The Best Things to do in Stanley Tasmania

Are you looking for the best things to do in Stanley Tasmania?  If you’re planning to come here, you’ve probably heard about the “Nut”, but you’ll find there’s so much more to this gorgeous fishing village.  

While Tasmania is most famous for it’s natural beauty, with rugged mountains and the UNESCO World Heritage Wilderness, there are also some very pretty small towns in Tasmania.  Perhaps the prettiest town in Tasmania is Stanley.  In fact, Stanley was named “Top Tassie Town” in 2023.

The small town of Stanley is nestled at the bottom of the “Nut” a large round volcanic plug, that rises 143m above the sea.  The town and the Nut are on a round headland, called Circular Head.  Circular Head and Stanley are connected to the main part of Tasmania by a narrow isthmus of land.  You will find beautiful white sand beaches on both sides of the nut. This is a perfect place to rest and relax for a couple of days.

We recently spent two days here, which is ample time to explore the town and check out all the best things to do in Stanley Tasmania.  

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Getting to Stanley

Stanley is located in the North West of Tasmania, around 400km or 5 hours drive from Hobart. The town is conveniently located between Cradle Mountain and the Tarkine Drive.  You will arrive along the Bass Highway from Burnie, and turn off on the Stanley Highway.

If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can take a day tour to Stanley from Burnie or Devonport.

Stanley located on a map of tasmania

Best things to do in Stanley Tasmania

The Stanley Nut

The town of Stanley is dominated by the “Nut”, and this should be top of your Stanley Tasmania Itinerary. You’ll find a walking path to the top of the Nut which is short (430m) but VERY steep.  Even though there are signs warning that the path is short and steep, I was surprised at how steep.  There is a handrail which I used all the way down.

Once you are at the top of the Nut, there is a 2km circular walk which passes through the grassland and along the cliff tops.  You’ll see these burrows in the ground – at first we thought maybe wombats, but why were there feathers in the burrows?  We learned that there are burrowing seabirds here – Short-tailed Shearwaters or Moonbirds.  

You can stop at several lookouts around the path, each offering great views out to sea and along the coast.  The path is easy, and there is one section of wide steps.  If you walk clockwise you will walk down the steps.

couple at the Nut Lookout, Stanley, Tasmania

The Nut Chairlift

If you don’t feel like walking up the Nut, you can take the chairlift.  This is an old fashioned chairlift, with just a bar across your waist for safety.  The journey up is fairly quick, only around 5 minutes.  The views on the way up aren’t that spectacular, as you’re looking at the cliffs, but on the way back down they are spectacular.  You’ll be looking out over the town, the surrounding farmland and the coast.

The chairlift operates from 9am to 5pm in summer (4pm in winter) and costs $12 to ride one way or $19 for a return trip.  We did the chairlift in early January, and only waited about 5 minutes for our ride.

couple riding the chairlift to the top of the Stanley Nut

Wander around Stanley Old Town

As soon as we arrived in Stanley we felt like we were in a Irish or Scottish village.  The small cottages lining the water, narrow streets and colourful houses are just beautiful.  Take a walk along Church Street, and visit some of the interesting shops, selling artworks, curios and souvenirs.

Stanley Heritage Walk

If you’re more of a history buff, why not do the Stanley Heritage Walk.  This self-guided walk visits 15 key locations around the town, including Joe Lyons Cottage (Joseph Lyons was Australia’s first Tasmanian Prime Minister from 1932-1939). You can pick up a map at the Stanley Visitor Centre, or simply scan the QR code on the Stanley Heritage Walk website.

Quaint cottages in Stanley Tasmania

Highfield Historic Site

You’ll be sure to notice this imposing home as you ride the chairlift down the Stanley Nut.  The home was built in the 1820s (using convict labour) as the residence of the Chief Agent of the Van Diemen’s Land Company.  

The house features many beautiful architectural features, and has been kept as it was in the 1830s.  You can do a self-guided tour which gives you a glimpse into this important period of Australia’s colonial history.

Highfield is open 9:30-4:30 daily (except Christmas Day) and entry costs $15 per adult with concession and family rates available.  

Stanley Beaches

Stanley is home to some of the best beaches we saw in Tasmania.  On the north side of the Nut is Godfrey’s Beach, which is a popular surf beach and on the south side, you’ll find the beautiful long Tatlow’s Beach, perfect for an early morning stroll.  Tatlow’s beach is shallow and calm, perfect for young families.

