Tiny Town 2022 - Stanley

Stanley – Take on the Edge

The historic township of Stanley lies at the base of the Nut, a cooled lava pond from an extinct volcano. On a stunning peninsula in Bass Strait, Stanley embraces the roaring forties, which blow some of the cleanest air in the world.

Historic cottages wrap around the base of the Nut, framing the town with its two stunning beaches. It’s a quirky small haven that packs a powerful punch. Local restaurants serving up the finest northwest delights of Cape Grim Beef, fresh caught seafood and locally grown produce. At the edge of the world the landscape is the true hero.

Stanley and the Nut
Stanley Hotel
Highfield Historic Site
The Tarkine
Horizon Luxury Apartments
Penguin Spotting

My drive to this seaside town was stunning, chasing rainbows as the weather changed from horrid to glorious in the space of minutes. I detoured to Table cape to meander the slow roads and soak in the impossibly beautiful chocolate box views. It is like another world, with rich red earth, green vistas and rows of tulips dropping to stunning cliffs and the seemingly endless sea.

I reach Stanley and my lungs are filling me with heady rush as I breathe some of the cleanest air in the world, I can taste the tang of the ocean in every breath. Stanley doesn’t mind the weather; it wears all shades well and has the charm of looking more stunning in bad weather than glorious sunshine.

Historic Stanley is famous for its seafood, the local Cape Grim Beef, the Nut, the wonders of the Tarkine and wildness of the edge of the world. The trip along the “Northern Forage Drive” is a name I intend to live up to and plan to seek out the local delicacies. I may even burn some of it off venturing up the stunningly dramatic track of the Nut which looms above me.

The weather has held off and I stroll towards the quaint Stanley shops housing galleries, a quirky museum or two and historic cottages lining the base of the Nut. Each more beautiful than the last I mentally run my finances and wonder how I can move here. Stanley has this effect on folk, it is so impossibly beautiful, perched at the base of the Nut on the end of a dramatic peninsula jutting into Bass Strait.

I can’t ignore the Nut any longer, the strange basalt plug that defines this part of the coast is beckoning me. As I climb the steep track, I congratulate those coming down, a shared sense of achievement making us comrades. The walk atop this cooled lava pond is simply breathtaking and I relish in the vista from the chairlift on the way down, the hills so green they almost hurt my eyes.

Highfield Historic Site that has stood out like a jewel on a bed of green velvet from atop the Nut. Once the head of operations for the Van Diemen’s Land Company this 1820s outpost is carefully and creatively restored and I notice the faces of locals in the portraits created for the walls. I lose all track of time as I wander through the rooms and outbuildings, only the stirring of hunger bringing back to our time.

Stanley’s red fishing boats, which service the seafood restaurant in a true Stanley “paddock to plate” style make a dramatic backdrop at Stanley wharf. Sunshine is beaming and I’m enjoying seafood take-away, I strip off my warmer layers as I crack into a southern rock lobster and enjoy the succulent sweetness. I fend off a seagull who hovers nearby; he retreats and perches on the giant lobster on the roof of the local seafood restaurant. I lick my fingers, enjoy the slippery sweet taste of a salty fresh oyster.

Locals tell me the recent rains will have nearby Mawbanna’s Dip Falls thundering, so I take their advice and make my way to the falls through scenic farmland and forest. Viewing the falls from below I feel dwarfed by the power and scale of the water cascading over the pillars of basalt, my face glistening as drops of water reach me. I enjoy a coffee in nearby Blue Hills Honey where they’ve been harvesting leatherwood honey from the rainforest for over sixty-five years.

My soul replenished, I treat my body to the same, sampling some fine Tasmanian drops at Angels Share cellar door, in a converted bank, the vault now storing fine Tasmanian whisky. I follow it up with a meal to remember at the Stanley Hotel, host to one of the oldest stone cellars in the coast. A meal of Cape Grim Beef does not disappoint, the steak melting in my mouth and I barely hold off licking the plate clean.

The day is complete with a visit to the penguin viewing platform to watch the little birds make their daily pilgrimage to shore under the Nut. The birds wobble across the rocky shore to their burrows, reminding me I’m also looking forward to my ‘burrow’ for the night.

