Matthew Flinders and George Bass circumnavigated Tasmania in 1798 and on their journey they sited a massive round lump they described as a Christmas cake. They named it Circular Head, a name which now describes the whole area. The Christmas cake has since been renamed The Nut. Over the next 30 years, Circular Head became home to sealers and run-away convicts living off shore on the remote islands of Bass Strait. 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. It’s tiny cottages are a mix of cafes, craft stores, homes and B&B’s, creating a charming village atmosphere. The oldest home in town, Touchwood Cottage (1840), is built from blue stone that came from England as ship ballast. You can stay in the historic cottage, cosy up by the fire and sink into the claw foot bath. To learn more about Stanley through its historic sites, arm yourself with a smartphone or a map from the information centre and have a wander. The self-guided Stanley Heritage Walk offers a rare glimpse into this very special fishing village.
Pick up a new winter woolly at Providore 24, a speciality store where well-aged pinots sit beside crusty bread, gift cards and hand-knitted shawls. Pack a picnic basket, wrap up in your woollens and walk to the top of The Nut. From the top, take in the spectacular 360 degree view 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, opt for a chairlift ride 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 hearty pubs meals and Xanders on Church Street features its local connections with farmers. The heritage blue stone warehouse, @VDL Stanley, originally the Van Diemen’s Land Company store, is another cosy stay in town and perfect for couples. Aside from comfy armchairs made for lounging around the fireplace, you can sink into a deep tub or explore the township on the bikes provided.