Stanley was the destination of choice for out latest weekend getaway. Stanley is a picturesque little town on Tassie’s north-west coast, approximately 2 ½ hours drive from Launceston.
We headed off mid-afternoon on Friday, so we arrived before dark. We’d booked a lovely looking holiday rental called ‘'The Lodge’ on the main street of Stanley. It’s a five minute walk to the town centre one way and a five minute walk to the beach, the other. As soon as we stopped the car, Archie was super excited. It wasn’t just getting out of the car after the long drive, he could smell the beach and hear the waves off in the distance. The beach is his favourite place after all, well it’s the favourite place for all of us.
We put our gear inside the front door and took Mr Excited for a walk. It was drizzling slightly but that doesn’t mean much to an energetic pup. We were desperately hoping the current weather wasn’t a sign of the weekend ahead as all our plans included outdoor activities and lots of walking. The recent weather forecasts had all been foreboding. A cold snap was on the way with three low pressure systems combining to create torrential rain, low snow falls and windy conditions for the southern eastern states! There was a possibility we’d driven a couple of hundred kilometres to sit inside playing cards all weekend. Time would tell…
We had an enjoyable walk around Stanley despite the bitter cold. The scenery is magnificent and I’m not just referring to the natural beauty. The town itself has so many beautiful old buildings, it’s like stepping back in time to the Colonial days. Archie wanted to head to the beach, but it was far too cold for swimming, even for the water-baby. To Archie’s great disappointment, he was still dry when we headed back to The Lodge to unpack and have dinner. John and I cracked a couple of craft beers along with the cards and Archie settled in for the night.
The Lodge itself is a charming old building that was once a Masonic Hall. It’s been converted to a three-bedroom residence with a large open plan kitchen/dining/lounge area. The master bedroom has an ensuite and the main bathroom has a claw foot bath. There are views from the large picture window in the sitting area to the beach and the famous Stanley Nut. The living area has high, timber-lined ceilings and beautiful polished wooden floors. There are plenty of comfortable chairs and lounges to while away the hours and an old piano for those who are musically inclined. The kitchen is stocked with all the items you need to cook and prepare meals during your stay. We agreed we’d chosen well for our weekend getaway.
We started our Saturday cooking eggs and bacon and getting rugged up for the day ahead. It was overcast with some spots of rain, but we’d already agreed that rain, hail or shine we’d stick to our plans. John took Archie shopping through the week and bought him a flash new raincoat, just in case the weather took a turn for the worse (you can check out how handsome he looks in his new red raincoat on Instagram @archieredbordercollie).
We walked to the local bakery and grabbed a take-away coffee; all the while getting pulled in the direction of the beach by the little guy who was super keen by this stage. With coffee in hand we headed to Tatlows Beach on the southern side of the Nut which has an off-leash area. It’s a good sized beach, approximately 4.5 kilometres in length. Plenty of room for Archie to run around and an abundance of treasures washed up on the sand to keep me occupied. John had his fancy camera out by this stage, snapping photos of Archie who was in the surf. It was still relatively early and freezing at 4.7 degrees, which (according to the phone weather app) felt like -1.2. Archie couldn’t have cared less.
With the beach trip ticked off Archie’s list we headed back into town to check out the local sights. Many of the old buildings are signposted with a snippet of the building’s history and notable people who occupied them. Some of the buildings date back to the 1830s and the stories accompanying them are fascinating. Joseph Lyons was born in one of the houses in 1879. The Hon J.A. Lyons went on to become Tasmania’s first Prime Minister of Australia (1932 -1939).
During our walk around town we also discovered that Stanley has one of only two remaining functional heritage telephone boxes in Tasmania. Archie was suitably impressed and happy to pose for photos in the booth.
Once we’d had our fill of the historic sights of Stanley we headed back to The Lodge for lunch before jumping in the car and heading further west. First stop was Marrawah - a ‘'don’t blink or you’ll miss it’ little place on the west coast; about an hour from Stanley. We went straight to the local beach which was pretty wild. There were a few drops of rain here and there that felt more like needles on your skin, with the strong winds. Despite the inclement weather it was hard not to notice the raw beauty of the place. The waves were fierce and as they came crashing in, they sent large sprays of sea mist high into the sky. No wonder Marrawah is renowned as a surfer’s paradise, with waves recorded at 19 metres high. It was looking very ‘'Point Break’ when we were there. You’d have to be either exceptionally brave or stupid to head out with a board in those conditions.
We bundled back into the warm car to thaw out and headed to the Edge of the World which was only fifteen minutes away. The drive takes you through Arthur River, Tasmania’s westernmost settlement. The last Tasmanian Tiger was captured near Arthur River in the 1920’s and it’s easy to see how there could still be a few lurking around the thick bush surrounding the little town. I really loved the single lane bridge across Arthur River. There was something quite daunting yet exciting about driving across the long, skinny bridge. We could see the red boat off to one side that will take you for cruises down Arthur River. Not only were we too late for the cruise but I very much doubt they’d let our four-legged companion on board. Postscript – I took the photo of the Bridge
We turned right once we’d crossed the bridge and headed for the Edge of the World. It was immediately obvious it was another special place whilst also being wild as hell. The Roaring Forties (winds) were in full swing, whipping the waves into a frenzy. There were enormous piles of large tree trunks all along the shoreline; instead of the usual twigs and pieces of driftwood you’d find along a beach. This was yet another testament to the ferocious climate of the west coast and the strength of mother nature. I’m not sure Archie knew what to make of it all with the wind ripping through his fur and playing havoc with his ears. I haven’t seen his ears so unruly since he was a little puppy.
