The 150 mile-wide Bass Strait is what separates Australia's only island state from the mainland. Tasmania is known for its rugged wilderness, pristine national parks, high-caliber cuisine, and abundance of breweries. Four-wheel driving and "overlanding"—exploring remote places in a self-reliant vehicle—are popular pastimes in this adventure capital, which explains why so many of Tasmania's visitors travel by ferry. The Spirit of Tasmania allows passengers to bring their rigs and campers aboard. This pseudo cruise ship takes about 10 hours to traverse Bass Strait from the nearest port in Melbourne. Otherwise, Hobart—the capital of Tasmania—is a quick hour-and-16-minute flight away.
How to Get from Melbourne to Tasmania
- Ferry: 9 to 11 hours, from $99
- Flight: 1 hour, 16 minutes, from $60
The Spirit of Tasmania departs from Port Melbourne and arrives at the Esplanade in East Devonport, on the north side of the island, after nine to 11 hours. It sometimes only does night journeys, but between September and May (Australia's warm season), it leaves once between 9 and 11 a.m. and once between 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Be sure to check the online timetable or consult with a travel agent before booking as times do fluctuate.
Passengers without cars may only pay $99 for a ticket, whereas taking a vehicle costs double that price. Alternatively, you can rent a car after flying to Hobart or take coaches to some of the national parks. However, public tours won't allow you to do long hikes or see some of the more off-the-beaten-track sites.
Booking accommodation on the ferry also costs an additional fee and is required on overnight trips. A $39 recliner will offer you budget-friendly comfort, but the more high-end cabins come with private bathrooms, showers, and televisions. If you're traveling during the day, you can settle into one of the many chairs and sofas scattered throughout the trip for free. There are many vantage points perfect for kicking back with a latte and a book, but you can also pass the time by exploring the ship's restaurants, bars, cinemas, spas, casinos, shops, swimming pools, kids' play areas, and even nightclubs.
Boarding begins 2 hours, 30 minutes prior to departure and closes 45 minutes before the ship sails. Passengers who bring vehicles must adhere to certain rules as to what not to bring and all passengers must show a form of ID before boarding the ship.
Those who are traveling by plane will likely find Hobart to be the easiest and cheapest entry point. The capital city, located on the southeastern side of the island, is a 1-hour-16-minute flight from Melbourne, Victoria, according to Skyscanner, and there are six airlines (with Jetstar being the most popular) that make the direct trip.
The cheapest time to fly is March through May, August, and October, when flights can be found for about $60. In January and February—peak Australian summer—the cost of flights can skyrocket to $125 or more each way.
Hobart is the biggest and most populated city in Tasmania, but there are also airports in Burnie and Devonport (where the ferry docks) on the north coast, and Launceston more inland. North coast destinations, however, range more in the $200 to $300 range for a one-way ticket, and offer less in the way of rental cars and tourist amenities than Hobart.
What to See in Tasmania
Tasmania is an isolated island known for its vast, rugged wilderness, which is largely protected within national parks and reserves. There are 19 national parks throughout the state, with the most famed being the mountainous Ben Lomond and Cradle Mountain National Parks, Freycinet National Park with its beachy coves and picturesque Wineglass Bay, the eucalyptus rainforest that makes up Mount Field National Park, and the coastal Tasman National Park.
Devonport, where the Spirit of Tasmania docks, is popular for penguin spotting and Hobart is full of art, craft beer, quality chocolate and cheese, and markets. Salamanca Place's Georgian warehouses are home to galleries and boutiques that you can peruse for hours. The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is an eccentric underground museum and wine bar with a contemporary edge. On the Tasman Peninsula, the 19th-century Port Arthur penal settlement is now an open-air museum and the Cape Bruny Lighthouse is worth stopping by for a picture.