The town of Stanley lies in the far north-west of Tasmania. It is uniquely located on a small neck of land, with the famous volcanic landform of ‘The Nut’ at it’s head. This location makes the town a very picturesque place to visit and worth it for the views alone.
You’ll find many more things to do in Stanley than just admiring views however. The town has a lot to offer visitors who venture out towards the wild west coast. The friendly locals and unique ambiance make this a perfect place for a 2 night getaway or overnight stop on your road trip.
Below you will find the 10 best things to do in Stanley and surrounds so you can plan the perfect visit. Check out the link below for our perfect 10 day Tasmania itinerary. This trip includes Stanley as well as many of the best highlights of Tasmania.
Table of Contents
The 10 Best Things To Do In Stanley Tasmania
Highfield Historic Site and Lookout
This pretty, colonial era house sits high on a hill to the north of town. The property has an interesting but sometimes dark history. It was constructed in 1826 as the first European settlement in the north-west.
On a visit here you will be able to explore the homestead and grounds at your own pace. There are interpretive signs so you can learn about the history of the property and the Van Diemen’s Land Company who constructed it.
Probably the best part about the property however is the amazing view of ‘The Nut’. This vantage point high on the hill is the best view you’ll get of the interesting formation. You also get a beautiful view of the town and lush surrounding farmland.
On the road to the historic site there is also a pull-over where you can admire the view. This is a great place to stop if you just want to see the view without visiting the site and one of the must-see things to do in Stanley, Tasmania.
Cost: Adult $12, Child $6
Opening Hours: 9:30am – 4:30pm, daily
This eye-catching geological feature is the most famous sight in Stanley. The huge and almost unnatural-looking rock formation is actually a volcanic plug. This is the hardened lava from inside the volcanic chute which erodes at a slower rate than the surrounding land.
As mentioned above, one of the best ways to admire The Nut is from Highfield House. However, no visit to Stanley is complete without making it to the top of this natural tower.
Luckily, this is easily accomplished as there is a chairlift that will take you straight up! You can easily walk to the base station from town but there is also a parking lot for those who are driving.
If you are feeling motivated and want to get some steps in, there is also a trailhead here. The initial trail up is quite steep so you will need a decent level of fitness. Once at the top there is a loop walking trail with several fantastic lookouts.
Cost: Adult – $17 Return, $11 One Way
Child – $11 Return, $6 One Way
Opening Hours: 9:30am to 5:30pm, daily (reduced hours in low season, check website for details)
Stanley Heritage Walk
While Stanley may be famous for The Nut, it’s appeal as a holiday destination lies in the beautiful town itself. The natural landforms hemming the town in create a cosy and romantic vibe. This is greatly enhanced by the large amount of well preserved colonial buildings.
The Stanley Heritage Walk will cover pretty much everything you need to see. There are 15 stops and it will take about one hour to complete. This is a self-guided activity and you can read about the history of each of the stops on your phone using this link. There is also a handy map to make the navigation easier.
We would advise heading out to the sights at the end of Wharf Rd first. This way you will finish in town and can head straight to one of the lovely eating/drinking establishments for a well earned rest.
Penguin Viewing Platform
This is one of the lesser known things to do in Stanley due to the town of ‘Penguin’ being just down the road. Stanley is also a great place to see Little Penguins in the wild and there is a purpose built viewing platform at Godfreys Beach. It is possible to see penguins from September to March.
The penguins only come out at night so you will need to visit the platform after sunset. You may have to be patient as sightings are often reported between 8pm and 10pm.
The platform is fitted with red spotlights; this is important as bright white light can damage their eyes. Please do not use camera flash or regular torches. If your torch has a red light mode then this is perfect for getting some additional angles that the lights don’t cover.
You may also want to make a short visit while you are walking around town during the day. There are some signs with information about the penguins that you may not be able to read in the dark.
Stanley Seal Cruises
The rugged and wild coastline of the north-west provides a perfect rest-stop for fur seals. Stanley Seal Cruises know the best spots and find them on every cruise. The trip runs for 75 minutes and visits several rock formations used by the seals.
You also have a chance to see Southern Right Whales at certain times of year as well as Bottle Nose Dolphins. There is plenty of bird life on display, such as Cormorants, Oyster Catchers and Mutton-birds.
On returning to town you can grab a coffee and delicious burger at the highly rated Dockside Café. See their website for further details.
Cost: Adult $55, Child $28
Opening Hours: Cruises run at 10am and 2pm daily. They run all year round however in the winter months weather may cause cancellations.
*Please note that Stanley Seal Cruises is currently closed until 1st of October 2022 due to renovations*
Stanley Wine Bar / Tasmanian Wine and Food
This eclectic little wine bar is my pick for the best place to enjoy a glass of wine in Stanley. The bar is housed in a renovated Victorian era cottage and is filled with a mix of upcycled décor. There is one name on google maps and a different name on the building hence the dual title!
Tasmania produces some incredible cool climate wines and probably the best cheese I’ve ever had. This bar serves the best of both worlds. There are some great wines on offer and you can purchase some delicious platters to pair it with.
If you are a wine lover then you can’t miss this spot, there is a great selection and good prices. The owner is very knowledgeable and can provide some great local info on regions and varieties.
Opening Hours: Thu-Sat 5-9pm
Stanley Discovery Museum
This small museum is housed in a former church and sits right on the main street in town. This is a great stop to make prior to completing the walking tour as it will give you a good bit of background.
