Stanley, a tiny, historic seaside town right at the very top of Tasmania, has character and charm in abundance. The balcony of our room at the Stanley Sea View Inn provided unsurpassed panoramic vistas as well as the bucolic sounds of the local dairy just down the hill.
‘The Nut’, a mere kilometre away, dominates the landscape which borders the unforgiving Bass Strait. Armed with a local ‘must do’ list we were set for a full day of discovery.
The town is most notable for an ancient volcanic plug known as ‘The Nut’ (Moo-Nut-Re-Ker by the Aboriginal people) that is rather flat on top and takes about 1 hour to walk around. It has eye-watering 360 degree views of the Great Southern Ocean, beaches, bays and surrounding countryside.
Getting to the top of The Nut is easy via a chairlift which cost $11 one way. For the very fit a steep150 metre, almost perpendicular track takes walkers about 40 minutes to scale. Don’t forget sunscreen, water, good walking shoes and a hat.
The well marked walking tracks on top meander through a rippling sway of yellow grasses and jagged clumps of rugged, scrubby outcrops. After the 3 kilometre circuit, breathing in the exhilaration of the peak and the stirring beauty of the surrounding seascapes, we elected to walk down to the car park which, because of the steep descent, could prove a brave choice for those with any mobility issues.
With our day’s exercise completed it was time to explore the quaint shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants in Church Street. There are so many places to refuel and soak in the historical ambience of the town and its scenic countryside.
Along the Main Street historic old cottages, exquisitely restored and harking back to a bygone era, provide tourists with the full range of accommodation, many with inspiring, iridescent views of the ocean surrounds.
Original establishments like the Stanley Pub and others around Fisherman’s Wharf also offer comfortable lodgings. The local Historical Museum presented us further insight into the town’s fascinating past, right back to the mid 1820’s.
On the opposite side of the street is the town’s Providore 24, supplying local products like freshly baked crusty bread, cheeses, pate, wine, honey and homemade wares.
Stanley is perfectly placed for exploring the local hinterland wilderness. Tour operators promote excursions to remote rain forests, cruises to fur seal colonies or self drive directions to watch the little penguins at Godfreys Beach at dusk from September to March.
Another highlight of Stanley was our visit to Highfield House, once the former residence of the manager of the Van Damiens Land Company. The house, built by convict labour, sits regally above the town with magnificent sea views and a colourful, pampered garden.
The rooms in the house are meticulously restored and the buildings around the main house like the stone stables, chapel, upstairs classroom, barn and convict quarters gave us a sense that the original owner, Edward Curr, the chief agent of the Van Diemen’s Land Company, attracted considerable power and prestige when he started the building in 1832.
In the romantic blue and purple haze of twilight we made our way to the Stanley Pub bistro for dinner. We started with the local oysters, fresh and creamy as usual. Our choices of scallop pie and seafood chowder for main course were simply sensational.
For this adventure across Bass Strait we brought our car on the overnight crossing aboard the Spirit of Tasmania. From the arrival point at Devonport, Stanley is a one and a half hour drive through lush and spectacular countryside.
Our full day in Stanley was nothing less than delightful because of the fine, warm weather we encountered.
However, it can be a cold and windy destination so make sure you have packed appropriately for all the climatic variations this stunning but capricious island can present. The best time to visit is January to March and even then the daily temperatures rarely get above 20 degrees.
As we headed out of Stanley, we could see the imposing figure of the Nut in the background, emerging from the ocean like a Dreamtime divinity about to weave another creation tale. We look forward to returning sometime soon and learning more of this area’s captivating secrets.