Cracking “The Nut” at Stanley, Tasmania, Australia

The pun was obvious and was always going to accompany my visit to Stanley. What is the Nut and what is Stanley? It ain’t a cashew or a character from Laurel and Hardy that’s for sure. It is a town on the north west coast of Tasmania. I live in Devonport at the moment, and have spent the best part of 4 months in this area (despite a 5 week period living up in the tranquil mountain village known as Poatina). 
150 odd kilometres west of Devonport is Stanley. The road to get there is surprisingly straight forward and very level road. I say that, because in Tasmania some of the roads are not great. You pass through the city of Burnie. The largest city in Northern Tasmania. To date I haven’t actually stopped there, merely passed through it. From Devonport, you’ll pass the entrance to Rocky Cape National Park, and a wee bit further up the coast you’ll see the signs for Stanley.
It’s something I haven’t seen before. Basically the town of Stanley is built in behind a massive rock face, or rock. This rock is known as “The Nut”, not quite sure why they emerged with that name, but it fits and it sounds good. I’ve been to the nut and I’ve cracked it.
I arrived late one Saturday night, after a day of planting pyrethrum in Don, near Devonport. At this stage of my Tasmanian adventure, I had my touring car fully equipped and I loved to just head off and go somewhere on my own to explore and check it out. Not everyone you meet in Tasmanian is up for traveling to bizarre places. Some of them would rather pay $18 a night for a hostel room and stay there. I add a bit more money to that, to spend on petrol and off I go…
I got to Stanley well past dusk. It was dark, deserted and lonely. I parked in a nice wee spot by the seafront. Obviously a big fishing town this. And also known as “Tasmania’s Oldest Seaport.” A fish restaurant overlooked the car park where I was. It seemed quite busy. It was Saturday night. It was probably as busy as it gets.
Just before I parked I witnessed something I had never seen before – wild penguins! Two of them! These were two small fairy penguins, just by the shore! I couldn’t believe it. It was only through the car lights that I could see them. But they saw me. I quickly got out of the car with my camera ready. And they had gone. I waited for a few minutes. But they disappeared under a fishing hut, and who knows where they went. Maybe back to see.
I was happy to have seen them, but disappointed not to get them on camera, video or photo. I love to have proof of my memories and experiences, and this was one instance where only my word and my eyes stands as proof. I was able to get a mobile phone reception on my laptop from Stanley car park and therefore I could access the internet from there. I can charge my laptop up to 100% as I drive using my excellent power inverter (cost just $38 in K-Mart in Launceston) and I bought the wireless modem kit from Telstra as I felt it was a luxury I needed. I can now access the internet from most places I go, and it helps me keep touch with people, and update my blog, which was getting neglected in Tasmania as I was always too busy working.
I slept comfortably in my new custom made bed in my car. Nobody woke my sleep. And at dawn in that car park, I was the only car parked in Stanley. It was a Sunday morning. The fishing port was dead. the town was quiet. I get changed and use the free toilet facilities by the sea front, where I meet a guy walking his dog. I gaze up at The Nut for the first time in daylight. It looks different. Not many towns on this planet are built in front of a massive rock.
I didn’t want to go up to the top of The Nut and then leave Stanley. I wanted to see the town centre and also visit the tourist office, for other things to do in the area. At dawn I walked along the main street in Stanley. Church Street. It was a cool refreshing morning. Church Street in Stanley struck me straight away. Like a lot of places in Tasmania, this town had the impression of a timewarp.
It felt like being in the 50s or 60s, because all the little shops and restaurants were traditional in appearance, simple in design and looked friendly. I didn’t get a chance to get the friendliness of these places however, none were open, and apart from the corner shop, most wouldn’t open until 10 am on a Sunday. 
Church Street had, except for my own, just three cars parked on it. The road was wide. The footpaths were normal width. The buildings were old. The Town Hall was small. A two storey yellowy/cream building on the main street. A fish shop in a small hut stood beside it.
Then there were a few shops in a row, all quite like traditional British towns. A sweet shop. For candy. Not for your modern Cadburys and Haribo brands. For your traditional Tasmanian sweets and chocolate. Even the writing was in old fashioned English “Ye Olde Chocolate Shoppe” it read.
Opposite on a prominent corner, the tourist dwelling place and local pub all in one, lay the pristine red brick splendour of “Stanley Hotel.” Estd. 1847 read the sign. Quite old then, and again a very traditional style hotel/pub. At 8 am on a quiet Saturday morning it looked dead and empty. It was also Autumn time, so like many British pubs and hotels, at this time of year business can be slack. The front door was open and a red car was parked outside.