There are displays detailing the history of the town as well as a solid collection of antiques and memorabilia. The local volunteers are super friendly and enthusiastic to answer any questions you might have.
Opening Hours: 11am to 3pm, daily (closed during winter)
Shopping on Church St
Church St is the main commercial strip in Stanley and has some lovely artisan stores. This is the perfect place to pick up a memento of your trip to Tasmania.
At the northern end of the street you’ll find ‘Providore 24’. They have an amazing selection of Tasmanian produce and gift items. This is a great spot to stock up on condiments and snacks if you are on a road-trip.
Next along the street is the ‘Touchwood Gallery’. This shop stocks beautiful handmade timber giftware as well as pottery, blown glass and many other items. They also have a great café connected to the gallery and provide one of the best accommodation options in town.
Across the street from here you’ll find ‘The Angel’s Share’. In this store you will find an excellent range of Tasmanian spirits and wines as well as clothing and other gifts. They are licensed so you can enjoy tasting flights with the very knowledgeable staff.
Find all the Lookouts
There are a couple of other lookouts you can visit to get different views of The Nut. West of town you’ll find the ‘Jimmy Lane Memorial Lookout’. This is a good one as it features a viewing tower and a picture frame that you can pose in with The Nut in the background.
This spot is also great for sunset photography. Being to the west of the formation, the sun will be setting behind you. On a clear day this will light up the town and The Nut with beautiful golden light.
The ‘Trethewies Lookout’ is found along the road into Stanley. It’s pretty much at sea level so doesn’t provide the best view but you can get the ‘Welcome to Stanley’ sign in the foreground of your shot.
Another unofficial lookout, but one of the best, is simply to walk down Godfreys Beach. This gives a great bottom-up view that you don’t get at the other spots and is one of the bonus things to do in Stanley Tasmania.
Tarkine Drive Day Trip
The Tarkine Drive is a road-trip route that begins in Smithton and heads south. You then complete a loop through scenic forest surrounds with several great stops along the way.
Stanley is a perfect base for completing this trip. You can drive straight to the main loop, don’t worry about passing through Smithton. See the map below for the route with several of the main stops marked.
We chose to complete the loop clockwise and this turned out to be the best way. The forest around the first part of the loop is a little sparse due to suffering from logging and fires. Thankfully, as the trip continues the forest surrounds become increasingly beautiful.
If completing the loop clockwise make sure to check out the stops below, they are listed in the order that you will reach them.
- Trowutta Arch – Follow a stunning forest pathway through giant ferns to arrive at a picturesque sinkhole and rock arch.
- Milkshake Hills – A pretty forest trail opens into grasslands as you climb the hills to the lookout at the top. Provides a great view of the surrounding landscape.
- Lake Chisholm – The forest walk to reach this lake is really pleasant and the lake is really picturesque. The dense forest right up to the waters edge makes for some great photography opportunities.
- Julius River Rainforest Walk – There are two walking routes with a number of boardwalks. There is a picnic area and toilets here so it’s a great spot for lunch.
- Sumac Lookout – This was our favourite stop of the whole drive. The view of the Arthur River cutting through the dense forested hills is spectacular.
- Kanunnah Bridge – Not so much an attraction as a good waypoint but it does offer nice views of the Arthur River. Crossing this bridge will have you back on the main road towards Stanley.
How to get to Stanley
You will need a car to reach Stanley and access a number of the attractions above. If flying into Tasmania then click here to find the cheapest car rental for your trip.
The ferry terminal in Devonport: 129km / 1.5hr
Launceston Domestic Airport: 227km / 2.5hr
Hobart International Airport: 393km / 4.5hr
Best Time to Visit Stanley
The best time to visit Stanley is from September to April. These months generally have reasonable weather and temperatures. You will also have the best chance to spot the penguins.
For the best chance at sunshine and clear days you will want to travel in summer. This can get really busy so make sure to book well in advance or consider bumper season travel.
The weather in Tasmania can get pretty grim over the winter months. On top of this, a lot of businesses suspend operations due to the decreased tourist numbers.
How Long to Spend in Stanley
You ideally want to spend at least one night in Stanley. This means you can sightsee at a nice casual pace and enjoy the relaxed vibes of the town. If wishing to complete the Tarkine Drive then two nights would be best as this will take most of a day.
If you’re in a real rush then it is conceivable to see everything on offer in one day (minus the Tarkine Drive).
Where to Stay in Stanley
Stanley Cabin and Tourist Park – Located a short walk from the centre of town, the caravan park offers budget double rooms. For a little extra you can also get a room with fully equipped kitchen so you can save on meals.
Touchwood Cottages – This is our pick in Stanley. Not only do you get beautiful wooden floors and charming décor, there is also a fantastic café on the property.
Horizon Deluxe Apartments – If you are planning a relaxation getaway then there are not many better places to do it. This property offers amazing views of town and The Nut, all from the comfort of a nice hot bath!
Read More on Tasmania
- 10 Day Tasmania Itinerary – A Bucket List Tasmania Road Trip
- 9 Best Things to do in Strahan, Tasmania
- The Perfect Maria Island Day Trip Itinerary
- Hiking Cradle Mountain – The Ultimate Guide
- 11 Awesome Day Trips from Hobart
- 9 Great Things to do in Richmond, Tasmania
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