The very essence of this historic fishing hamlet is encapsulated in the Ship Inn Stanley. Nestled in between the base of The Nut and the wide windswept bay she overlooks, this quintessential guest house has recently been lovingly restored by new owners Kerry and Alastair Houston.
“A few years ago we realised there was so much of Tasmania we still hadn’t explored…so we made a conscious decision to start holidaying within Tassie,” explains Kerry. “The kids didn’t miss travelling further afield, and we really enjoyed uncovering all the hidden gems that we’d just never had time to appreciate…even though Alastair’s Tasmanian, and I’ve been here over 15 years now.” Kerry smiles as she recalls, “About three or four years ago we got to Stanley and we all just instantly loved it.”
Stanley’s spell was cast and the Houston family were soon the proud owners of a beautiful little cottage. “Initially it was a holiday home and we spent every spare moment we could there. The kids were always asking to go to Stanley…they loved their time there just as much as we did,” grins Alastair. “However before long we both realised we were looking for something else.” He continues thoughtfully, “We’d been caught up in the daily grind and even though Hobart is a small city, it’s a city nevertheless. We were ready for a change and started looking for a way to alter our lifestyle. It was a time when we stood back and recognised we felt suffocated by all the busyness. All we really wanted was a quieter life.”
The stars aligned when The Bayview Guest House came onto the market. “We’d been looking at a few things, and the desire to be here full time had almost become intoxicating,” explains Kerry. “When this place came onto our radar…it just seemed right. We could see the potential in the building…it’s heritage listed and just beautiful…and the charm of running a family business really appealed.”
The past 12 months have seen the couple peel back the layers, revealing secrets dating back to the mid 1800s. “It started its journey as The Shamrock Inn back in 1849,” says Kerry. “The stone came directly from the site, right here at the base of The Nut, and its foundations were also filled with the ballast from visiting ships. Being so close to the wharf, its history is heavily wrapped up in tales from the sea.”
Sitting on the front verandah, you can almost reach forward and dangle your feet in the cool waters of the Tasmanian coast. Winds whip across the bay from an unforgiving stretch of Bass Strait, providing the gulls with strong currents upon which to hover. Whilst reminiscent of the vibrant township of yesteryear, Stanley is now preserved in time – a tranquil beauty providing a glimpse into a bygone era. Wander along Alexander Terrace on a brisk Tasmanian evening and you’ll be convinced it’s the perfect setting for a classic historic tale of smuggling by the coast.
“She’s been a few things over the years,” says Alastair, “This place was always popular as a pub due to its location to the wharf. It would attract hundreds of sailors and accommodate a rowdy mob in over 40 separate rooms. Following The Shamrock it changed to The Ship Inn, then The Stanley Hotel and finally the Bayview. In a nod to its history, we’ve decided to take it back to one of those early names.”
It’s a treat to be ushered into the newly renovated study. With dark moody tones promising a sign of things to come, Kerry welcomes her guests at her stunning antique desk adorned with old cigar boxes and intriguing pieces of seafaring paraphernalia. “We’ve uncovered some amazing finds,” she explains, directing soft lamplight onto an old scrapbook. “We discovered this gem detailing the many wallpapers that were removed during a previous renovation process. There were up to seven layers in some places, beautiful florals and patterns from over a century ago. We’ve used those as real inspiration for today’s décor. This process has been about celebrating the history that’s here, whilst creating a calming escape where our guests can retreat and rejuvenate.”
The vision from the outset has been to create a boutique haven. “It’s been important to us to draw out the character of the property and tell the story of her history,” says Kerry, motioning around the entrance. “From the thick stone walls to the stunning timber floors, it’s all here and each part has its own tale to tell. Our dining room used to be the original public bar, the study was at one stage a separate ladies lounge, and some of the suites were part of the cabaret room. It’s been a delight to work with the original windows and doorways and maintain their integrity wherever we can.”
With seven generous suites now on offer, the Ship Inn Stanley is a place to indulge. Carefully curated in deep natural tones reminiscent of the wild landscape beyond, there’s every reason to unwind and find time to breathe again. It’s both stylish and elegant whilst remaining unpretentious and organic. Whilst the focus is on the detail here – think quality linens, vintage artworks and historic artefacts – it’s likely you’ll be completely lost either gazing out to sea or letting your eyes wander over the rugged face of The Nut. It’s truly a unique setting.
“There’s so much to discover in Stanley,” muses Kerry. “Each of our suites has a name that reflects an aspect of local history. We’re encouraging our guests to explore while they are with us and build their own connection with the township. It’s such a beautiful old building and we just want people to ease into a stay here. We want them to be part of the history.”
Focussing on delivering a contemporary twist to this century old property, the pair are excited to be providing visitors with the best of the old and the new. “We’ve converted the old stables into a gym and a yoga studio. It’s a pretty unique place to escape to and spend a little time focussed on yourself. One end also houses our wine cellar…it’s the ideal spot, tucked under The Nut and between solid rock walls. I love it in there,” says Alastair.
With the renovation almost complete, the family are starting to relax into their surroundings. “My parents have joined us too,” says Kerry. “They have their own separate apartment and it’s so lovely to have them close by, especially for the kids. We feel like we’re living the dream…family, a couple of dogs, this amazing location and the wonderful interaction that happens with our guests. Everyone has their own space, so it all works perfectly.”
“The community was probably the best surprise of all,” continues Kerry enthusiastically. “When you embark on a project like this, you really do take the whole town along with you. There were months when we lived in the shed next door and had no real kitchen. People we’d met down at the pub would turn up with hot meals and we really felt genuinely cared for. That’s been very touching.”
The shed Kerry refers to is a beautiful old weatherboard building on the same plot. “Its full history is still a little unclear, but we know it’s been a billiards room at one point – the concrete pads to support the tables are sitting just beneath the floor boards. Interestingly, back in the 1800s it had also been a roller skating rink…we found that really quite amazing.” Requiring some further attention to bring it back to its former glory, Kerry adds, “We’re still deciding its direction for the future. There are a few options – maybe an event space, maybe an area for our guests to relax. We’ll see where it takes us.”
With the Ship Inn Stanley officially opening its doors in July 2019, Alastair is working hard to complete his vision for the garden. A talented stonemason by trade, he’s handcrafting sheer brilliance out of the rocky offerings that The Nut provides. “One of the things that drew me here in the first place was the similarities between Stanley and Scotland,” Alastair explains. “I grew up visiting family in the Isle of Skye and the resemblance of the two locations are very clear to me. I really feel at home here and have loved creating these walls out of the stone that was right here on site. It’s been a great way for me to connect with the place and become very much a part of The Nut itself.”
It’s not hard to admire Alastair’s progress. He’s passionate about landscaping and his distinctive style and flair for working with natural materials is clearly evident. A setting as spectacular as The Nut is a fitting place for him to complete his final large scale design. “It’s been a challenging site to work with, but so rewarding at the same time. I’ve unearthed crockery that dates back to over a century ago and lots of other little treasures that have been hidden with time. We’ve put them back into the Inn for others to enjoy and appreciate during their stay.”
“I’m giving everything to this,” grins Alastair, glancing up from his tools. “I’ll still be dabbling in landscaping, but I also know I need to preserve my body. The whole reason for this move was to take things a bit easier and to stop and smell the roses. We wanted our time back…a beautiful place…a better place. I can’t wait to settle in and enjoy the lifestyle.”
Book your stay today via the Ship Inn Stanley website.