Driving onto the Spirit of Tasmania is the culmination of our crazy schedule of packing and driving since we arrived back in Australia last Wednesday. When we took the ferry for the first time in 2012, it was a new adventure. Now that we know what we’re doing, it’s an easy move.

About 5pm we head for Melbourne’s waterfront where we get in line with the other vehicles that are heading across Bass Strait. The trucks have already been loaded onto the ship, and so we line up with the campervans, cars and all manner of trailers.

Security stop us to check for foodstuff prohibited by Tasmania’s strict quarantine laws — basically no fresh plants, fruit, vegies or fish. They ask about alcohol and fishing equipment. I don’t carry those, so I’m not sure what would happen if I did have a fishing line with me. They also look at the engine and confiscate our gas bottles. The gas bottles are marked with a tag and we’ll be able to collect them in Tasmania as they travel in a different part of the ship.

After security, we drive to the end of the pier and loop back along the jetty. There’s at least a twenty-minute wait in line, so most cars turn off their engines. Some families get out of their vehicles to enjoy the fresh air coming off the water. The views back to Melbourne are quite pretty.

When it’s our turn to approach the check-in kiosk, I’m greeted by name. Clearly, the staff inside have identified who we are by our license plate. They issue our tickets and room keys. We get two keys for our four-berth cabin. I’ve actually had to pay for an extra berth elsewhere because the ferry-bookings can’t accommodate more than four people in one cabin, although the reality is that we’ll be together all night.

Vehicles in the garage decks of the Spirit of Tasmania, January 2015
Several layers of vehicles are packed in neat lines in the garage decks of the ferry. We're in the lane suitable for higher vehicles.

Once on the ferry, we pack and exit the bus to make our way to our cabin. In the last year, the girls have simplified their overnight requirements, and we manage to pack everything to keep us sustained and happy into a single tote. I bring food, a small quantity of toys and accessories for showering. Towels and bedding are provided in the cabin.

The ferry has a (overpriced) restaurant, small shop and several bars, but we generally head to our cabin and play there until falling asleep. I check the movies that’ll be screening in the theatrette, but the girls aren’t interested in what’s showing. The only new thing about today’s voyage is that it comes soon after the older girls have watched Titanic so they like to take turns scaring themselves by pretending the ship is sinking!

The ferry is now part of our annual routine but still exciting for our family! For those who are looking to travel on the Spirit of Tasmania for the first time, this post provides some more information on what it’s like.