Smooth Sailing for the Melbourne commute on the Port Phillip Ferry
It’s 6.45am and as I park my car beneath the towering cypress trees that line Portarlington beach, the sky begins to blush. Stepping into the waking morning, I taste the salty smack of the sea in the air and hear the far off cry of a single gull as it wheels out of sight across the smudgy water.
Portarlington pier hums with activity at this time of the morning. You can feel it. There is the hearty thrum of a fishing boat and the muffled voices of the crew as they unload the morning’s catch. Locals, led by eager dogs, walk by with a chipper ‘good morning’ while anglers dot the historic wharf and craggy rocks like silent sentinels.
There is also a steady stream of commuters who, like me, are catching the ferry to Melbourne; its inky skyline etched on the far horizon.
It took almost 10 years for the ferry to come to fruition but the wait was worth it. It means that commuters this side of Geelong now have more options about how they travel to and from Melbourne for work or leisure.
Capricornian Dancer is a 35-metre EnviroCat that seats 400 passengers and runs direct between Portarlington and Docklands every day. For CBD commuters, it’s a 7am departure from Portarlington each weekday for a 90-minute cruise across Port Philip Bay to Docklands, where you berth behind Etihad Stadium. From there, it’s a brisk four minute walk to the nearest tram stop on Collins St or a bit of a longer stroll to Bourke St via the concourse between the stadium and Southern Cross Station. The ferry departs Melbourne at 5.30pm.
For me, the ferry offers freedom of choice and peace of mind. It beats battling bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway and unlike catching the train you never have to stand. Unless you choose to head outside to the upper deck where you can spread your arms wide, deeply inhale the invigorating sea breeze and marvel at the full beauty of the magnificent bay as you motor towards your destination.
Onboard there’s free wifi so you can check emails, surf the net or immerse yourself in the latest TV shows and movies on Netflix. You can watch the news on one of the many TV screens – hat’s if you can tear yourself away from the fascinating passing parade on the water.
Towering cargo ships regularly glide by as silent as ghosts, seals are often seen lolling about on the shipping buoys and waving a lazy flipper. If you’re lucky, you may see dolphins at play or on the hunt, or spot humpback whales in the mouth of the Yarra River.
Every day is an adventure. It’s also a great chance to make new friends. I now have a new group of local buddies to travel to and from work with and to catch up with on weekends.
The crew are warm and friendly too. They know the regular passengers by name and as we file aboard there’s always cheery banter, a high five for Jade, a thumbs up for Kira, an elbow bump for George. They also take the time to chat with newcomers as they make the rounds checking and selling tickets and answering any questions.
For residents in other parts of the Bellarine, from Queenscliff to Barwon Heads, give the ferry a go and see – and feel – the difference for yourselves. You won’t be disappointed.
For more information see www.port phillipferries.com.au