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Bruny Island Lookout over the Neck Beach

Travelling by ferry with a hire car

Although some of Australia’s islands are accessible by road, others are not, and if you’re hoping to take your rental car off the mainland, it’s important that you adhere to the terms in your rental agreement.

Generally speaking, if a rental vehicle is taken on a ferry for travel over bodies of water, the vehicle will be void of insurance during the ferry trip and while being loaded on and off the ferry. Purchased excess reduction products will also be voided. Islands such as (but not limited to) Kangaroo Island are considered to be “full responsibility” bookings, meaning that you have to pay in full for all damage incurred. Always tell your rental provider if you plan to take your rental car on a ferry.

Some of the most popular islands in Australia include Bruny Island in Tasmania, Kangaroo Island in South Australia, Magnetic Island and Moreton Island in Queensland, Phillip Island and Queenscliff in Victoria, and Stradbroke Island in Queensland. Another famous island, K’gari (Fraser Island) has very limited access to hire cars. Read on for the rules and regulations regarding taking your hire car to some of Australia’s better known islands.

Bruny Island, Tasmania

There is a reason why Bruny Island is fast becoming one of Tasmania’s premier holiday destinations. The island is a highlight for foodies — be sure you try the locally-produced cheese and wine — and a must-see for both avid hikers and those who’d simply like to explore the coastline to try and see local wildlife including fairy penguins.

Getting to Bruny Island with a rental car

In many cases, taking a rental car on a ferry is not permitted, however, at Bruny Island there are exceptions. Avis and Budget will allow their vehicles on the ferry in some cases, so it is a good idea to check with the individual depot whether they allow you to take your hire car on the ferry. You will need to advise the counter staff when you pick up your rental car that you would like to take it to Bruny Island.

The ferry to Bruny Island operates seven days a week, takes around twenty minutes, and departs from a town called Kettering, which is about 30 minutes drive outside of Hobart. You can pick up your rental car at Hobart or at Hobart Airport.

Getting around Bruny Island

Much of Bruny Island is gravel road, and as you’re not be permitted to take a rental car off sealed roads, you’ll not be able to access the more remote, northern parts of the island. The best time to visit Truganini Lookout and Penguin Rookery is between September and February.

Follow the Bruny Island Main Road from the ferry terminal. It will take about 40 minutes to drive from Robert’s Point to Lunawanna.

Kangaroo Island, South Australia

A delightful combination of protected national parks, small towns and iconic coastline, there are a lot of reasons to visit South Australia’s Kangaroo Island. With most of the island’s major attractions connected by sealed road, it makes sense to explore the region with a rental car. There are some rules and restrictions that you should be aware of if you are planning on visiting the island.

Taking a rental car to Kangaroo Island

There are some car rental companies located on Kangaroo Island itself, meaning you can choose to arrive via plane or passenger ferry and pick up a car once you arrive. Some depots are located at Kangaroo Island Airport, while others are near the ferry terminal. Any vehicle rented on Kangaroo Island cannot be taken off the island.

Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty depots located on the mainland may allow their vehicles to be taken on the ferry to Kangaroo Island, but generally only with prior authorisation. Make sure you inform the car rental company that you intend on travelling to Kangaroo Island.

Travelling Around Kangaroo Island

Most of the major roads on Kangaroo Island are sealed, making it easy for you to get around in your rental car. Use the South Coast Road and the Playford Highway to explore the main sights of the island. If you are picking up your rental car from the airport, it is just a short drive along the Playford Highway to Kingscote.

Magnetic Island, Queensland

Magnetic Island is an island on the North Queensland Coast boasting over 20 stunning beaches. The island has a resident population of approximately 2,500 people and a beautiful collection of holiday resorts. With Mt. Cook at its centre, more than half of the island is designated national park and serves as a perfect sanctuary for wildlife, including koalas, rock wallabies and a broad range of bird-life. There are also 24 kilometres of walking track through the park along with many lookouts.

Getting to Magnetic Island with a rental car

Magnetic Island is just eight kilometres offshore of Townsville and access is via a car or passenger ferry. The vehicle ferry is operated by Magnetic Island Ferries which operates from 6am to 6pm on weekdays, and 6am to 4pm on weekends.

You may hire a car in Townsville and travel on the ferry to Magnetic Island, however note that only Thrifty permits travel to Magnetic Island on the ferry — any insurance policies are null and void whilst vehicles are being loaded on or off the ferries, or while on the ferry. Renters travel on the ferry service at their own risk.

