The Nut rising like a strange monument from the water is the first thing you see as you approach Stanley. It was first discovered by Bass and Flinders in 1798 and rises 13 metres from the sea. The Nut is actually the stump of an old volcano. Weathering and erosion has since removed all the weak rocks that built up the cone so that the hard basalt of the lava pool now stands up as a conspicuous landmark. It can be climbed or you can take the chairlift to the top for magnificent views across the coast and ocean.

Stanley is the main fishing port on the north west coast of Tasmania. It was named after Lord Stanley, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies in the 1840s. The first European to see ‘The Nut’ was Matthew Flinders in 1798.

In 1825 the Van Diemen’s Land company, formed in England, was granted the rights by Royal Charter to a huge tract of unsettled land to raise fine wool sheep on a large scale. Circular Head, commonly known as ‘The Nut’, was chosen as the centre of operations. Stud livestock, implements, craftsmen and laborers from England along with convicts were landed nearby in October 1826.

The Van Diemens Land Company Store in Stanley is constructed from bluestone which arrived as ballast in ships. John Lee Archer, who designed the township and built the Store, also worked in Stanley as the Chairman of Quarter Sessions, the Commissioner under the Electoral Act and the Assistant Commissioner of the Court of Requests.

Stanley has become a popular tourist destination. It has large numbers of craft shops, tea houses, potteries and galleries - most of which are housed in the numerous local historic houses.

The St James Presbyterian Church is an early example of a prefabricated building imported from England. A meeting to discuss the creation of a Presbyterian Church was held on 9 November 1853. It was agreed to buy the church from the ‘old country’ and consequently the church was purchased and shipped to its current site.

Built in 1842 it was the Plough Inn until 1876 when the license lapsed. It later became a dispensary and a branch of the National Bank of Tasmania. Recently, it has been restored and furnished with antiques. It is open to the public.

Highfield House is well worth visiting and the road there offers superb views of The Nut and township. There is an excellent and detailed brochure available that provides additional information.

In 1878 Joseph Lyons, Australian Prime Minister from 1932-39, was born in Stanley. The house, located in Church Street is on the Register of the National Estate. The Cottage is open to the public and contains a number of interesting items of memorabilia.

The most sensible starting point for any exploration of the town is to visit the Discovery Centre Folk Museum in Church Street that has maps and information.

Stanley Town by Town listing