Stanley sits on a small sliver of land jutting out from Tasmania's north coast into the Bass Strait. The towering stump of an old volcano, known as The Nut, rises dramatically out of Stanley making the town visible for miles. And that is why this is a classified historic town. In the early days of Tasmania, ships could navigate the Bass Strait to Stanley looking for The Nut. Now all the early-Tasmania buildings are perfectly preserved for you to enjoy on the Stanley Heritage Walk.
Yes, the Stanely Heritage Walk is all about history, but you'll need a bit of modern technology. The Circular Head Tourism Association has painstakingly created an interactive map of the walk that is accessible through a smart phone or other internet enabled device. It gives you behind-the-scenes glimpses into early Tasmanian life and it is multilingual.
Old School Analog
If you don't have an internet enabled device, don't worry; there are plenty of informational displays along the walk. These discreet signs give you a bit of information about each of the 15 historical sites along the walk. And these signs can help you navigate your virtual tour if you do have an internet enabled device.
You can also head to the Stanley Tourism and Information Centre in the heart of town to pick up a physical map and guide for the walk. Alternatively, this map and guide can be downloaded and printed off the Stanley Heritage Walk website.
An Ode to Meg
A resident by the name of Marguerite Lily Eldridge is responsible for Stanley's robust tourism today. The late community-minded artist started a successful arts festival that ran from 1976 to 1992 which would draw thousands of tourists to the pretty little town. She also established the Stanley Discovery Museum and Geneology Centre and the Joe Lyons Cottage; both big tourist draws today. Now the Stanley and its heritage walk are 'jewels' of tourism due to her lifetime of promotional efforts. So, stop into one of Stanley's pubs along the walk and have a pint for ole' Meg.
Feel free to start your walk at any of its 15 historic locations, but it is recommended to begin at Marine Park. It is near here that Meg grew up in the 1920s. Marine Park used to hustle and bustle with cray boats coming back in from Bass Strait with a catch and mainland-bound merchant boats full of Circular Head potatoes. Now the park is a historic landmark and the beginning of your heritage walk.
The next stop is Poets Cottage. This 1849-built house was erected by John Lee Archer just after the official founding of Stanley in 1842. Then you'll head to Joe Lyons Cottage, the humble childhood home of the former Premier of Tasmania and Australia's first Prime Minister from Tasmania. You'll then meander to the Bay View Hotel which was Stanley's first hotel. Early Stanley boasted five pubs, but the Bay View Hotel was closest to the wharf and a sailor's favourite in town.
Next is the Captain's Cottage. It's a remarkable name for a building in Stanley as there have been scores of captains living in town over the years. This 1830s-built cottage was once owned by Captain Frederick Burgess which Meg remembers as having fingers like uncooked sausages from the many years spent on salty seas.
The walk then takes you by a row of old shops on Church Street. These still-operating shops began to appear in pictures in the 1860s. Van Diemen's Land Company built the next stop. The Plough Inn is one of Tasmania's oldest buildings and was erected to house travellers from Hobart.
St Paul's Anglecan Church is the next stop. Originally stone-built in 1842, the hotel had to be demolished due to salt water cracks in the walls. Rebuilt in timber in 1887, the church still stands for you to enjoy. You'll then head to the nearby Commercial Hotel. Originally built as a mess hall for officers in the Van Diemen's Land Company, the building operated as one of Tasmania's oldest hotels until the 1960s. It's now preserved for the heritage walk.
The old Stanley burying grounds come next. It's where you'll find the remains of many of Stanley's most important figures. You'll have to walk uphill to the St James Presbyterian Church where you'll find impressive views of Tatlow's Beach from the 1855-built prefabricated structure.
You'll find the Mary Bogue Grave right next to the church. An aboriginal woman otherwise known as Black Mogg, she lived with the town's convict-turned-constable David Howie. Their cutter sank rounding The Nut one fateful afternoon. David swam to shore safely, but Mary and their infant son were trapped in the captain's quarters and perished. There are still many unanswered questions surrounding the sad tale.
The 13th stop on the tour is the old rectory. Now a private residence, it served as quarters for Anglican ministers from its construction in 1843 until 1988. The VDL company store is next. Designed and constructed by John Lee Archer in 1843, it aimed to provide cheap wool to British factories throughout the 1800s. And the last stop on the walk is the Bond Store. This bluestone building was erected 1835 using recycled Baltic pine and stone from the ballast of early sailing ships. The store served aristocrats by storing everything imported that was meant for a gentlemen's estate.