Sheltering on the leeward side of Circular Head, the village of Stanley is a picturesque cray and shark fishing settlement that seems to belong in a previous era, but has somehow managed to defy the march of time and progress and make it into the 21st century relatively intact.
A visit to Stanley is like taking a step back in time. It's an opportunity to stop and escape the frantic pace of modern life, if only for a few hours. The friendly locals go about their business as if tomorrow is a long way away, and the fresh sea air gives you an appetite for the simple, wholesome food on offer by the town's numerous eating establishments. It is all made with the freshest local ingredients - everything from wood-fired pizzas, scallops and char-grilled octopus to curried scallop pies.
Not too far from Stanley, the west coast boasts the cleanest, most pure air in the world regularly measured at the Cape Grim weather station. The 'edge of the world' at the southern head of the Arthur River is a great place to witness the rough and wild seas that crash in from the Indian Ocean and the fabled Tarkine offers an adventurous drive through button grass plains and ancient rain forest.
Day drives from Stanley up the north west coast are highly recommended. The drive to the east along Bass Highway can include Wynyard, Table Cape, picturesque village of Boat Harbour, Stanley and Circular Head, Rocky Cape National Park. Drive west on Bass Highway to see Smithton, and Marrawah on the west coast. Roads into the hinterland lead to Trowutta Caves and arch; Hellyer Gorge State Reserve; Allendale Gardens at Edith Creek. There are many waterfalls to, including Dip Falls and the giant eucalyptus tree and Guide Falls. Visitor Information Centre: 45 Main Rd, Stanley. Ph (03) 6458 1330
Where Is it?: Stanley is 80 km west of Burnie and 127 km west of Devonport via Bass Highway.
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The large hill which overshadows the town, The Nut is actually the core or volcanic plug of what was once a volcano over 13 million years ago. Almost surrounded by ocean, the Nut rises 152 metres above sea level. It is now a state reserve and has a range of bird life including Short Tailed Shearwater (muttonbird), Nankeen Kestrel, Peregrine Falcons, Silver Gulls, Little Penguins and Orange Bellied Parrots. Visitors to the Nut can either walk via a path or take the Nut Chairlift ride to the summit for a unique view of Stanley and surrounding areas. There is a 30 minute walk around the summit with lookouts and interpretation signs along the way.
The Nut is an extraodinary geological feature looming above the village of Stanley and can be seen from a great distance. At the top there are excellent views over the town and Bass Strait. There is a diversified circular walk around the top of the Nut with a number of well formed viewing platforms. Most of the walk is through windy grasslands with several lookouts, but one section is through a small forest and has an enchanted feel. The track is nearly 2 kilometres long. There is a sheltered gully which provides welcome relief from the strong wind that was blowing.
Provides a fascinating sea-life experience. Located on the waters' edge alongside Stanley's fishing fleet, housed in a shed originally constructed for crayfish processing, Stanley Seaquarium transforms the building into a fascinating discovery of Tasmanian sea-life. Fisherman's Dock, Wharf Road, Stanley TAS 7331. Ph (03) 6458 2052
This cottage is the birthplace of Joseph A. Lyons who was born here in 1879. He was Premier of Tasmania (1923-28) and the only Tasmanian born Prime Minister of Australia (1932-39). The small timber Georgian cottage is one of J. Lee Archer's original weatherboard cottages. It is furnished in the style of the 1930?s era and also displays memorabilia and photographs of the life and times of Joe Lyons.
Located in what used to be the Parish Hall for St Paul's Church, the Discovery Museum was established in 1973 as a an exhibition that will take you on a journey into Stanley's past, with relics, antiques, memorabilia, photographs, documents and a genealogy centre from 1804.
Highfield was built in 1832-1835 for the chief agent of the Van Diemen's Company, which opened up Tasmania's north-west. Today, the house has been restored after the state government bought it the early 1980?s. Visitors may look through the old building and grounds, read the interpretation signs. Guides tours are available.
Australian Fur Seals are just beautiful in their natural habitat. Whilst it is impossible to guarantee the appearance of wild animals when humans venture into their habitat, this cruise is a 75 minute trip to Bull Rock and back, where there are rarely less than 300 seals enjoying life, lazing around, swimming around the boat and jumping out of the water.
Leaving from the pontoon at the fisherman's dock, the 75 minute scenic cruise takes in spectacular views of the Stanley Nut, the unique township, the old pioneer cemetery and Godfrey s Beach. Historic farmlands extend to the waterline below, where ocean-eroded caves scatter the shoreline.