A statue of a soldier formed the town’s War Memorial on the same side of the street as the pretty chocolate shop. And on the opposite corner from the hotel there was Stanley Newsagency. Further down the hill on the next adjacent street, the one that leads to the port and pier where I stayed the night, there was also the Stanley Supermarket. 
I liked and admired the way the main things in the town of Stanley are called Stanley ……. (i.e. Stanley Hotel, Stanley Supermarket). There’s something proud about a town like that. Something multi national companies like Coles and Wal Mart try to destroy. The most commercial Stanley gets is the fact that Stanley Supermarket is actually owned by the IGA. Which is Independent Groceries of Australia. But if you didn’t know that, you’d assume it was all the town’s own money to keep.
It was time to crack The Nut. I parked, as the only car in The Nut car park. There was a souvenir shop and cafe there, both not open when I arrived, but both open when I left. I walked to the entrance of The Nut State Reserve. Which was at the foot of the track to climb The Nut.
I wanted to go to the top and walk all the way round. 
It was a steep ascent up the first two sections, but very quick and by no means tough. Soon I was on the grassy bank at the top admiring the views to the north and south. From this side I couldn’t see the view to the east, and to the west was simply the town of Stanley from a height.
There was nobody about. I walked along the grassy bank. There was a chairlift there – another way you can get up and down The Nut is by chairlift. Great for the older folk amongst us and to enable wheelchair users to see the excellent views from the top of The Nut. 
The Nut and the town of Stanley make up part of a small peninsula, the head of which is called North Point. The Nut is on the East side of this peninsula. There are two islands nearby, Robbins Island and Perkins Island. The landscape is pretty from the height you reach. It’s not that high, but to have a large rock right on the edge of a peninsula, and overlooking a town, well that is quite unique.
It was windy. I’d imagine on a more windy day, the gales could get quite severe and you may be in danger of being blown away. You also see Perkins Bay and Sawyers Bay. There are beaches at both. They are tranquil, though I spot a few guys walking dogs.
It’s quiet and peaceful. there’s nobody else with me at the top of The Nut. I see a few rabbits running away from me and into holes in the ground. There must be a lot of them – there’s lots of rabbit droppings everywhere.
On top of The Nut there are a few designated lookout points. I go to them all. The first one overlooks the town of Stanley. I can see my car, I can see where I stayed the previous night, and I can see how quiet Stanley is. No cars!
On round there are paths as part of this state reserve. You wouldn’t have thought there was room up there for a mini forest but there is briefly an area with a custom made path through trees. 
The next bit is a dangerous viewing area, which is closed on my visit. And rightly so. The cliff face is right there. It’s dangerous. Kids could easily drift. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was a famous suicide spot either. Nobody would see you.
The top of The Nut is surprisingly level, though there appear to be two “peaks” or areas that are slightly higher than the rest. I go to the top of both, totally unsure of which one was actually higher! 
The sun is rising over the Bass Strait. It’s a pretty beautiful sunrise. Slightly sad to share the view on my own actually. I just wanted to keep walking on round rather than ponder there.
I notice a bare naked tree which looks mysterious with its twin branches poking out. Its alone. There’s not a tree nearby. This one survived the wind, rain and snow. The rest of it is grass and bush. I felt very relaxed and enjoyed the wind in my face on the walk back round to where the chairlifts where. That walk was almost a full circle.
There is a sign at the top reading The Nut State Reserve. Carefully I can get a photo by it, using a rock to rest my camera on. Then I pass the chairlifts and a “Reading Room” (possibly for people who get bored at the top, or don’t want to walk all the way round). The journey round the top of The Nut was very quick. I can’t remember exactly, but I took my time, took photos and stopped at points. I think it took about 35 minutes. Then the walk down the steep hill is just 10 minutes or so.
And it is steep going down! I met two other people on the way down, both Australians. At the bottom I went into the shop, which was now open. I bought some postcards and stamps and chatted away to the gentleman working there.
I got out a map and asked him about other scenic things nearby, before my trip down to the Western Wilderness that afternoon. He pointed out Dip Falls. A glorious waterfall in the middle of nowhere! Why not? I thought, and after saying goodbye and driving out of Stanley… Dip Falls, The Big Tree and Mawbanna would be the next places on my adventure trip.
And of course, I got my photo taken by The Nut Cafe and read all the information boards, which reveals that The Nut is widely accepted as being some kind of feeder pipe for a volcano. That’s the scientific explanation as to why it’s there.
Where I Stayed – Slept comfortably in my car in the car park by Stanley Harbour. Free toilets and changing facilities there.
What Is It? – A town built behind a massive rock by the ocean.
How High Is The Nut? – 152 metres high.
 who are they?? –

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