A luxurious spa bath at the Horizon Deluxe apartments, leaves me feeling restored. I eagerly await the spectacular views of the sunrise over the Nut when I open my eyes in the morning, anticipating a bracing morning swim. Tomorrow beckons with an immersive trip to the pristine Tarkine Wilderness, where I’m joining a Tall Timbers Adventure tour through the dramatic and breathtaking cool-climate rainforest of the Tarkine.

SUGGESTED itinerary

Spend a relaxing day exploring the township of Stanley, getting your bearings, recalibrating and meeting some of the locals.

9AM: ‘TIPTOE’ THROUGH THE TULIPS

On the way to Stanley take the impossibly stunning detour around Table Cape and admire the dramatic coastline and views of the Table Cape Tulip Farm, a riot of colour in season. The soil is so rich and red it looks like a chocolate box. Tip-toeing through the tulips at Table Cape Tulip Farm is an experience to remember on the journey to Stanley.

(Farm open when Tulips in season- late September to early October)

10.30 SOAK UP THE MARITIME HISTORY

Take a short stroll to the port, under the towering Nut, the remains of an extinct volcanic plug. Soak in the views of the local fishing fleets moored under the Nut. If you’re in luck you’ll see the starlings doing their morning acrobatics as they skim along the water and circle the bay.  Breathe some of the freshest air in the world that has travelled across the roaring forties to each you.

Take in the history at Joe Lyons Cottage, the birthplace of the only Tasmanian-born prime minister; his grandfather built the Ship Inn in 1849. Marvel at the ancient volume of Shakespeare laying on the mantlepiece, which was picked up on the beach a century ago. Read all about the history of this iconic Tasmanian, born in the little town at the edge of the world.

11.00AM: COFFE TIME

Stroll into the centre of town Marley’s and enjoy a coffee or tea and one of the cakes. Explore the Hearts and Crafts volunteer shop in the centre of town and the Discovery Centre with quirky shell sculptures and an incredible collection of historical items and local stories. Stroll the historic township and soak up the views of charming buildings nestled under the Nut.

11.30 SHOPS & GALLERIES

Wander down to the shops and explore the Cow n Calf Art Gallery, The Brown Dog  , Stamps of Stanley , Stanley Hotel Gifts and Sticks & Stones Shells & Bones and give in it to the urge to buy art, after all the blackboard outside does say “Earth without art is ‘Eh’”. Exploring the streets of Stanley is definitely a mood boosting experience as you soak up the views of the beach and the historic cottages sheltering against the Nut.

12.30PM: ENJOY A SEAFOOD LUNCH WITH A DIFFERENCE

You know they serve seafood when there’s a giant lobster on the roof. Head to Hursey’s Seafood for a lobster lunch to remember, get it to go and enjoy the sea views from the park. The gulls are wheeling but this is your feast, not theirs! Admire the red fishing fleet that plies the wild waters of the north west coast.

1.30PM TIME TO CONQUER THE NUT

Head up the Nut. It doesn’t take you long to get up, but it is incredibly steep, so stop and take photos to catch your breath and congratulate everyone coming down. The shared camaraderie of aching legs and a sense of achievement is part of the charm of this experience! Enjoy the stunning walk around the top of the Nut, the remnants of a cooled lava pond from a long extinct volcanic feeder pipe. Keep an eye out for wildlife as there’s lots to encounter, from the pademelons and wallabies to the soaring sea eagles and mutton bird colonies, you’re bound to get up close and personal with some of the natives.

Take The Nut Chair Lift down to soak up the views and rest your legs!

2.30PM CHECK INTO HORIZON DELUXE APARTMENTS

Check in to your accommodation at Horizon Deluxe apartments, arguably the best views in town; sit back and marvel at the Nut and the heights your legs have carried you! Be entertained by what you see through the floor to ceiling windows, panoramic views over the picturesque town, fishing boats coming and going, clouds floating by.  Watch the array of birds or cattle grazing, and if you slow down enough, you can even watch the tide in the bay rise and fall.

3.00PM: HISTORIC HIGHFIELD

Head past Godfreys Beach to Highfield Historic Site, and explore some of the fascinating local history from the early 1800s. The interpretation panels are incredible and you start to realise the ‘portraits’ of the early settlers are actually of locals you’ve been meeting around town. Get a little freaked out in the upstairs rooms…they are a little eerie! The gardens and stone barns are a picturesque way to soak up views of the ever-present Nut.