The destination is Bull Rock, a non-breeding ground or haul-out, 600 metres offshore. Here, up to 500 seals bask in the sunshine or frolic playfully in the crystal-clear waters of Bass Strait. This is the most common seal in Tasmanian waters and breeds from October to January on rocky outcrops, extending from King Island, in the North West, to Tenth Island in the North Eastern corner.Hunted almost to extinction last century, the population recovery of the largest and fourth-rarest seal species in the world, has been slow and the mammal is now wholly protected. Ironically the seal is now a great source of enjoyment for tourists visiting Stanley. Dockside, Wharf Rd Stanley. Ph 0419 550 134.
In The Area
The Tarkine region of North West Tasmania contains a number of unique cave systems. There are a series of extraordinary magnesite karst systems, including unique cave and pinnacle formations at Lyons River and the Arthur River-Victory Springs area, including warm springs. These cave systems are not only unique in themselves, but are also home to extraordinary cave dwelling creatures, such as the bizarretroglodyte (cave dwelling spider) and other fascinating creatures.
Trowutta Caves are located south of Smithton, beyond the beautiful Allendale Gardens, Trowutta and Milkshake Hills. The Trowutta Arch track begins soon after the Trowutta Caves State Reserve is reached. A short 10 minute easy well defined walk leads to the park s most interesting geological feature - the Trowutta Arch. The reserve protects an area of sinkholes covered in temperate rainforest full of myrtles, sassafrass, blackwoods, massive manferns and a variety of other ferns.
Don't let the name of this place put you off - going there might have been a dismal experience for the surveyors who named it back in 1828, but for today's visitors it offers a unique eco-tourism adventure. Dismal Swamp is actually a sink hole created over time with the dolomite slab dissolving in the wet area. Early last century its timber was used for making kegs and more recently was on a logging, clearing and draining list. Locals realised its importance and fought to preserve its destruction. In 1976 they had success.
The Circular Head region boasts Tasmania s finest Blackwood swamp forests. Viewing these forests from above and below the canopy of the trees will be possible through the construction of a Visitor Centre and Maze at Dismal Swamp, located 20 km west of Smithton on the Bass Highway.
Enjoy a coffee or light snack at the Visitor Centre where tickets may be purchased for entry to the maze. Either slide or stroll to the maze entrance and lose yourself in the blackwood forest. Try and spot the homes of the small burrowing crayfish. Free picnic and barbecue amenities will be available at the entrance to the Visitor Centre. Opening Autumn 2003, please call 6434 6345 to confirm operating hours.
A hidden gem, Lake Chisholm is a flooded limestone sinkhole, one of the many sinkholes in the area, but one of only two filled with water. A gentle half hour return walk meanders through a majestic old myrtle forest to the tranquil waters of the lake. This can be a fantastic photo opportunity, especially in the early morning, so remember to bring your camera.
Tayatea Bridge Picnic Area (38 km south) provides easy access to the Arthur River - a great opportunity to fish, picnic or even launch a raft or kayak and paddle down medium rapids to Kanunnah bridge.
Allendale Gardens (10 km south of Smithton), located on the road to Edith Creek, are an interesting mixture of rainforest, botanic gardens and pleasant walkways. There are 2.5 hectares of landscaped gardens set in 26 hectares of rainforest. Paths weave through lovely tree fern glades, eucalyptus and blackwood trees. In the gardens, 16th and 17th century roses are featured. This is a hidden gem, a beautiful, tranquil and fragrant paradise away from the everyday stress. Here you can take in the tranquillity and silence and the sensory delights of fragrant flowers, roses and the rainforest walk is a delight. Open Open from Tuesday 6th October until the last Saturday in April, 10am until 4pm. Ph (03) 6456 4216. How to get there: At Smithton take the B22 just inside the Smithton town boundary via Irishtown or the C217 two kilometres further on at the roundabout on the Marrawah road.
Milkshakes is a magical picnic spot. Picnic facilities are nestled among the eucalypt and rainforest trees. There are two walks, a basic 10 minute nature walk through the forest which is relatively flat, or you can climb to the top of one of the Milkshake Hills (45 minutes return). Shelters, picnic area and barbecues are available at the car park. A signposted track leads to the lookout on the Milkshakes Hills; a worthwhile climb.
The Milkshakes Forest Reserve free campsite is located app. 26 kilometres to the north of the Julius River campground, some 6 kilomtres south of the Tayatea Bridge. Turn off, follow the well signposted area for just over 3.5 kilometres where you will find this very appealing free camping ground. Make sure you walk through the rainforests on the tracks provided. Please note, this site is not ideally suited for tent-based camping; recommended for campervans, campers, motorhomes and caravans. For further information please contactForesty Tasmania - 03 6452 4900.
How to get there: Travel south from Smithton on the B22 to Edith Creek through excellent, fertile, dairy country. Take the C218 to Kanunnah Bridge over the Arthur River. Travel east via Julius River and the Rapid River Road and follow the signage to the Milkshakes Forest Reserve. Total distance is 80km.
