Travel SOS: take the ferry with my car, or fly and hire a ride?

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Beth wants to do a road trip of her own and must choose between flying to Tasmania and hiring a car, or catching the ferry with her own vehicle. Turns out, where cash and comfort are considered, it’s not a difficult decision at all.

Q. Beth
My hubbie and I want to go to Tassie and for a week-long road trip. I have been told by friends that it may be cheaper to fly there and hire a car, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. I know it’s a bit lazy of me, but can you help me do the sums and weigh up the pros and cons? We’re coming from Healesville, which is an hour north of Melbourne. Should I fly and hire or take the ferry and bring my own vehicle?

A. Well Beth, first I must say that I envy you. A Tasmanian road trip is high on my agenda and I’ve recently asked myself a similar question. So, you might like to know that I’ve already done a fair bit of the research and I’m happy to share it with you.

Now, I’ve taken the Spirit of Tasmania to the Apple Isle before, and I loved it, so I may be a little biased in my findings. In fact, if I’m being honest, the decision to take the ferry or fly is not a difficult one at all.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. When cost is king, the Spirit will set you back about $740 return. That’s for a night sailing between 3 July and 20 December 2017 for two people in a twin bed cabin with your car included.

couple in a twin room on the spirit of tasmania

Pretty good, right?

Now, if you were to fly in July from Melbourne to Hobart and back again a week later, and hire a basic manual sedan, you’d be up for a minimum of about $800. That’s assuming you’re under 70 years of age, because some hire companies won’t rent to over 70s. You’ll also be required to leave a $1000 security bond and, if you want insurance, to add an extra driver or to lower excess fees, you’ll be up for another $20 to $40 per day.

If you fly you’ll have baggage restrictions, transport costs to and from the airport (or parking costs) but you will get to Tassie much quicker and if you don’t have time on either side of your planned week away, it may be your best bet. Your hire car will be new and nice, but unfamiliar and quite possibly costly if you damage it. You’ll also find that you need to stick to sealed roads. Overall, it will be more expensive.

If you take the ferry over, you won’t have baggage restrictions, you could take your pet (if you’re so inclined), your car is already insured and you’ll be familiar with it. Plus, if you cop a stone chip or a dent you won’t be slugged with $1000 excess to have it fixed. If you’re prone to being seasick, you may have some trouble, but it’s nothing that can’t be sorted with some Dramamine or an acupressure bracelet. And you might have to book a few months out too, because car spots fill up well in advance.

couple on the spirit of tasmania

As far as an experience goes? Well, I can’t recommend the Spirit enough – and it’s been refurbished and, no doubt, improved since I was last on it. It’s like being on a short cruise. Your holiday begins as soon as you board and as soon as you arrive in Tassie you can drive away. You’ll have access to holiday-planning assistance onboard, you can watch a movie, eat fine Tassie produce or sit in the lounge and drink superb Tassie wine and beer. Plus, there’s a range of activities to keep you occupied or you can crash in your comfy room and sleep the whole way.

As I said, I loved travelling to Tassie on the Spirit of Tasmania, so it’s impossible to hide my bias. That’s the way I’ll be doing it when I head for my road trip later this year.

If you want to book a berth on the Spirit, head to www.spiritoftasmania.com.au

If you’d like more info on budget fly and car hire packages, you could try www.tigerair.com.au, www.vroomvroomvroom.com.au or check out www.webjet.com.au and add car hire to your airfare.

Hope that helps!

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7 Comments

Total Comments: 7
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    My partner and I did a package 1 week tour of Tasmania. The car was waiting for us at the airport so that was not a problem. What did surprise us was the amount of insurance we had to pay but I guess that would be the same with any hire car.

    The car itself was basic but fine. It came without a navman so we were glad we had taken our own. It’s not hard to find your way around Tasmania but the gadget was useful especially in the cities, for finding hotels.

    The accommodation was all pre-booked by the tour company and ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. We had truly 6 star self-catering right down to a really “different” very old place with a shower over a very high bath which made getting clean a real hazard for the elderly. The compensation here was splendidly comfortable huge beds!

    The cost for 1 week for one person was about the same as the cost of taking a car over on the Spirit of Tasmania.

    You hear a lot about the wonderful food in Tasmania. It is not easy to find when you are travelling around and we had some of the worst meals and coffee we have ever had anywhere.

  2. 0
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    I live here in TAS.
    The ferry is cheaper in winter, wonder why…the trip can be rough, and delays are common, known to rain here occasionally. Without a cabin, you get a deck chair or a seat, so don’t plan on sleeping. You find yourself arriving in Devonport – which is a great place to leave. Maggie is right, the food (and service) in restaurants can be dreadful but some places are marvelous – you have to know where to go.

    Personally I fly, ex Launceston or Devonport. Much cheaper in off season, check specials.
    Tas in winter is fantastic, mostly, but many places will close down.

    Many of the best places are not on the tourist routes, so don’t be shy, ask a local in a cafe or a shop. Remember that it is small, so you can get to places really quickly. it is only 2 hours north to south and 3.5 across the top. Think about what you want to see, then investigate – ask a local, they are very friendly and most don’t bite.

    Whatever you do don’t miss MONA, or the Salamanca markets on a Saturday.

  3. 0
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    To see everything that Tasmania has to offer we needed two weeks! Best to take your own car for comfort and convenience. Tasmanian food is “out of this world” but do your research as you would on any holiday. There are clean, beautiful eateries everywhere but many “hidden gems” that the locals will direct you to. We deliberately planned not to go during school holidays or peak tourist season so that we didn’t have to book accommodation in advance but even so we still made sure to arrive at our next overnight destination before 4.00 p.m. It’s no wonder people are flooding into Tasmania permanently. Driving is a breeze and even with their 3 cool winter months the climate is very enjoyable to get out and about. It’s a global tourist hotspot, and as far as Australian trips are concerned, we think it’s the jewel in the crown. So many magical things to see – and all found within short driving distances.

  4. 0
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    Another very cheap way would be to do the $1 – $5 camper van/Motor Home return from the mainland, always worth checking.

  5. 0
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    Did a 7-week road trip to Tassie in the van – was just GREAT — didn’t get a cabin on the way over — but did on the way back and I recommend that — it is a nice relaxing trip with your own cabin had a window cabin. With a van you have everything packed so not packing and unpacking– and you know everything is CLEAN — just some advice do not wake ANY vegs/fruit/ honey /eggs into Tassie as they will be taken from you as nothing is allowed to be taken into Tassie

  6. 0
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    I’m probably the biggest fan of the Spirit of Tasmania. Been there several times and not once did I have any problems with dinged cars. If you have mobility issues, you can ask to park near a lift & they will happily accommodate you.

    Staff are fantastic. My only suggestion is to get to the Ports of Melbourne & Devonport early. Then you can get on early and sit back and relax before the Spirit sails. You will be security checked at both ports for guns, etc on leaving and when you get into Devonport, you will also have to go thru quarantine. This is all to ensure safety for everyone and that no nasty pests get into the Tassie system.

    Then once you’re done, then all you need to do is to drive off and enjoy yourself for your trip. I would suggest no shorter than 3 weeks to do the whole island, as a week isn’t long enough to see the best parts unless you’re only going to Launceston & Hobart.

    Currently you can sail from $99* pp each way and your car from $89 each way, so why wouldn’t you get in on the act and sail?


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