Drone shot of Tatlows beach

Eat Fish and Chips

Stanley Seafoods is an unassuming café in the centre of town. It recently won the award for Tasmania’s best fish and chips.  If you’ve followed our journey around Australia on YouTube, you’ll know how much we love fish and chips.  This was up there in the top 3 fish and chip shops we’ve tried in Australia. 

Stanley Seafoods is not your regular fish and chippy with a full menu of delicious fried food.  No.  This is fish and chips, and the only variation is what type of fish you want. But honestly, it was so good, you don’t need all that other stuff.

All the fish is crumbed, except the flake (shark) which is battered.  We chose to try the local fish, Latchet, which is quite like flathead. Servings range from $24-26 which is quite expensive. We had one serve between the two of us, which was ample for lunch.  

Stanley Seafood fish and chips

Godfreys Beach Penguin Viewing Platform

The Godfreys Beach Penguin Viewing Platform is a purpose-built viewing area just a short walk from the centre of town.  Between September and April, fairy penguins come to roost in the dunes here.  The penguins come in during the hours after sunset. 

The platform is raised and lit with red lights, so the penguins aren’t scared, but they are quite visible to us.  You need to wear dark clothes and keep noise to a minimum. Photography and videography is allowed here, but no flash or video lights.  We found our iPhone captured video of the penguins just fine, and these shots are screenshots from videos as there was no room to set up a tripod for long exposure photos.

The Penguin Viewing Platform is pram and wheelchair accessible.  There is a carpark at the beginning of the platform.  You should make sure you check underneath your car before you drive off as penguins have been known to hide under cars.

We watched at least 20 penguins come in and there were still more coming when we left just after 10pm.  We were entertained by “mother?” penguin bossing the other penguins about.

Fairy Penguin

HA (Jimmy) Lane Memorial Lookout

A short drive out of town takes you to a hill overlooking Stanley, with a giant picture frame you can stand or sit in for your photo.  You will even find a pole set up with a slot for you to put your camera.  A 10 second timer is enough to get into the shot.

You can also climb the stairs to a platform on the other side of the road but your view of the Stanley Nut will be obscured by powerlines from here.

As to who was the enigmatic HA (Jimmy) Lane, well we have no idea.  Neither Google nor the official Tasmania website about the memorial can tell us either!  If anyone knows, please comment below.

couple at the Stanley lookout, tasmania

Where to stay in Stanley

Stanley is the perfect place for a romantic weekend getaway.  There is a great variety of accommodation in Stanley, with some gorgeous cottage BnBs.

If you’re on a Tasmania Road Trip like us, there is a Big 4 caravan park right beneath the Nut at the beginning of Tatlow’s Beach.  We chose to stay at the unpowered campsite at the Stanley Golf Club which was $10 a night.

The closest free camp is about 15 minutes away at the Smithton Tall Timbers RV Site.

Campervans parked up at the Stanley Rec Ground RV Site

Essential Information for your visit to Stanley

Fuel

There is one fuel station in Stanley, however we found Diesel around 15c/l cheaper at the United Fuel in Smithton.  We use the Petrol Spy App to find the best prices.

Food and Water

There is a small IGA supermarket in Stanley if you need any essentials.  The closest major supermarkets are in Burnie.

You can find a potable water tap and dump point at the Golf Club RV Camping site. The water tap is suitable for filling your campervan or caravan water tanks.

Phone and Internet

We found the phone and internet reception to be fine in Stanley.

Watch our Stanley Travel Film

FAQs

Is Stanley Tasmania worth visiting?

Stanley is a small village with a lot going for it.  From incredible views from the Nut, to historic buildings, good cafes, and a wonderful wildlife encounter with the fairy penguins, we really loved visiting Stanley.

How long does it take to climb The Nut at Stanley?

The path to the top of the nut is only around 450m long, but it is very steep.  Very, Very steep!  How long it takes you will depend on your fitness and how often you need to stop to catch your breath.  Most people should be able to climb up in 10-20 minutes.

How long does the Nut Chairlift take?

The chairlift takes a leisurely 5 minutes to reach the top of the nut.  

Can I take my dog up the Nut in Stanley?

As the Nut is a conservation area and an important breeding ground for Short-tailed Shearwaters (also known as Moonbirds), pets are not allowed on the Nut.

Where to next?

You can continue your North West Tassie Road Trip with a drive down the coast to the “Edge of the World” and enjoy the forest in the Tarkine Drive.

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