24 Hours in Stanley, North West Tasmania

24 Hours in Stanley, North West Tasmania

Historic buildings, quaint timber cottages surrounded by pretty gardens, a deep water harbour with fishing boats coming and going, a charming main street filled with boutiques, cafes and galleries, all presided over by an imposing volcanic outcrop – Stanley truly is a place like no other.
Your only problem when planning your short break to the quirky seaside village will be how to possibly fit everything into only 24 hours!

The Nut is a sheer-sided bluff - all that remains of an ancient volcanic plug. Photo: Tourism Tasmania and Jason Charles Hill

Getting there

Stanley is a great central point for your explorations of the North-West Coast. Whether you’ve been adventuring on the Wild West Coast, hiking at Cradle Mountain or discovering the Tarkine region, this Circular Head town just off the Bass Highway, 15km east of Smithton, is a perfect stop-off.
Just an hour and a half from Devonport, two hours from Cradle Mountain or a bit over three hours from Strahan, you can’t miss the famous Nut perched on the end of the isthmus, flanked on either side by beaches. Make sure to stop off at the look-out point as you drive into town to snap the perfect photo.

The Circular Head Tourism Association (CHTA) has developed an interactive, multilingual tour, accessible through smart phones and other internet-enabled devices that guide visitors to Stanley's most historic sites, giving a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into one of Australia's most treasured fishing villages. Photo: Tourism Tasmania & David Murphy Photography

What to do

There really is something to keep everyone amused in Stanley.

For those who enjoy delving into the past, head first to the Stanley Discovery Museum at 37-39 Church St. Discover the fascinating history of the town, its joys and its tragedies. Staffed by volunteers, you will enjoy browsing through the many displays, models and photographs. Open from September to May, 11am to 3pm daily, it is possible to access the centre by appointment outside of opening hours, by arrangement. Call 6458 2091.

After the museum make sure you have some comfy shoes on then pick up a Stanley Heritage Walk booklet in hard copy or on your smart phone. The self-guided walk takes a little over an hour and visits 15 sites. Be sure to stop at Joe Lyons Cottage, 14 Alexander Tce, the birthplace and humble childhood home of the former Premier of Tasmania (1923-1928) and Tasmania's first Prime Minister of Australia (1932-1939). But by far the most significant place you must visit is Highfield Historic Site, overlooking the town on Green Hills Road. The 1830s farm complex was built by convict labour when the Van Diemen's Land Company chose to settle in the area to establish a large scale sheep grazing property. The site is open daily from September 1 to May 31, open weekdays from June 1 to August 31.

What better way to take in the breathtaking views of the historical and picturesque coastal village of Stanley than from a leisurely chairlift ride to the top of the intriguing local attraction known as The Nut. Photo: Wai Nang Poon

If the great outdoors is your thing you can’t visit Stanley without taking the chairlift or challenging yourself to walk to the top of The Nut, the 152-metre high core of an extinct volcano. The steeply zig-zagging path will have your calves burning, but the reward at the top is worth it. A 2km track around the perimeter gives you an array of viewing points from which to take in the coastline. The chairlift is an exhilarating ride – traversing a distance of 250 metres and rising 95 metres. Be aware that the chairlift closes for the winter months, between June 1 and September

For the ultimate bird’s eye view hop on board Osborne Heli Tours for up to 60 minute helicopter tours, transfers to local islands and accommodation, interactive ground experiences and luxury aerial paddock-to-plate tours featuring the finest local produce.

For something a little more relaxed the two beaches right on the edge of town, Godfreys and Tatlows, are great for walking, shell collecting or swimming in the warmer months; head to the golf club on Marine Esplanade for a round or make your way to the wharf for a spot of fishing.

For the nature lovers, you can watch the little penguins come ashore after dark or for a closer encounter with marine life check out the Stanley Seaquarium at Lot 1, Fisherman's Dock. From delicate seahorses to sharks and lobsters, maritime artefacts, shells and ships, Stanley Seaquarium provides a unique world of delight for all ages. Or to get out on the water book in with Stanley Seal Cruises for a 75-minute return eco cruise on the 40 ft MC Sylvia C to Bull Rock, via the nearby rocky outcrop The Cow and Calf. Catering for between six and 23 passengers, cruises depart at 10am and 3pm between September 1 to April 30, 1pm between May 1 and July 17, closed from July 18 to August 31 and Christmas Day.

A simple wander along the main street presents an array of delights for visitors. A must-see is the handcrafted goods at the Cow 'n' Calf Art Gallery at 16 Church St and Sticks & Stones Shells & Bones at 27 Church St, with its selection of gems, crystals, jewellery, shells and other natural objects. The Angel’s Share at 14 Church St is the place to go for a good intro to Tasmanian premium spirits while Providore 24 at 24 Church St is the perfect little shop to grab all the treats you need for a stay in Stanley – Tasmanian wines, freshly-baked bread, cheeses, chocolates, gourmet produce and a curated range of apparel and giftware.

