Sydney to Launceston Road trip

I’m currently in Tasmania on holiday with my family.    Our goal on this trip is to tour around Tasmania so a car was a must.    On a trip like this, I had two main options.   The first was renting a car – either paying an arm and a leg for a miniature van, or squeezing a family of five into something horrible like an MG ZS.   The second was driving my own car down and touring around in that.   This could have been my wife’s modern car – an S211 E350 Mercedes, or one of my classics.   For me, it was an easy choice and I decided to take my 1990 Mercedes 300TE.

To prepare the car for the trip, I did some preventative maintenance over the last couple of weeks.   There were a couple of things I didn’t get around to, such as replacing the noisy blower motor and the front arm rest.   They can wait until my return.    The night before I was still fighting with my bluetooth module working intermittently.    I have set it up, so I can see the status LED by removing the shifter surround trim.    I could see it was trying unsuccessfully to pair with my phone.   After doing a factory reset, I was still not able to reliably collect, so I replaced the module with a new one. I also fuelled up the night before.

I wanted to leave early so I had plenty of time for things to go wrong on the trip, so I got up at 5:00AM and left at 5:20AM.   In retrospect, I think this was a mistake.   In the end I had many hours to kill at the end, and I really could have used that extra hour of sleep.   I didn’t sleep all that well, so I was quite tired when I started out.

My first leg was fairly uneventful.   I stopped for breakfast at Sutton Forest.  The weather leaving Sydney was wet and foggy.

Sydney to LauncestonI had planned my next leg to be much longer, but I only made it to Goulburn before I started to feel rather drowsy.   I stopped to buy a couple of drinks at the service station and stretch my legs.   My stretches were observed by the Big Merino, one of the plethora of ‘big things’ that are to be found in regional Australia.  The 300TE was running well.

The big merinoNeither the Big Merino or caffeinated drinks were enough to combat my drowsiness, and I pulled over again at a rest area just outside Gundagai.    I’m not normally able to sleep during the day, but I thought I would attempt a short nap here to recharge my batteries.   It actually worked.  I didn’t sleep properly, but I dozed off for about 30 minutes.   That 30 minutes of half sleep made a huge difference and I felt quite good after.   I always thought those government signs advising a power nap were wishful thinking, but it really worked for me in this instance.

Sydney to LauncestonWith my power nap on the road to Gundagai, I was able to make it through to Holbrook without incident.   This was the furthest I had ever been on the M31.   While I’ve driven to Melbourne twice, I’ve taken the scenic route both times.     The scenery on the M31 is OK, although not a patch on what is available on more indirect routes.

Holbrook is quite a nice little town and I stopped for a short break.  I was curious to see the Oberon class submarine, HMAS Otway, the hull of which is in the middle of the town.   I had also planned to stop at the bakery in Holbrook, but there is a huge line and I didn’t stop.   By this time, the 300TE needed a fuel up.   I had covered 549km at 11l/100km.   I think that is pretty good.

HMAS OtwayIt was at this point something rather strange happened.   Once I refuelled the car, I moved away from the bowser to a regular parking spot to check the oil.   The petrol station was very busy so I didn’t want to hold up a bay.   I noticed a loud and strange noise coming from the front of the car.    I was a bit perplexed what it could be, as the key was in the office position.   Since I was parked on top of where they top up the petrol station’s tanks, in the I assumed it was coming from some kind of pump in the tank, not my car.

Turns out I was wrong.  I checked my oil, which was still full, and attempted to re-start the car.   The key did nothing.   I checked I wasn’t in gear, or anything stupid like that.   The car wasn’t.   I went back and looed under the bonnet, and I could definitely hear something making a loud noise, but before I could work out what it was, the noise stopped.   Once it stopped, I was able to restart the car as normal.

I can’t think of many things that can spin with the engine off and the key in the off position.   I can only assume that the starter was still spinning, but not engaged with the ring gear.   Whatever it was, it was using a lot of power.  When I checked my battery monitor log while killing time in Geelong, I could see a huge current draw around that time.   It was around 12:20PM.


From Holbrook, I drove right through into Euroa.   The traffic got heavier as I entered Victoria.   The speed cameras also got far more prevalent.   In Euroa, I stopped for a short dinner stop.   After all the fog and rain of earlier in the day, it was now over 30C and quite sunny.

