few days to explore, go!! I doubt anyone would regret it 🙂

Now you know how to get to Tasmania, learn what to do while you are there! Find all our planning guides here or click here for our one week itineraries or here for a two week+ itinerary. You can also buy our full Tasmanian Road Trip Planner here.

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon grew up in Tasmania, moved away and then came back with her family twenty years later. She loves re-discovering her home state and sharing it with you here.