Getting around Magnetic Island

From Nelly Bay, you will be able to follow Horseshoe Bay Road to the north side of the island. Parts of West Point Road are unsealed, so you will not be able to take your rental car to the western side of Magnetic Island. You’ll find plenty of accommodation options available on the island, as well as hiking and cycling trails so you can explore the area in more depth.

Moreton Island, Queensland

Moreton Island is located off the coast of Brisbane and is the third-largest sand island in the world, with 98% of it being a national park. Unfortunately, due to the island consisting mostly of sand, you are not allowed to take your rental car to Moreton Island.

Phillip Island, Victoria

Phillip Island is one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations. Located in Victoria, the island is about 120 kilometers from Melbourne and while the island is best known for its famous resident penguins, it has plenty of fantastic coastal scenery for you to explore while you wait for the penguins to show up.

If you’re planning on spotting penguins, you can book your tickets for Phillip Island Nature Parks to see the nightly parade of little penguins appearing from the sea and waddling around the island beach. If they grab your heart, you can join the thousands of people devoted to the protection of little penguins of Phillip Island through the efforts of the Penguin Foundation.

Getting to Phillip Island in a rental car

The good news is Phillip Island is easily accessible by road. You can rent a car with Avis, Budget, Hertz, Enterprise, Europcar or Thrifty and drive to the island from Melbourne. The journey from Melbourne to Phillip Island is around 75 kilometres, taking the Monash Freeway (M1) to the Cranbourne exit, then the South Gippsland Highway (M420), Bass Highway (A420), the Phillip Island Road (B420), and finally the bridge onto Phillip Island.

Getting around Phillip Island

All of Phillip Island’s main attractions are accessible via sealed roads. From the main bridge, Phillip Island Road will lead visitors to the island’s largest town of Cowes. Ventnor Road leads on to the Nobbies and the famous Penguin Parade. Take the Back Beach Road if you want to access some of the southern beaches.

Queenscliff, Victoria

Queenscliff is a stunning resort town located inside the entrance to Port Phillip on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula. Surrounded by ocean on three sides, the area is home to pristine beaches and expansive coastlines with waters perfect for scuba diving. So whether you’re looking to make your way from beach to beach, enjoy the world-class restaurants, or simply take in the sights, why not get around Queenscliff in a rental car?

Getting to Queenscliff with a rental car

Because the Queenscliff ferry does not service any offshore islands, its route is classified as part of the Australian road network. This means that rental cars are usually allowed to travel on the ferry, though you will need to confirm this with your rental provider.

If you’re visiting via Melbourne, you can collect a rental car from the airport or the city, then head down to Queenscliff at your own pace. There are a large range of rental providers in Victoria, each with their own policies, so before booking, make sure you find out whether they will allow their vehicles to be taken on the Queenscliff ferry.

Getting Around Queenscliff

Luckily, getting around Queenscliff is super easy. Once the ferry docks at the harbour, simply follow Wharf Street East onto Hesse Street, where many of Queenscliff’s hotels, cafes, and shops can be found.

Stradbroke Island, Queensland

Situated off the coast of Brisbane, Stradbroke Island is the ultimate spot for surfing, snorkelling, and whale watching. See for yourself what the island has to offer by exploring it in a rental car.

Taking a rental car to Stradbroke Island

Some car rental providers do not allow their vehicles to be taken to Stradbroke Island, so it’s best to check with your prospective provider before booking a car. In any case, you’ll need to get authorisation from your rental provider if you’re planning on taking your rental car on the Stradbroke Island ferry. You'll find the vehicle ferry to Stradbroke Island in Cleveland, with the journey taking about 45 minutes.

Travelling around Stradbroke Island

When you arrive at Stradbroke Island by vehicle ferry, you’ll disembark at Dunwich. The East Coast Road is the primary sealed road that will take you across the island. On the east side of the island, you’ll find the town of Point Lookout, which offers an array of amenities and activities to visitors.

Other restricted islands

Car rental providers do not allow their vehicles to be taken to many other Australian islands. For example, travel is not permitted to K’gari (previously Fraser Island). To drive on K’gari, visitors would need to hire a special 4x4 vehicle from a local provider.

Other islands generally blacklisted by rental providers include the Whitsunday Islands, Lizard Island, Fitzroy Island, Lord Howe Island, and Rottnest Island.

If you wish to take your rental car on other ferries in Australia, you’ll need to check with your rental provider beforehand.

Important Information

Before you take your rental car on a ferry

Make sure you check the terms and conditions of your car rental agreement before you take your rental car on a ferry. While travel is permitted to some islands, usually it is only with prior authorisation from the car rental provider. In some cases, ferry travel may void any insurance you have on your vehicle, leaving you responsible for paying for any damage to your hire car.