For the ultimate foodie experience take a class at the Provenance Kitchen cooking school, located within the original threshing barn at Highfield Historic Site. The boutique cooking classes change with the seasons, so no two classes are alike, and are limited to eight people to ensure the class is personal and engaging. Provenance Kitchen uses seasonal local ingredients and focuses on teaching the provenance of each ingredient as well as telling the story of the vibrant Stanley area. No previous cooking skills are necessary and classes include a farm tour and a chance to go foraging for ingredients at the beach. Classes include a four course meal and recipes to take home.

Osborne Heli Tours offer a selection of unique and memorable scenic flights and experiences departing from the picturesque seaside village of Stanley. Photo: Paul Hoelen

Where to eat

After exploring the village it’s time for a bite to eat. If you’re after a quick lunch there are plenty of cafes to choose from, including Touchwood Café, Moby Dicks Breakfast Bar, The Brown Dog, The Chocolate Gallery & Café and the Swingin' Anchor Café.

For a feed of the freshest seafood you can’t go past Hursey Seafoods at 2 Alexander Tce. Order your takeaway and while it’s cooked, check out the local fish in the display tanks, or purchase seafood, including fish fillets, lobster, oysters, scallops and prawns, from the deli. Or settle in to the 100-seat dining room, with plenty of window seats overlooking the bay. Apart from premium seafood, enjoy char grilled Cape Grim steak or local Nichols free-range chicken. Open every day apart from Christmas Day, it’s a great spot for family friendly dining on seafood caught by the Hursey fleet of nine vessels, including high-quality hook-caught gummy flake, prized Stripey Trumpeter and Southern Rock Lobster, both kept live in their tanks and available all year round.

For a hearty meal in a traditional pub atmosphere why not try out the Stanley Hotel Bistro at 19-21 Church St. Continuously licensed since 1847, the Stanley Hotel offers a menu that is simple and uncomplicated, influenced by the coast, the land and the seasons, emphasising fresh, clean flavours. They pride themselves on sourcing produce locally, with Stanley Fish supplying shark, scallops and lobster all caught in the surrounding waters by local fishermen, oysters are fresh from clean, coastal waters, the beef comes from Greenhams in Smithton, which is a family-owned business. They are complemented by vegetables grown by local farmers, and reflect the season and what is available.

Another great option is Xanders Restaurant at 25 Church St, open Wednesday to Sunday evenings from 6pm. Fondly named after the grandson of current owners Denise and John Stronach, the building started its life as a haberdashery and also been a community bank and an ice-cream palour. To support local producers is the essence of the Xanders philosophy. Their octopus, calamari, scallops and fish are caught, processed and supplied by the Hardy family at TOP Fish in the heart of Stanley. The lamb is supplied by the Medwins at Gateforth Farm, Black River. The beef is hand selected and supplied by family-run local butchers Perry Quality Meats and Cape Grim beef selected by Greenhams. Fish is caught and supplied by Craig Garland and Southern Shark, pork and specialty cuts supplied by Darren “Smiley” Donohue and Alan Poke is the fresh produce hero.

The Stanley Hotel has been a meeting place since the early 1840's, a place to catch up with friends, enjoy great local food and unwind. Photo: Tourism Tasmania & Rob Burnett

Where to stay

You can take your pick from a range of accommodation options to suit every budget in Stanley.
For the only five-star offering in Stanley book into Horizon Deluxe Apartments at 88 Dovecote Rd. The luxury self-contained accommodation is of the highest standard and the hillside location provides magnificent views over Stanley, the Nut and the surrounding waters of Bass Strait. With modern, contemporary design, each apartment boasts a free standing double spa with coastal views, king size bed, double headed shower, balcony, barbecue, fluffy robes, coffee machine and a whole range of other comforts.

Another charming option in the heart of the village is The Ark Stanley at 18 Wharf Road. The restored period residence is positioned directly opposite Tatlows Beach. The residence was acquired by Christer and Rhonda in 2008 and has been extensively restored, renovated and enhanced. Its tasteful eclectic decor pays homage to yesteryear while planning for the future. Guests may select from any one of the five queen suites with private ensuite facilities, heating, television, refrigerator and welcome supplies. Awake to the beautiful water views, take a seat on the spacious front verandah, relax or meet with others in the guest lounge area, or simply relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the breathtaking sunsets viewed from the unique location.

The Stanley Hotel at 19-21 Church St has six queen rooms, two doubles, one single and one twin on offer. Enjoy a room with a view – either over the town, long sandy beach or the rolling green hills. There is the choice of Verandah rooms which open onto a large balcony, Comfy rooms or the cosy Snug rooms all have refurbished bathrooms. A couple of rooms with shared facilities for visitors on a budget give a range of options. Typical of the era, all 10 rooms are upstairs and accommodate the quirks of an 1830s building.

The Stanley Cabin and Tourist Park at 23a Wharf Rd is the perfect holiday spot for families with children with the choice of staying in a cabin, motel or bring your own caravan or tent for a budget holiday on one of the powered sites. Stay right on the beach in this well-appointed and beautifully located cabin and tourist park. A wonderful, relaxed, friendly atmosphere will be experienced when you stay in a cosy cabins, with shops and restaurants only a short walk away. The park has two amenities blocks with free showers for guest use, a children's playground, free electric barbecues, modern camper's kitchen with Foxtel, and golf clubs available to hire for golf course next door.

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