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Tasmania Campervan Touring: Stanley

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The far north west of Tasmania juts out into the Bass Strait in a narrow peninsula that is characterised by rocky headlands, beautiful beaches and stunning coastal views. Lying near the tip of this peninsula is the historical town of Stanley, a secluded and scenic settlement that has developed into a favourite haunt of tourists on a campervan holiday.

Drive west from Burnie and Devonport, and there is Stanley, easily recognisable due to its most distinctive landmark, the Nut. The Nut is an old volcanic plug discovered by the explorers Bass and Flinders in 1798 and it is possible to get to the top of The Nut walking via a steep track or via a chairlift. Migratory birds call the Nut home for part of the year, and kestrels, falcons and orange-bellied parrots make a permanent home upon it. Because of its importance to birdlife, the Nut is a State Reserve.

On the Fisherman's Dock in town is the Stanley Seaquarium. The Seaquarium is where the more weird and wonderful examples of local marine life can be seen, such as seahorses and nudibranchs. You can even get hands on with the marine like in the Rock Pool. The gift shop stocks a range of sea-themed souvenirs and stocks fresh and cooked seafood.

Stanley is also famous for its local colonies of fairy penguins and seals, and there are tours available to see both. The best time for seeing penguins is at dusk and the early evening, as they return to their homes after a day out at sea. Large numbers of seals can be seen from the top of The Nut or from the seashore, or you can also arrange take tours from Stanley to see the seal colonies. The pristine beaches around Stanley are another of its virtues. Godfreys Beach is popular, and has barbeque and picnic facilities and a playground. Tatlows beach is very shallow and is ideal for families, and when the tide is low millions of crabs emerge from the sand.

For the history buffs, there is the Highfield Historic site; Highfield House is a rare example of a Regency-era house kept in original condition with appropriate furniture. The rest of the estate is just as interesting and well preserved, particularly the farmstead. The aim is conservation and not restoration, so that the patina of age isn't removed and destroyed. In this manner, visitors can still see how the buildings might have looked like when in use, rather than looking like a museum display. If you decide to pay for a tour of Highfield, your guide will be dressed in period costume as they take you around the estate, to add to the astmisphere.

Though there is plenty to see and do in and around Stanley, it is well worth taking a drive from Stanley to Cape Grim to see the panorama of this northern coastline of Tasmania. Circular Head is home to one of Australia's largest wind farms, the Woolnorth Wind Farm at Cape Grim. Circular Head is in the path of the "Roaring 40s", strong prevailing westerly winds, assisted the sailing ships aiming for Tasmania. At Cape Grim, there is no land between you and the tip of South America, and so is among the freshest air on the planet. Breathe deep.

The windswept northwest of Tasmania is only a few hours drive from Hobart or Devonport. The Stanley Cabin & Tourist Park has powered sites, and is right in the town, huddled in the shadow of the Nut. The park has all the amenities, and will even help with free booking for local attractions. As with the rest of Tasmania, Stanley is a great destination for campervans.

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