After Euroa, the traffic built up and the speed cameras got more frequent as I entered Melbourne.   The traffic flowed surprisingly well.   I was expecting to see a few classics driving around.  The only car I saw on H plates was a Toyota Landcruiser from the 90s.

I got to Geelong right on 6PM.   I had 3 hours to kill, as I had a text message from the Spirit of Tasmania informing me that I wasn’t able to check in until 9:00PM.   By this point, I was pretty tired, so would have liked to check in earlier.  This trip really showed off how good the seats are in the W124.  I didn’t feel any discomfort at all for driving such a long distance in them.

I had dinner in Geelong, had a bit of a walk around and waited in the car until it was time to drive to the port.  When I got there, I found a lot of cars had gone much earlier.   I think next time I would have gone around an hour earlier.  I think I would have gotten onto the ship earlier than I did.   They send that message to stagger arrivals as they know some people will come early anyway.

Sydney to Launceston

It took about 45 minutes from arriving to be driving onto the ship. During that time, I didn’t see one other classic.  Just acres of SUVs and dual cab utes.   The lead up was like being in a 45 minute traffic jam, as you most slowly forward from time to time.   It is still better than the horror that is air travel.

Sydney to Launceston

Being a low car, I ended up on deck 6.   One of the staff who saw my wagon came up and asked me about it.  Turns out he has two Rolls Royce’s back in Tasmania.   A Silver Spirit and a Silver Cloud III.   They both looked very nice from the photo he showed me on this phone.    He also told me that I would probably see quite a lot of classics on the road in Tasmania.   Their special interest registration does not require a club, and allows for over 100 days use on a logbook.

Sydney to Launceston

I booked a cabin, which turned out to be on deck 7.   My cabin was one of the interior cabins with no windows.  I didn’t get the point of windows on a night crossing.    The cabin was clean and well equipped with a nice ensuite bathroom and four beds.    Since my family were flying down, I only needed the one.

My only criticism was that the cabin was too hot for my taste, and the bed was a bit hard.   There was a thermostat in the room, and it did actually work, but I still wasn’t able to get the cabin as cool as I like to sleep.   At first it was really hot, but it at least became tolerable.   I like to have my room really dark when I sleep, which is an advantage of a windowless cabin.

The onboard internet does not work in the cabins, and I even had no reception when docked at the port in Geelong.

Sydney to LauncestonThe cargo areas are locked during the voyage, so brought a little day bag with me with a change of clothes, toiletries etc.    I was lucky as the seas were very mild for my crossing, with only 1m swells.   I was surprised how fast the ship goes, at 27 knots.

The next morning I woke up around 7AM and was able to to check out the ship and have some breakfast.   They have a lot of facilities such as movies, various lounge areas, a bar, restaurant etc.    The food was OK, but not great.

We docked about 15 minutes late, and then each deck was called.   They started with deck 5, then deck 3, then my deck 6.    It was a fairly painless process getting off the ship.   The only thing I didn’t like was how careless most of the passengers were when waking past the cars with their bags.  I had people constantly bumping into mine.  It didn’t help that I was in the middle lane in the middle of that deck, so there were a lot of people to get past my car.    The paint is not the greatest on my 300TE, but I wouldn’t want to be parked where I was on a show car.

Sydney to Launceston

My family were not arriving to Launceston until 3:30PM, so I had plenty of time to get to Launceston before they arrived.    The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania was very close to my hotel, so I planned to visit the museum before I picked them up.   I’ll cover the museum separately.

I took the scenic route to Launceston and I’m glad I did.    The road was excellent, full of great scenery and sweeping turns.   Tasmania is very green compared to the rest of Australia.  The guy on the boat was right – I already saw a lovely Jaguar Mk2 and a Mercedes 380SEC.  I refuelled in Exeter, returning 11.3l/100km.   Not bad considering the long process to board the Spirit of Tasmania.

On my Sydney to Launceston Road trip, I covered 1070km over two tanks of fuel.   Instead of wasting money on a rental, I now get to drive my own car in Tasmania and not suffer the misery of air travel these days.

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