Stanley: Pop 481
I love towns that are steeped in history. That haven’t been caught up in the “build or perish” mentality you see so often in today’s world.
Much of Tasmania is like that. Its like going back in time in some respects.
Sure, the cities of Hobart and Launceston, small as they are compared to cities on the North Island (aka Mainland Australia), always have some construction work going on.
The more rural areas, whether by choice or design, seem to have been left behind.
This isn’t a bad thing you understand: It’s actually quite refreshing to be treated to old school values and hospitality for a change.
The town of Stanley is like that.
It’s like stepping back in time, with period homes and buildings dating back to early 1800’s colonial Australia, but with a touch of English fishing village thrown in just for good measure.
We visited Stanley on our second day in Tasmania.
At the time we were based in Devonport, so it was a relatively painless 130km (80 miles) ride to the second-last major township on the North West Coast.
You wouldn’t know it, but when we left Devonport it was a balmy 20°C (68° F) with sunshine and a light breeze. By the time we got to Wynyard (pronounced win-yard – see map), however, it was cold and wet.
Lucky for us we stumbled across a little general store at Sisters Beach where we could grab a hot beverage, thaw out and dry out a smidge.
There was quite a bit of discussion about the weather at that store and we nearly packed it in to head back to Devonport at one point.
This was because most of us had opted for T-shirts and summer gloves for the day. Well, we are from the sub-tropics after all and 20°C isn’t that cold.
Fortunately, being seasoned riders we knew enough to pack wet weather gear; rain, hail or shine. So we donned out wets and continued on to the township of Stanley.
The first thing that struck me about Stanley was how it resembled one of those quaint little fishing villages you might see on an old British movie.
Just as well too, because not only is Stanley a tourist destination for plebs like me, it’s the main fishing port on the north-west coast of Tasmania.
The other thing that struck me is that the architecture is so far removed from what I’m used to on the mainland: Couple that with the quaint streetscape and cottage gardens; I absolutely fell in love with the place.
That, and the pub.
The Stanley Hotel is a welcome oasis that serves great meals and is nice and cosy, a great place to dry out and take in some of the local hospitality.
Listening to the locals talk about the area’s history was very entertaining.
No matter where you are in the immediate area, the landscape is dominated by a place called “The Nut”
The Nut is an old volcanic plug, with a flat top that rises up 143m (470ft) from sea level which was discovered in 1798 by explorers Bass and Flinders.
It’s part of a state reserve on the eastern most point of the town. There are walking trails that take you up to the top where you can take in the spectacular 180° views to the north and south of the town too.
Or you can take the chairlift: Much less strenuous 😉
As I mentioned earlier, when we left Devonport it was sunny and warm. By the time we arrived at Stanley it was decidedly colder, wetter and blowing a gale.
Interestingly, after spending about an hour in The Stanley Hotel for lunch we came out to almost clear skies. The rain squall had blown out to sea and, although it was still windy, it was much warmer.
So we removed our wet weather gear and left Stanley.
We headed a little further north where we came across a place called Highfield Historic Site, which is regarded by some as ‘birthplace’ of European settlement in Tasmania’s north-west.
Highfield was constructed over a three year period between 1832-1835 as a residence for Edward Curr, chief agent of the Van Diemen’s Land Company.
Later additions were made by John Lee Archer. Over time, however, the house was neglected and fell into a state of disrepair. Until in 1982 when Highfield was acquired by the Tasmanian State Government.
Since then, the State Government has carried out major restoration works on the property including the original barns, stables, convict barracks, and chapel. Today the estate is a tourist attraction which also caters to school groups, conferences and as a wedding venue.
At one time, Highfield occupied 350,000 acres overlooking Bass Strait. Today it is nestled among ornamental gardens and occupies around 5 acres.
You’d never know it though, because the house is surrounded by rolling hills and farmland in just about every direction.
We spent quite a bit of time at Highfield, exploring the grounds, the buildings and learning about the history surrounding the place.
On the way back to Devonport The Pillion and I chatted about Stanley and how we liked the quietness and the pristine beauty of the area.
Would we ever live there?
But in all honesty, I don’t think I could handle the cold during the winter months.
Wanna see more posts like this?
Head on up to the top right of this page and in the side bar hit subscribe.