4.30PM GIANT PICTURE FRAME

Finish your tour of the Stanley Peninsula with a drive around Greenhills Road, being sure to stop in at The Giant Picture Frame for a ‘selfie’ while you absorb the breathtaking views of the Nut and Stanley. Climb the lookout to enjoy the calming vistas over the Bass Strait and the nearby islands.

5.30PM: LOUNGING AROUND

Head back to town and stroll down to check out the luxury wares and incredible array of Tasmanian wines and spirits at The Angel’s Share cellar door. Make an impulse purchase and watch the owners expertly wrap it whilst you’re enjoying a tipple of fine Tasmanian whisky in front of the fire. Stroll back through town swinging your crisp white paper bag of goodies, feeling the warmth of the fire, genuine hospitality and maybe the after-glow of a fine Tasmanian whisky.

6.30PM: SAY GOOD NIGHT TO THE PENGUINS

The historic cemetery at the base of the Nut, surely the most picturesque resting place in Tasmania. The little penguins share this space, with their nests under the bushes facing out to sea. Learn about the lives of the European settlers and those who shaped Stanley’s early days in this harsh settlement. You can almost imagine their lives in this remote outpost as you gaze across to Highfield Historic Site on the hill across the bay.

Head to the Godfreys Beach Penguin Viewing Platform at the base of the Nut. Watch the little penguins, illuminated by the soft red glow of lights, wobble along the rocks to their burrows in the scrub next to the historic cemetery. That strange high pitched chirpy warble accompanying you home is the sound of their calls as they make their evening pilgrimage.

7.30PM: COUNTRY PUB

Time for a bit of ‘surf n turf’ at the historic Stanley Hotel Bistro , enjoy a delicious meal of local abalone followed by Cape Grim Beef with locally sourced produce, paired with fine Tassie wine. Make sure to check out the stunning bluestone wine cellar, the oldest along the coast. There’s no pokies or slot machines here, it is true country pub style and the locals love to play ‘brackets and jam’ in the bar on Sunday afternoons. If you kick up your heels and join them you might be invited to sing a tune.

9PM: HORIZON DELUXE APARTMENTS

Head back to your luxury apartment for a spa bath to ease those aching legs and a night of luxurious sleep. The township twinkling before you under the blanket of the Nut, make set your alarm as you don’t want to miss the dramatic sunrise from the comfort of your bed!

Today is all about venturing a little further afield, exploring some of the pristine Tarkine rainforest and soaking in the ambience of the green rolling hills in this stunning part of the world.

7.00AM MORNING WALK & BRACING SWIM

It’s easy to find the motivation to rise early and go for an invigorating walk through the township and onto Godfrey’s beach, and if you’re feeling brave a bracing swim. Soak in the views of green pastures dropping straight to the ocean and the ever-present views of the Nut.

7.30AM BREAKFAST AT MOBY DICK’S

Stroll into town and join the locals at Moby Dick’s breakfast bar. Read newspaper clippings from the 1800s of Stanley residents applying for spouses, selling wares and reporting thefts. Enjoy a breakfast fit for a king while you day-dream about quitting your job and opening a breakfast bar. It is always amazing to visit a restaurant that’s so good at one thing.

9.00AM: TALL TIMBERS TOUR

A 15-minute drive to Smithton is Tall Timbers Adventure Tours & Hotel with their legendary offering of tours. A trip to Tasmania’s North West is not complete without a visit to the amazing Tarkine Wilderness, Australia’s largest cool-climate rainforest. 

You’ve chosen to join an adventure tour through the dramatic and breathtaking Tarkine Wilderness, a full day to lose yourself in another world. Your guides will make you feel welcome and thoroughly interested in the sights around you.

Take in the breathtaking sights of the Tarkine and the tranquillity and intrigue of Balfour, an abandoned old mining settlement in the wilderness.

Enjoy fresh Tasmanian produce and a glass of wine for lunch while you experience the area’s unique flora and fauna, globally significant rainforests, wild rivers and rugged coastlines. 

5.00PM AFTERNOON TIPPLE

Tour complete, finish the day in Stanley with a tipple at Tasmanian Wine and Food, a small wine bar with the atmosphere of a prohibition-era speakeasy. The eclectic design and friendly locals will have you enjoying the atmosphere in no time in this fascinating and entertaining space.