From this, the most western point of Tasmania, the next land mass is Argentina - 15,000 kilometres away. Looking out over the water at the Edge of the World, there’s a plaque facing the ocean inscribed with a gorgeous little poem by Brian Inder:
I cast my pebble into the shore of Eternity
To be washed by the Ocean of Time
It has shape, form, and substance
It is me
One day I will be no more
But my pebble will remain here
On the shore of eternity
Mute witness from the aeons
That today I came and stood
At the edge of the world
We blew back into the car and drove to Bluff Hill Point, just north of Arthur River, about half an hour’s drive off the main road. There’s a small lighthouse at the end of one road and to my absolute surprise a couple of shacks down the end of another road. These would have to have been the most remote shacks I’ve ever seen. I’m guessing they’re owned by people who value their privacy and like to ‘'check out’ from the world every now and then. We eventually found the beach, making for one happy puppy. Archie and I played frisbee while John took photos.
The drive back to The Lodge was quiet apart from the Glorious Sons rocking it out on the stereo – we were all exhausted. Archie was famished, demolishing his dinner in record time and jumped straight onto his bed. John and I grabbed some flake and chips from one of the local takeaways which was absolutely delicious, if not cheap. We cracked a couple of beers and pulled out the cards, but it wasn’t for long as we were wrecked after our big day.
Sunday morning was stunning; the sun was out and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. John and Archie went to the local bakery to grab coffees and a couple of egg and bacon muffins while I started packing up. The muffins were fresh and super tasty (much better than your mcmuffin variety). We packed up the car and headed back to Tatlows Beach for a bit of frisbee action before the long car ride.
We farewelled Stanley, promising to return in the near future and headed inland to Dip Falls which is about a 45 minute drive. The countryside is lush dairy farming land, dotted with cows, dams and the odd house and milking shed. It’s an enjoyable drive with many interesting sights throughout the rolling green hills.
Dip Falls was the start of our Sunday stair affair with 209 stairs down to the base of the Falls. There was plenty of water crashing down the magnificent falls which are somewhere between 20 and 30 metres high. You can’t get down amongst the rocks and water as the platform is enclosed but you still get a great view. The cascading water makes quite a roar and you get some spray from where you stand on the landing. Definitely worth the effort (including the stairs). Cue the fancy camera
Photoshoot complete we climbed the stairs and went for a walk along one of the roads that was cut off by a fallen tree. We were trying to locate the Big Tree but despite seeing many large trees I don’t believe we saw ‘the one’. Back in the car we headed for Leven Canyon. We stopped at the Blue Hills Honey Café at Mawbanna on our way. I gave Archie some lunch and John grabbed takeaway coffees to go with our double-baked caramel slice from the Stanley bakery (highly recommended).
It was a very pleasant drive through to Leven Canyon which is a little over two hours from Dip Falls. More cows, quaint little farm houses and lush greenery. Archie was keen to stretch his legs by the time we arrived and had plenty of room to do so. Had I done my research on Leven Canyon I’d know there were two walking options: the circuit walk that takes around 45 minutes with the accompanying 697 steps OR the easy 20 minute walk from the car park to Cruickshanks Lookout (cutting out all the steep sections). Having not done my research however, we headed off on the circuit walk that started down a fairly steep decline. I’m a smart woman, so I know that what goes down must come back up.
The walk was breathtakingly beautiful. Giant tree ferns, moss-covered rocks and enormous trees were the main features. Archie was in his element sniffing and weeing on everything he could. The weather was perfect and quite mild (as opposed to the day before). We meandered through the forest for some time before we hit the stairs. It took me a few dozen stairs to cotton on that this was going to be ongoing for some time. Let me just remind you, there were 697 stairs that I didn’t know about. I may have complained slightly. I may have said to John “you forgot to mention the stairs to me” (or words to that effect). On a serious note, it was a great walk and I’m so glad I did the circuit.
We reached Cruickshanks lookout which has a view to die for; the pictures just don’t do it justice. It’s hard to believe you can experience such a remote place, that’s so easily accessible. You can see 275 metres straight down into the Canyon below to the Leven River and across to the snow-capped Black Bluff. It’s stunning! There’s plenty of information around about Leven Canyon and how it was first discovered. We were lucky enough to see three wedge tailed eagles off in the distance gliding and dipping amongst the trees. The thick bushland would undoubtedly harbour a multitude of different native wildlife. When we visit these kinds of places, I often think it’d be hardly surprising if there were some forgotten creatures living out their days in the thick scrub.
The base of the viewing platform is made from a metal grate. It’s handy for being able to see what’s underneath you, but not at all conducive to little puppy feet. Poor Archie looked quite comical trying to walk around the platform, balancing precariously on the metal dividers. He looked like he was straddling a tightrope. Lucky for him he’s spoiled rotten, so I took my coat off for him to lay on while he had a well-deserved drink. Cue the fancy camera again.
I was pretty relieved to know there were no more stairs and it was an easy stroll back to the main car park. We’ll definitely go back and do the walk again; I know what to expect next time. It was time to hit the road and head home. Our north-west adventure had come to an end and we’d all had a pretty awesome weekend. Until next time, choose your own adventure just make sure you take your best friend along.