Stanley, Tasmania

In 1825 the Van Diemen's Land Company was granted land in north-western Van Diemen's Land, including the Stanley area. Employees of the company from England settled in the area in October 1826. It was named after Lord Stanley, the British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in the 1830s and 1840s, who later had three terms of office as British Prime Minister. A port opened in 1827 and the first school opened in 1841.

Today Stanley is a small tourist town with a population of about 500. It is also the main fishing port on the north-west coast of Tasmania. The most distinctive landmark in Stanley is The Nut, an old volcanic plug discovered by the explorers Bass and Flinders in 1798, who named it Circular Head. It has steep sides and rises to 143 metres with a flat top. It is possible to walk to the top of The Nut via a steep track or via a chairlift. Being hardy people, we walked up the steep track.

Wynyard where we stopped to wander round a large local fair - I disgraced myself by buying homemade cakes - too many I was told! A few miles out of town is Table Cape lighthouse. The Lighthouse was commissioned in 1888 and was manned by three keepers until 1920, when it was automated. Although signs indicated that tours of the lighthouse were available, they did not seem to be in evidence

The Ark in Stanley, Tasmania, is managed by an owner in Melbourne. We had a problem with access: as Europeans we do not bother with roaming mobile access in Australia, and just use wifi in places we stay. We had an email just 48 hours before arrival from the owner in Melbourne to tell us how to get in - had they been upfront and honest, this info should and could have been given to us on booking. You have to find your key box round the side of the building and type in a code that was emailed only 48 hours before arrival. That said the accommodation is very good, but perhaps a little oversold on their web site

We had dinner at Stanley's On The Bay. A very friendly restaurant offering good food. The majority of the menu is on the chalk board, and you really want to read the options carefully. A shared Tassie platter to start, two main courses and two puddings, plus a decent bottle to Coonawarra red came to 120 dollars All the food was well cooked and presented, and hot. Service was friendly, and when we asked about penguins we were whisked outside and shown the nest right outside the restaurant's front door. The restaurant is open every night except Sunday. If I were in Stanley again, I would choose the eat here. It is excellent.

We also had a takeaway from Hursey Seafoods, them with the big lobster on the roof in the photo below. We had their scallop and chips box to take away. Decent enough flavour, and they were real scallops! 17 dollars the box of 15 scallops and enough chips for two. Not gourmet cooking, but they do not pretend to be gourmet. We enjoyed the meal and I thought it was good value.

Stanley has an interesting collection of old houses, including the cottage in which Joe Lyons, an early Australian Prime Minister and of Irish roots, was born and brought up. The compiled genealogy available in the cottage was appallingly naive and badly written - we had hoped to find out from where in Ireland his parents had emigrated.

The Nut is a 143 metre high massif, rising from Bass Strait, that towers above the picturesque town of Stanley. From both near and from far, Stanley is dominated by the nut. We hauled ourselves fairly easily up the track, and at the top the nut is fairly flat, and offers a 2km walk round the perimeter. In one of the wooded dells there were numerous Pademelons. Pademelons are solitary and nocturnal kangaroo like marsupials, who spend the daylight hours in thick vegetation. After dusk, the animals move onto open areas to feed, but rarely stray more than 100 metres from the forest edge.

Highfield House, built from 1832-35 as a residence for Edward Curr, chief agent of the Van Diemen's Land Company, the house represents an important part of Tasmanian historic heritage. The history of the north-west region of Tasmania is inextricably bound up with the story of the Van Diemen's Land Company; indeed, there are very few places in the region that have been unmarked by its presence. The homestead sits on the hillside overlooking the township, with views over rolling farm land, the Nut and Bass Strait. In 1982 the Tasmanian Government acquired the Highfield property with funds from the National Estate and carried out extensive restoration works.

We drove down to Arthur River, a small hamlet on the west coast a couple of hours drive south and west of Stanley. Arthur River is a coastal village on the banks of the Arthur River, 61kms from Smithton and 15kms from Marrawah. There are about 80 holiday homes, with a permanent population of around 25 people. A couple of cruise boats do a day trip up the river but either we were too late or they were not operating - probably the latter. Arthur River has a sort of "end of the world" feel to it. Hardly any population and nothing to the west till you get to the Falklands. The beaches were packed with driftwood, enormous tree trunks of first rate hardwood, for which apparently nobody had a use. We enjoyed a couple of walks on different beaches, and were about the only people around.

After a couple of days in Stanley we headed east to our next stay at Port Sorell.


On to Port Sorell

Australia 2013/2014