The body of water between Tasmania and mainland Australia is called Bass Strait.

It’s about 300kms or so from the Surf Coast on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria (the mainland) to get over to Tasmania, so it’s a fair distance and a bit too far for a casual swim, although some people have kayaked across (hopping from island to island along the way, the biggest gap is about 60kms).

People usually just fly across the Bass Strait from Melbourne to Launceston or Hobart, but with enough time (..and money), the option to take the fairy is quite tempting.

Surfers at Bass Strait

How Bass Strait got its name

The name Bass Strait refers to two things:
1. the man named George Bass
2. the passage of water connecting the Southern Ocean with the Tasman Sea

George Bass and Matthew Flinders were the first European colonials to circumnavigate Tasmania and they did so in 1798-1799.

Before these guys made it around ‘Van Dieman’s Land’, as Tasmania was known by back then, Captain James Cook had unsuccessfully attempted to do so in the 1770’s and it’s thought that Abel Tasman would have come across the strait in the 1640’s.

Right up until Tasmania was circumnavigated, most people assumed that there was no separation of due to the fact that Aboriginals lived on Tasmania and it was thought to be too far for them to have paddled across in the Indigenous built canoes. The ocean was just too treacherous, therefore it was thought that there must be a passage of land the entire way that connected the two places.

In the late 1790’s it was discovered by the colonials how shallow the ocean floor is between Tasmania and Victoria. People started to talk about the idea that the Indigenous people living on Tasmania could have walked there if the water level was lower and that possibly they did so before the last Ice Age ended and before the ocean level had risen, so, Bass and Flinders circumnavigated the land to at least be sure it was seperate to mainland Australia and set one thing straight, Tassie isn’t connected.

Bass Strait, Victoria
Bass Strait on the Vic side