Stanley cemetery sign

The magic of Stanley

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If Stanley didn’t exist then you would have to invent it.

This quirky town (population 428) sits on the North West Coast of Tasmania. It derives its name from former British Prime Minister Lord Stanley and was originally claimed by the Van Diemen’s Land Company and settled in 1826.

Situated in Circular Head, Stanley has a thriving scallop industry and is the North West Coast’s main fishing port. You can see evidence of the local industry at the wharf where a makeshift conveyor belt, comprised of a garden hose, plastic water tubs and various tubes, processes the scallop shells and loads them into trucks. These shells are then distributed to local farms for fertiliser while the scallops are destined for dinner tables.

But these days may soon be over as fishermen are being hit by the dual evils of red tape and mining. Gas exploration companies detonate charges off-shore and the shockwaves kill millions of scallops. In addition, Hobart bureaucrats insist that fishermen stop at midnight — usually mid-haul — to complete paperwork.

Besides the fishing industry, Stanley relies on tourism. Many travellers venture to see the Nut, an extinct volcano that dominates the skyline. The Nut can be accessed either by a track with a steep incline or a chairlift and its summit provides a panoramic view of the coastline. There are walking trails on the volcano which take the visitor through a wealth of flora and fauna.

At the bottom of the Nut penguins come to lay eggs. On this particular day I saw two chicks inside their burrow waiting for their parents to bring home dinner.

A possum was chewing grass nearby.  Normally a nocturnal animal, it had no fear of our approach and continued to nibble as we stopped and took photos.

In the bay, dolphins were leaping out of the water as they herded fish towards the shore.

A lone puffer fish, which looked more dead than alive, was swimming slowly around the rocks by the wharf.

Seal tours run throughout most of the year but are closed for winter. The seals no doubt seeking warmer climes to escape the chilly, windy winter that plagues this coastline.

Whales pass through Stanley during the spring, en-route to the Antarctic breeding grounds and many birds nest here over the year.

Visitors can watch the frolicking sea life from the many cafes and fine-dining restaurants that overlook the sea.

Many artists have settled in and around Stanley and the art galleries feature paintings, sculptures, clothing and jewellery made from local material.

There is also Provedore 24 which, with its mixture of clothes, shoes, accessories and luxury food items, is a truly marvellous find in a small town.

Stanley is one town away from world’s end. Not far from here is Arthur River, a town that greets visitors with a plaque that informs them they have reached ‘the edge of the world’.

Tourism provides a steady income for Stanley and tourists take pictures of the sign proclaiming it to be the tidiest town in Australia.

Joseph Lyons, a former Prime Minister,  grew up here in one of the many neat cottages with barely a blade of grass out of place.

Yet, Stanley’s perfection could be the inspiration for a horror story. Who knows what darker secrets lurk behind its serenity?

The Nut, once a raging volcano but now a backdrop for less violent forces, is like a metaphor for life.

There is peace to be found at Stanley. It is a place at the end of the world but certainly not forgotten.

 Stanley Tourism Centre


Author: Sue Bell
Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.

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