Matthew Flinders and George Bass circumnavigated Tasmania in 1798 and on their journey they sighted a massive round lump they described as a Christmas cake. They named it Circular Head and over the next 30 years it became home to sealers and run-away convicts. Circular Head is now a name that describes the whole area and the Christmas cake has since been renamed The Nut. Sitting at the foot of the Nut is the town of Stanley, a picture perfect town of preserved colonial cottages.
Stanley has one of the prettiest streetscapes in Tasmania. Its tiny cottages are a mix of cafes, craft stores and B&Bs, creating a charming village atmosphere. The oldest home in town is called Touchwood Cottage, built in 1840 from blue stone that came from England as ship ballast. You can stay in the historic cottage with its colonial style features and country charm. Sink into a luxurious clawfoot bath after a day exploring. You can learn more about Stanley through its historic sites, which are easy to find with your smartphone or a map from the information centre. The self-guided Stanley Heritage Walk offers a rare glimpse into this very special fishing village.
A stop at the specialty store Providore 24 is a must-do for an extensive range of Tasmania’s finest produce. Choose from local wine, cheese, relishes, seafood and more, and pack yourself a divine picnic to enjoy after you’ve walked to the top of The Nut. Take in the spectacular 360-degree views of Stanley, the surrounding rich green pastures and Bass Strait. The path is steep but the views are wonderfully rewarding. If you don’t feel like the walk, jump on the chairlift instead.
In 1824 a group of wealthy London-based merchants, businessmen and politicians established the Van Diemen’s Land Company (VDL Co.) hoping to make a fortune farming fine merino wool. However, unfavourable land and political changes saw a gradual shift to dairy. Overlooking Stanley is Highfield House, home to Edward Curr, chief agent of the VDL Company. Highfield presents a historically accurate vision of a gentleman’s home and farm of the 1830s. Its elegant Regency design, convict barracks, barns, stables and chapel are surrounded by a large ornamental garden. There are also workshops, stables and the remains of the quarters that housed the convict workers.
You’ve seen The Nut from land, but there’s no perspective like that from the air. For the most inspiring way to see the north-west coastline, board a helicopter with Osborne Heli Tours. The tidal zones are pure artistry with veins of waterways sweeping through the landscape. As you pass over Stanley and the Bass Strait islands, you’ll start to get a sense of the wild and rugged nature of this corner of Tasmania.
Golf and Joe Lyons Cottage
Back on solid ground, play a round of golf at the local course with The Nut as your backdrop, or take a look at Joe Lyons’ Cottage – the historic home of Australia’s only Tasmanian Prime Minister, elected in 1931.
Some things never change in Stanley so head down towards Godfreys Beach in the evening for some penguin spotting. Left to themselves, penguins will leave the water at last light so they are under cover of darkness.
Stanley Hotel and @VDL Stanley
Another great thing about small Tassie towns is they’re often big on food. In Stanley, the Stanley Hotel serves up pub fare that celebrates the produce of the local region, while Xanders on Church Street makes use of its local connections with farmers. The heritage blue stone warehouse, @VDL Stanley, originally the Van Diemen’s Land Company store, is another must-visit in town and a perfect stay for couples. After a day out exploring, come back and relax in its laidback luxury.