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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Crossing Bass Strait from Melbourne to Tasmania, Australia

After an epic 3,500 km (2,174 miles) trek across Australia from west to east, only 450 kms (280 miles) of water now separated Melbourne, Victoria from Devonport, Tasmania.

Crossing Bass Strait is only possible on water or by air, you cannot drive there. The only way to get my car, caravan (and self) across was by the Spirit of Tasmania ferry. At 194 metres (636 feet) long and hosting 11 decks, this is a large sea faring vessel.

Travellers with vehicles drive through a quarantine area before boarding. No fresh foods are permitted to be taken aboard. Eskys, ca boots and caravans are thoroughly inspected. Slowly moving forward in the queue, I noticed the ramp to get onto the ship was a steep incline. There was no way I wanted to be stopping halfway up that ramp as others were, with a caravan behind my car. Visions of the two vehicles rolling helplessly out of control back down the ramp was a scary thought indeed.

I noticed that others who were towing would wait until all cars on the ramp ahead had gone over the top, then they made a smooth and steady ride up. Smart move, so I did the same.

More staff on board directed people where to park, and asked for all curtains on the caravan to be opened. Maybe some people had tried to sneak on before? Of the 11 decks, 1- 6 are for vehicles. The rest of the decks host public areas and 222 cabins.

The photo below is the Spirit of Tasmania docked in Devonport.

Travelling across just after the COVID lockdown was announced meant a few changes to my itinerary. Instead of sharing with a same sex person, I now had to pay extra and be the only person in the cabin. As soon as people left their vehicles, they were immediately directed to their cabins. The usual food and beverage areas, cinema and recliner couches were all out of bounds. We were confined to our cabins for the entire trip. Staff could bring us a hot beverage if we posted a green card on the outdoor handle of our room door. Then we could mask up, put in our order and wait for delivery.

The crossing was at night so most of the time was spent sleeping. We departed at 7.30pm and arrived at 6.30am. A porthole in the cabin allowed me to watch the bright lights of Melbourne as we sailed away. Fortunately, I had brought along snacks and movies on the laptop, as there is no TV or radio in the rooms. In usual circumstances, it would have been ideal to wander around the ship, eat a meal, enjoy a beverage at the bar, and chat to others.

Wake up calls over the loud speaker in the early morning hours let passengers know we were soon approaching our destination, with enough time to put out the green card for a coffee, and use the ensuite shower and bathroom.

Another call advised us to head for our vehicles and await further instructions. All vehicles drove off forward, no reversing. Another line up through Tasmanian quarantine, and then in the still dark of early morning, I finally touched down at my destination! Sunrise was not until 7.30am, and the cool, crispy morning was very evident as white frost was still on the ground and my exhaled breath left clouds on the air.

Welcome to winter in Tasmania! This is the mouth of the Mersey River facing Devonport.

At the entry to the river has been erected a 5 metre high, 700kg bronze statue, Spirit of the Sea. It symbolises the power and fascination of the sea. It is a Neptune inspired man holding a trident which is decorated with shells and barnacles. It was quite controversial when first erected, due to it's nakedness. Lit up at night, it is a powerful and beautiful addition to the shoreline.

Another beautiful welcoming sight on the shoreline, once the sun rises, is the Devonport lighthouse. Seen as white from the shore, the red and white vertical stripes are visible when seen from the sea.

I had booked into campgrounds at Railton, a 20 minute drive from Devonport, through winding roads and delightful views of green hills and meadows at every turn. My spirits soared as I drove along. This epic journey was ending, but a new and exciting twelve month visit to Tasmania was just beginning.

Happy Travels!

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