Overnight sailing to Tasmania
The trip down to Tasmania needn’t be a rushed 1 hour affair - take the boat and you can collect your thoughts, unwind and unplug.
The ‘Mona affect’ is drawing more and more people to the island-state – some to live and some to visit. I took the Spirit of Tasmania, the overnight ferry that sails from Port Melbourne to Devonport to visit Dad. I chose to sail for the adventure and the nostalgia, I’d sailed Bass Strait on the now-decommissioned Abel Tasman as a young teenager. My strongest memories were the sweaty indoor heated pool and the ravioli. The later gave me an unexpected bout of wind and this gave my Dad endless amusement. I farted for hours.
The two boats that criss-cross the strait were refurbished a just few years ago after starting their maiden voyages in 2002. According to the website, they can carry 1,400 passengers and 500 vehicles. There’s two well-appointed accessible cabins that can sleep three people. Wheelchair cabin bookings need to be made over the phone. This was simple & easy – the call centre is based in Devonport and the lady on the line exercised typical southern hospitality, she couldn’t help enough. The day of departure I arrived at Port Melbourne two hours early, as requested for special needs bookings.
Wheelchair users can’t board via the sky bridge which was slightly disappointing – everyone knows the best maritime adventures start as the captain welcomes you on deck. I was taken on board via the open bow, the same way the cars drive on. Other passengers board this way too so it’s not so unusual, just a bit steep (staff will assist here). It wasn’t ideal but seeing some of the inner workings of the ship was interesting anyway.
The accessible cabin was better than I’d expected, it was roomy and well thought-out. There’s a bunk bed set and one single bed, a roll-in shower, television, two windows and a small table & writing desk. To get into the bathroom there was a small lip but this was simple enough to navigate.
I practically threw my bag in and headed up to take a look around. There are two central lifts and they’re the key getting to the upper & lower decks. On-board entertainment is in the form of two cinemas, three bars, a few public gaming consoles, a tourism hub and some slightly iffy Wi-Fi (due to the satellite connection evidently).
The ship is generally pretty accessible. There is a lot of flat flooring and the carpeted areas allow an easy push to roll across. Most of the areas are open and easy to get around with the exception of the outside decks where I had to rely on kind strangers to help through the doorway. Easier access to outside areas would have been great – it’s a big part of the sailing experience – just ask Leonardo & Kate. There are accessible toilets on decks 7 and 10.
There is a legitimate Scandinavian design feel – Swedish firm Figura lead the refurbishment of the ship in 2015. The resulting spaces, surfaces and lighting are well considered. Remembering no two passengers are alike there are spaces to suit families’ road tripping, couples honey mooning or zen-seeking singles.
There’s smart cane seats with Tasmanian oak with golden lighting then bright green synthetic grass and colourful seating near a play area. Some of the fluorescent lighting is a bit brash but I expect this is unavoidable.
Now to the sleeping bit. I slept for a total of three or four hours. The crossing wasn’t rough and I didn’t feel the rocking of the ship, but there you go. Maybe I was wound up about heading back. Next time I’ll exercise or turn in later.
I wanted to wake early anyway – the cruise into Devonport at sunrise the most memorable part of the trip. Watching the sea reflect the early light on a stunning clear morning is a beautiful way to begin the day. (Again – It would be great if I could have gotten outside independently)
Passengers choose to sail to Tasmania so they can bring their car/dog/4WD/caravan (or combination thereof) but it’s also just a good way to introduce yourself to the laid-back lifestyle that lies ahead. The inside decks are wheelchair friendly and the accessible cabin was top notch.
For me the crossing was a chance to decompress, relax and consider what I wanted to do on my break. I didn't try the ravioli this time and there isn’t a swimming pool on-board, but don’t despair – instead take a breath of the healing sea air and retune yourself to Tassie time.
The spirit of Tasmania sails Melbourne to Devonport daily departing 7:30pm weekdays and varying times Saturday and Sunday. Find out more at www.spiritoftasmania.com.au
Redline Coach departs Devonport for Hobart daily at 7.40am Monday–Friday and 9.05am Saturday and Sunday, $59.80 one way. Find out more at www.tasredline.com.au