The South Arthur Forest Drive is a safe and easy way to have a taste of the Tarkine region of Tasmania s north west with a minimum of fuss and without having to do the whole 4-wheel drive thing. The drive begins at Smithton and is an easy 130 km round trip. A mix of sealed and gravel roads give access to a number forest reserves on the way. To begin, take the turnoff which indicates South Arthur Forest Drive from the road between Stanley to Smithton. The following features are visited on the South Arthur Forest Drive.
These falls are in the Wes Beckett Reserve, 61 kms south of Smithton. The walk is short and the 1.2 kms return track is barely definable in has steep rocky sections and is sometimes close to the edge of the ravine. The falls are small, but pretty and the walk takes 30 - 35 minutes. It is not suitable for small children. Wes Beckett Reserve is 61 kms south of Smithton. After turning left at Kanunnah Bridge onto Sumac Road, drive 16 km before branching left onto Mount Bertha Road. There are five more signed intersections in the final 10 km. Take a left turn at each one.
Water Wheel Creek Timber Heritage Experience is located on 20 hectares (49 acres) of forested land at Mawbanna, community 25 minutes south east of Stanley (27 km), en route to Dip Falls. Here you can take a guided tour to see Tasmania's only working example of a timber tramway. Discover the spirit of early pioneers in the Heritage Museum and browse the displays of restored pioneer machinery, artefacts, photographs and memorabilia to gain an insight into life in the early timber communities of Tasmania s north west.
You can also take a guided Forest Experience Walk. On this gentle, tracked walk through native forest you will discover a complex eco-system and the diverse wildlife it supports. See Tasmanian rainforest trees including blackwood, sassafras and myrtle and walk in the shade of giant tree ferns. You may even catch a glimpse of an elusive platypus or giant Tasmanian freshwater crayfish.
Visit the Bushman's Cafe to try freshly made cakes and scones, sustaining snacks and steaming tea and coffee. Soak up the atmosphere of the surrounding forest on the outdoor deck.
Another attraction in the forest near Mawbanna is The Big Tree, a 400 year old browntop stringybark tree standing head and shoulders above all the other much smaller trees in the surrounding rainforest. The Big Tree is 62 metres tall, and at 16 metres, it definitely has the widest circumference of any tree in Australia.
A quiet seaside village, Sisters Beach is located within the Rocky Cape National Park and is situated on the old horse trail known as the Postman s Track that once formed the only connection between Emu Bay (now Burnie) and the Van Diemen s Land outpost of Stanley. The village has a boat ramp, you can do quiet bit of fishing or catch a squid off the jetty. It is also possible to scuba dive around Rocky Cape. However, conditions can be treacherous and diving is recommended only for experienced divers. Sisters Beach has electric barbecues, toilets and drinking water provided by the local council.
Though a very pretty location, Sisters Beach is quite small and the building of new homes is currently restricted, due to the surrounding national park. A unique aspect of Sisters Beach is the prevalence of giant Banksia serrata. It is the only place in Tasmania where they occur.
Where Is it? Access is via the Boat Harbour Beach road (Irbys Road).
Boat Harbour Beach would have to be one of Australia's Top Ten beaches. Picturesque Boat Harbour Beach is noted for its clean, white sands, rock and coral formations and its crystal clear blue waters. At low tide, you may see abalone on the rocks. Precious stones are found in the rocks, and look out for fairy rings in the grass.
Experience sweeping views of Bass Strait from the Rocky Cape Lighthouse, banksia dotted hillsides, and dramatic cliffs and coastal caves, combined with cultural history, as Rocky Cape has strong links to the Aboriginal community. Many of the bays along the coast are sheltered and tranquil, while the headlands experience the full force of the sea and wind.
Much of the vegetation in the park is low lying, wind and salt tolerant coastal heath. These heathlands flower during spring and summer, giving colour to the surrounding hills.which run down to the water where there are caves with a history of Aboriginal occupation.
Rocky Cape National Park, although small, offers visitors a varied experience on Tasmania's coast. Here you can learn about Aboriginal life on the north-west coast. Swimming, fishing, boating and walking are popular activities. There are pleasant day and half-day walks over the hills from either Sisters Beach or from the lighthouse at the western end of the Park. Rocky Cape's unpolluted waters regularly attract dolphins and seals. At low tide on a calm day, the rocky foreshore reveals numerous rock pools inhabited by a variety of colourful fish and plants.
Within the park there is a picnic area with tables and a gas barbecue at Mary Ann Cove. Toilet facilities are available at Burgess Cove and Mary Ann Cove in Rocky Cape National Park. Drinking water is not available in the park.
Swimming, fishing, boating and bushwalking are popular activities. The park offers a fascinating variety of walks, ranging from less than 20 minutes to a full day. These take in Aboriginal rock shelters and caves, scenic hills full of wildflowers and birds, and tranquil beaches, bays and rocky headlands.