This attractive, waterfront hotel was originally the Van Diemen's Land Company store in Stanley (hence the shorthand title, @VDL). Built in 1843, it was designed by colonial architect John Lee Archer, who was responsible for some of Tasmania's most important 19th-century monuments – Parliament House and the Treasury in Hobart to name just a couple. It also served as a jail, customs house, dairy and fish-processing factory before it was transformed into today's contemporary boutique hotel. The bluestone building overlooks the Bass Strait from a peninsula jutting out from Tasmania's rugged northwest coast, and is a short walk from the historic town centre. Stanley starred as a location in the movie The Light Between Oceans and is a spectacularly beautiful, unspoilt spot that lies beneath a flat-topped rocky outcrop called The Nut.
You enter a spacious lobby furnished with comfortable couches and armchairs – perfect for lounging around reading by the fire in winter, cool and welcoming in summer. The decor is arty-rustic with lots of exposed beams, raw brick walls and interesting artworks.
Upstairs there are two large suites plus the ultra-luxury king loft apartment. Each has its own distinct character with plenty of room for couches, chairs, tables and multi-media centres in the lounge area, and custom-made beds in the sleeping area. The bathrooms have deep tubs as well as showers and are every bit as stylish and conducive to relaxation as the suites themselves. The suites have coffee machines and mini-bars while the loft apartment has a fully equipped kitchen on a separate floor from the bedroom and bathroom. There is no restaurant on site – the owners recommend a few local eateries on their website.
My travel companion and I stayed overnight in the king suite, which had a vast bed that was quite big enough for us to share as friends without getting too close and personal, and would be perfect for loved-up couples. The suite was spacious, decorated in a restful but not bland palette of neutral colours and the window gives on to lovely sea views. Complimentary bicycles are supplied for guests.
The northwest region of Tasmania is becoming renowned for its high quality local produce and wines and Stanley has a good choice of restaurants and cafes within walking distance of the hotel. We opted for Xanders Restaurant, now rebadged as Xanders on Church – note that bookings are essential for a Saturday night, even in winter – and enjoyed seafood starters, followed by perfectly cooked and presented Cape Grim beef and a hearty lamb rack. There was a good selection of Tassie wines to choose from.
In the morning we headed off to Moby Dick's Breakfast Bar for, what else, breakfast. This friendly cafe serves a great range of light and full breakfast and brunch dishes, with proper pots of tea and decent coffee, and prices are very reasonable.
Other local restaurants recommended by @VDL Stanley are The Stanley Hotel, Xanders Restaurant and Wine Bar, The Old Cable Station, The Nut View Restaurant and Sealers Cove.
Climbing The Nut is a popular activity but be warned, it is steep. In summer a chairlift takes you to the 152-metre summit, where you can walk around scenic lookout points and look out for mutton birds, kestrels and peregrine falcons. Back at sea level, you can take the self-guided Heritage Walk, which includes 15 historic houses and hotels. The Visitor Information Centre provides maps and a guide, or use your smartphone to scan QR codes along the route for stories behind the sites. Shoppers can stock up on local foodie products at Providore 24 and browse David Murphy's scenic photographs at the Cow 'n' Calf Art Gallery.
@VDL Stanley is the sort of place you'd go for a romantic weekend or to book the whole place for a get-together with your best friends. It's about 125 kilometres west of Devonport and ideally situated for a stop on a road trip on the northwest coast.
@VDL has two king suites and the king loft apartment, each accommodating two people. King suites cost from $220 to $250 for a one-night stay. 16 Wharf Road, Stanley, Tasmania 7331. Phone 03 6458 2032, see www.atvdlstanley.com.au
HIGHLIGHT: Comfortable, stylish historic accommodation in an amazing location.
LOWLIGHT: A microwave would be useful for DIY late lunch on a cold day.
Sally Macmillan was a guest of Spirit of Tasmania & @VDL Stanley