Budget Travel: From Sydney

Incorporating Tasmania into a visit to Sydney is something most people don't even contemplate - after all, it's overseas (well that's how many people see it, even though the flight from Sydney to its capital, Hobart, is only 20 minutes longer than the flight to Melbourne). Depending on which day of the week you travel (Tuesday to Thursday are the cheapest days to fly in Australia) and how far in advance you book and pay for your travel (book and pay a month or more in advance for the cheapest fares) the price difference between the two destinations is negligible.

If you'd like to visit Tasmania but think it is all too hard, too expensive and takes too long to get there and back, it's time to get that notion out of your head right now and start plannning because we'll show you how easy and cheap it can be! We know a way to include a trip to Tasmania into your Sydney visit that could well be cheaper than if you stayed in Sydney! Not only that, you'll get a day or two sightseeing in Melbourne thrown in for free!

Sounds interesting? Read on ...

The secret is to travel at night using the overnight train from Sydney to Melbourne and then the overnight ferry from Melbourne to Devonport. You will leave Sydney at 8.30pm, travel overnight on the Melbourne XPT train, arriving in Melbourne at 7.25am. Leave your bags in a storage locker at Melbourne's Southern Cross Station and head off for a day of sightseeing in Melbourne. Later in the day, pick up your luggage and catch a tram from Southern Cross Station to Port Melbourne - the Spirit of Tasmania terminal on Station Pier is right across the road from the tram terminus. Apart from peak periods when two crossings to Tasmania are scheduled on certain days, the Spirit of Tasmania sails at 7.30pm, and you will be diembarking in Devonport at 6.30am. There are car hire facilities at the ferry terminal or you can catch a Redline Coach from the terminal. If your destination is Hobart, sit back and enjoy a five hour ride through the pretty Tasmanian countryside before arriving in Hobart at 12.30pm.

By travelling at night you won't lose a single hour of daylight travelling (you lose half a day getting to and from airport, waiting in terminals and travelling if you fly) and you can offset the cost of your travel against the money you save by not having to pay for the two night's accommodation.

There are a number of options for the return journey to Sydney. You can fly back to Sydney from Hobart or Launceston if time is of the essence, but otherwise the same method of travelling at night with their time and accommodation cost saving benefits can be applied to your return journey. You can return your hire car back to the Devonport terminal on the evening of departure, or you can get back to Devonport by coach from wherever you happen to be in Tasmania in time for that night's ferry. The ferry leaves Devonport at 7.30pm and arrives back in Melbourne at 6.00am. If you'd like to pay for your train fare back to Sydney with the money you would otherwise pay for overnight accommodation, catch a tram from the ferry terminal to Southern Cross Station, put your luggage in a locker there, spend another day sightseeing in Melbourne, then catch the overnight XPT train to Sydney. The train leaves Melbourne at 7.50pm and arrives in Sydney at around 7.00am.

If you'd rather see a bit of regional Victoria and New South Wales on your return journey - something you can't do when travelling at night - and skip the second day of sightseeing in Melbourne, you can take that morning's daylight train to Sydney. After disembarking from the ferry, catch a tram to Melbourne's Southern Cross Station. There you will have time for some breakfast before boarding the Sydney XPT train, which will get you back into Sydney around 8.00pm. The whole trip from Tasmania to Sydney will have taken around 24 hours, and the cost of the night's accommodation you will save by travelling on the overnight ferry will go a long way towards paying for your journey.

Cost Saving: Provided you don't mind travelling in sleeper seats, the cost of the ferry and train fare is around $120.00 each, so if your accommodation in Sydney costs $120.00 a night, it will cost you no more to travel to Tasmania and back - with two full days of sightseeing in Melbourne included - than to stay in Sydney. If your accommodation in Sydney costs more than $120.00 a night, it will actually be cheaper for you to go to Tasmania and Melbourne than to stay in Sydney!

Note: these prices are a guide only, and are based on train and ferry travel in sleeper seats. Sleeper cabins with a bed are available on both services at extra cost. Be sure to make all train and ferry bookings in advance - unless you have a prior booking, there is no guarantee of travel.

Time Saving: All travel is done at night so no daylight time is lost travelling to and from Tasmania. Were you to fly to Tasmania, you'll lose half a day getting to and from airport, waiting in terminals and travelling - in both directions, which is effectively a whole day.

Suggested itinerary
The following 5 day itinerary gives you 2 days in Melbourne, 2 half days travelling through Tasmania, two half days in Hobart, and one full day touring southern Tasmania. You can extend your travel experience by adding extra days in Melbourne and/or Tasmania.

Overnight train to Melbourne.
Day 1: sightseeing in Melbourne (full day) Guided tour options; overnight ferry to Devonport.
Day 2: coach from Devonport to Hobart (morning); sightseeing in Hobart (afternoon)
Day 3: day tour around southern Tasmania, eg. Port Arthur (full day) Guided tour options
Day 4: sightseeing in Hobart (morning); coach to Devonport; overnight ferry to Melbourne
Day 5: sightseeing in Melbourne (full day); overnight train to Sydney
OR daylight train to Sydney

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Xpt Train from Sydney in Southern Cross Station, Melbourne

The Spirit of Tasmania I loading at Station Pier, Melbourne