Stepping onto the mainland of Tasmania our first stop is Stanley, a lovely town which has well-preserved colonial buildings, wonderful cafes and B&B cottages sitting in the shadow of the Nut. The Nut is a flat topped, volcanic plug that rises 152 meters straight up from the water’s edge. There is plenty to see in and around the town itself and you can have a real adventure in the nearby Tarkine Wilderness.
Take the time to explore The Nut Chairlift and State Reserve. For the more energetic you can take the time to climb the Nut or you can take the chairlift up. Once you’ve reached the top the views are breathtaking over the town and Bass Strait. At the top visitors will find a circular walk around the top with specially constructed viewing platforms. If you like you can walk the boardwalk track which is two kilometers long. If strong winds begin to blow you’ll find a sheltered gully from which you can watch the resident wallabies. This is one of the most popular things to do in Stanley.
Visitors delight in visiting the Highfield House. This is the original headquarters of the Van Diemen’s Land Company and once home of Edward Curr, the manager. This homestead sits in a lovely spot overlooking the town. From here you can get wonderful views of rolling farm land, the Nut and of Bass Strait. This property has a historical significance and is well kept.
Once the home of Tasmania’s only Prime Minister, Joseph Aloysius Lyons it is well worth a visit to Joseph Lyons Cottage. He was born in Stanley in 1879, was a teacher who turned into a politician and was elected State Premier in 1923. He lived in Canberra for awhile and returned here and was elected Prime Minister. This cottage has been restored and can be viewed daily.
The Stanley Discovery Museum and Genealogy Center has found its home in the Parish Hall of St. Paul’s Church. The Discovery Museum was established in 1973 and is a historic center reflecting Stanley’s past. Visitors can see relics, antiques, memorabilia, photos and documents of the town. It is located on the town’s main street, Church Street. The museum is open daily from September to June and closed during July and August.
Take one of the fascinating Stanley Seal Cruises offered by Darryl and Heather Stafford aboard the 12 meter “Sylvia C” to get a closer look at the protected Australian fur seal. This is a 75 minute cruise giving visitors spectacular views of the Nut, the town, the old pioneer cemetery and Godfrey’s Beach Bull Rock. This is a non-breeding ground or haul-out, 600 meters off shore. Up to 500 seals can bask in the sun here or frolic in the crystal-clear waters of Bass Strait.
Children can have fun getting a feel of sea animals in a “touching” pool at the Stanley Sea Aquarium. Here you can pick your own wild oysters at West Inlet Beach or you can do some bird watching. You’ll be supplied with oyster buckets and shucking knives and there is a bird watching deck, with scope and bird inventory.
Inside the Stanley Seaquarium building you can get a fascinating look at Tasmanian sea life. You can see Tasmanian Giant Crabs that can grow to 16 kilos and get a look at the Conger Eel that stretches to six feet long. The Rock Pool has Hermit Crabs in beautiful shells. Visitors here can delight in so much from seahorse, to sharks and even lobsters. Take a look at maritime artifacts, shells and ships.
Don’t pass up the chance to get a look at Tasmania’s Little Penguins or Fairy Penguins. These cute little animals make their home in the north-west region of Tasmania and the best place to see them is the Lillico Beach Conservation Area. There is a free guiding interpretation service all through the breeding season. The reserve is 2.5 kilometers long and has 14 hectares. Lillico Beach is an important wildlife corridor and consists of sand and impressive, polished stones known as shingle. There is a special viewing platform and walkways from which you can view the penguins but not disturb them. These penguins are about 30 cm in height and weigh just a kilo. These are the world’s smallest penguin breed and are known to dive down to 57 meters to get their food.
To view the penguins in the evening when they are returning to their burrows visitors are asked to stay on the viewing platform, wear dark clothes and don’t take any photos. Never approach any of the penguins or walk through their colony.
Take the time for adventure and explore the Tarkine Wilderness. Just a half hour from Stanley you’ll discover towering eucalypt forests, open plains of buttongrass and heathland, wonderful rainforests and blackwood swamps. Each year the beehives in these forests produce around 140 tons of unique Leatherwood honey which is about a quarter of Tasmania’s total production. In the summer the white flowers of the Leatherwood tree are lovely. In the state forest you can ride a bike, take a hike, ride a horse, trail bike, canoe, raft and if you like and have your dog with you take him or her for a walk. Visitors here can enjoy barbecues or picnics and perhaps try and catch a fish for their supper. Just remember to respect the wildlife here.
Most of Tarkine’s 477, 000 hectares are alive with frogs, birds, snakes, 28 different mammals, one species of dragon, endangered wedge-tailed eagles and the now rare Astacopsis gouldi – the world’s biggest freshwater lobster.