The Bear is back with more riding holiday ideas. This time he heads to Victoria to check out the Sorrento to Queenscliff ferries! Check out all the details below... Words & Pics: The Bear.
I don’t know about you but for me, ferries are one of the pleasures of touring. Not all of them are terrific, mind you. I could take the boat from Tunis to Trapani in Sicily or leave it – preferably I’d leave it. But you can’t discount the Ferries Australia has to offer…
The Tunis to Trapani route is nowhere near as bad as some of the cross-channel ferries connecting England with the rest of the world. The only ferry I used to willingly take from the Continent to Britain was the one from Hamburg to Harwich, but that doesn’t run any more.
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Some European ferries are like roll-on, roll-off cruise ships, especially the ones connecting Germany with Scandinavia. The one I caught from Kiel to Oslo had a pub (that was fun – have you ever drunk draft Guinness at duty-free prices?), several restaurants and a huge duty-free shop. But the Continent also has endless small ferries across its rivers, which give you a chance to just park the bike for a few minutes and stretch your legs while taking in the view.
Brisbane has its car ferries that run out to the islands, and Sydney has one across the Parramatta River and six to the north of the city, but they are just punts. The Spencer Gulf car ferry from Wallaroo to Lucky Bay seems to only run whenever Searoad feels like it which does not appear to be terribly often. The biggest Australian ferries are the two Spirits of Tasmania, more about them later.
Before we get to them, I want to let you know about another pair of ferries which actually cross the path of the Spirits: the MV Sorrento and the MV Queenscliff, which run between the towns of (more or less) the same names and let you skip the Geelong Freeway. I’m not sure if the Searoad that runs these is the same as the Searoad that runs the Spencer Gulf ferry, but these two appear to be a lot more reliable. They run every hour on the hour between 7am and 6pm, with a 7pm service each way added in peak times.
The roll-on roll-off catamarans have been specifically designed for this run, so they can handle any weather. Crossing time is 40 minutes, and you’re not in the “open sea” for long enough to get seasick. You need to buy your ticket two hours before departure, but you can buy it online, so you don’t need to hang around the pier for those hours. You do need to be there 40 minutes before departure, although they seem to give a little leeway. I was about five minutes late, and hadn’t even pre-booked. If you do pre-book and miss your sailing, it automatically transfers to the next one. That’s terrific.
Click here to check out the Ferry timetable…
Fares are pretty good, too, at $39 for a solo bike and $45 for an outfit, a trike, or a bike with a trailer. Your pillion will pay $13. There are still queues to get onto the boat, but the blokes directing the loading are good about bikes and will make sure you get a convenient spot. While the ferries don’t offer tiedowns like larger ferries, they do recommend that you stay with your bike if the crossing looks like being a bit rough.
The ferry takes you across the Rip, past Ticonderoga Bay on one side and the tiny islands of the Pope’s Eye and Chinaman’s Hat on the other. The scenery is sort of interesting – certainly more interesting than that along the Geelong Expressway, which is the alternative route – and it’s interesting to contemplate a bit of history. Through the Rip and Victory Bay came John Batman (the early property developer, not the Caped Crusader) and many of the immigrants back in the days when they – we — arrived by ship. Yep, that included yours truly back in 1959. To this day, this narrow entry serves the busiest seaport in Australia – Port Melbourne.
“While the ferries don’t offer tiedowns like larger ferries, they do recommend that you stay with your bike if the crossing looks like being a bit rough.”
Upstairs, the passenger lounge is pretty well appointed by the standard of ferries around the world. It’s comfortably set up, you can sit indoors or out, and you can have a sandwich and a drink. Wine is available already in the glass, sealed by a removable cover. Wonderful idea. Whoever stocks the tiny souvenir shop has a terrific sense of humour: you can buy model kits of the Titanic.
Once in Queenscliffe you can circle the bay or you have the choice of destinations including Bell’s Beach, the Great Ocean Road and Geelong. Back in 2020, TT-Line (which runs Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2), announced it would move its Victorian port operations from Station Pier, Port Melbourne, to Corio Quay in Geelong. The company had signed a new 30-year lease with Geelong Port to relocate to Corio Quay, where a purpose-built terminal is nearing completion. From the TT-Line website it looks as if services will launch at the beginning of 2023.
“Whoever stocks the tiny souvenir shop has a terrific sense of humour: you can buy model kits of the Titanic.”
TT-Line Chairman Michael Grainger said, “the move to Geelong will offer the company a unique opportunity to enhance the passenger experience and provide room to expand its freight offering in line with demand for many years to come”. The passenger experience bit is the usual corporate bulldust; it is hard to see how Geelong is more convenient than Melbourne. But he’s clearly right about freight, which will no longer need to make its way through Melbourne traffic. And let’s face it, that’s also an advantage for motorcycles.
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