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Top tips for sailing the Spirit of Tasmania with kids

I breathed a sigh of relief. As the sun began to set over the ocean, the Tasmanian coastline was becoming visible in the distance. Woohoo! We had survived 10 hours on a 10-story ship with four kids under 8…and we had loved it.

Spirit of Tasmania

Jessica and Jackson on the Spirit of Tasmania. Picture: Louise Ball

Our adventure really began 8 months ago, the day we left Sydney and hit the road on our 12-month lap of Australia. With four kids, 3, 4, 6 and 8, one caravan, a few clothes, toys and parcels of Distance Education school work, we set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

We tackled the 4WD tracks of Cape York. We rode bikes around Uluru. We watched crocodiles in Kakadu, fished in Lake Argyle, hiked canyons in the Kimberley, blew tyres on the Gibb River Road, conquered gorges in Karijini, went wild on the WA coast and saw lots of nothing on the Nullabor. Spectacular nothing …and so much more in between.

Now we’re heading on the next stage of our adventure. We’re off to Tasmania. Woohoo!

Spirit of Tasmania

The Spirit of Tasmania. Picture: Louise Ball

Two Spirit of Tasmania vessels shuttle people, vehicles and pets between Melbourne and Devonport. You can choose to sail by day or by night, with cabins optional for both sailings.

This morning, we packed up camp early and arrived at the Port of Melbourne by 6.30am to check-in our car, caravan and family of six onto one of the ships.

I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about how we would go. But our day was a total success, achieved through equal measures of planning and luck.

To ensure you enjoy this amazing adventure as much as we did, here are our top 10 tips for sailing with kids.

Know the flammable material restrictions

If you’re travelling with a camper you may have extra fuel or gas bottles. You can turn off the gas bottles fixed to your camper. But you will have to hand over any loose ones to the ship’s staff for the duration of the voyage. Before you sail, you should empty out your jerry cans and ensure they are dry.

Know the quarantine restrictions

Eat your fresh food. Quarantine prevents you from bringing any fruit or vegetables into Tasmania. Quarantine officers will check your fridges before you board.

Check-in early

Plan your route to the Port. If you have a tall vehicle or caravan, avoid Melbourne’s notorious low bridges. First-on is first-off, best to get the tired kids off the boat as quickly as possible at the end of the journey.

The bow of the Spirit of Tasmania with an open cargo lock and bridge for loading. Picture: Ksenia Shcherbakova / Shutterstock

Pack a bag

Make sure you have a backpack with drink bottles (free refills available onboard) and snacks (save on snacks and spend on lunch). We didn’t need the extra colouring and activity books, the Spirit of Tasmania has too many other fun activities onboard.

Find a base camp

The Spirit of Tasmania has four levels of passenger lounges and facilities. If you are travelling with young kids, look for a pod of six comfortable lounge chairs, close to both the playground and the kids’ entertainment hub. For older kids, head for the gaming console rooms or the live music stages.

Book cinema tickets

The ship has two cinemas, showing six movies during the voyage. Some sessions sell-out early, so grab your tickets before the ship leaves the port.

Find free entertainment

The kids loved the face painting, circus workshops, art and craft corner, gaming room and live music performances.

Spirit of Tasmania

Gaming stations on board the Spirit of Tasmania. Picture: Louise Ball

Indulge in the dining options

The Spirit of Tasmania has coffee, snacks, wood-fired pizza, bars buffet and a-la-carte restaurants. Our pizza for lunch was a highlight.

Check out the tourist office

You can save heaps of time on your Tasmania tour by getting maps, brochures and national parks and attraction passes from the onboard tourist office before you reach Devonport.

Spirit of Tasmania

Jessica, Jackson and Ashton on the Spirit of Tasmania. Picture: Louise Ball

You need an exit plan

We expected our kids to be tired kids after a long day, so we pre-planned food and bed. We ordered groceries online and picked them up in store at Devonport as soon as we got off the boat. Prebook your accommodation, so you can just head straight to your hotel or campground and crash.

By the time the sun set in Devonport, the kids were in bed and we were enjoying a glass of wine.

What did the kids think? “That was awesome, I can’t wait to do it again,” our daughter said as we tucked her into bed.


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