Extinct volcanic plug at Stanley, north-west coast, TAS
A well-known scenic attraction located alongside Stanley in Tasmania’s northwest, The Nut is a rarity amongst natural attractions in Australia. A charming if unremarkable town in its own right, it’s the 143 metre high massif rising from Bass Strait which towers above the town which makes Stanley one of Australia’s most unique panoramas.
A sheer-sided bluff and all that remains of an ancient volcanic plug, The Nut was initially called Circular Head when it was discovered by explorers Bass & Flinders in 1798; since that time, the formation quickly became popular as a tourist attraction. Rising above the surrounding bay, it has been described as the most prominent and dramatic landmark on the northern coast of Tasmania.
Rising above the surrounding bay, it has been described as the most prominent and dramatic landmark on the northern coast of Tasmania.
The Nut has been classified as a State Geological Monument and is of outstanding geological interest, while its flat-topped plateau offers outstanding views of land and sea from a tourist perspective.
Ascending to the top of The Nut can be done in a pair of ways – those with energy in their legs can ascend via its relatively steep Zig Zag Track, which measures only 400m yet in reality feels much longer; alternatively, its namesake Nut Chairlift offers a more leisurely 250m ride to the top.
The main drawcard for tourism for the town, The Nut is estimated to attract around 30,000 additional visitors to Stanley each year.
In addition to its inherent tourism value to Stanley’s economy, The Nut has been classified as a State Geological Monument and is of outstanding geological interest. It consists of a thick layer of Tertiary teschenite (a coarse-grained volcanic rock) overlying soft sediments. Marine erosion of the sediments has produced the bold, steep-sided bluffs.
The origin of the rock mass is not known; The Nut may be the solidified lava neck of a volcano, a slab of solidified lava at the top end of a (volcanic) pipe-like feeder from deep within the earth, or an accumulation of lava which flowed into a depression from elsewhere.
The geology of the reserve is of continuing scientific interest as it is still unclear whether it is the solidified lava neck of a volcano or a slab of lava at the top of a feeder pipe-like intrusion, or some combination of both.
The soils of The Nut and its surrounding area are a clay loam of volcanic origin. They are not particularly fertile, but their depth and other physical properties make them ideal for cultivation and pasture production.
The soil type is classified as moderately susceptible to both sheet erosion and mass movement due to water saturation. Sheet erosion is caused by both overgrazing and wind exposure. Rockfall and landslips have occurred on the lower slopes of The Nut.
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The Nut is recognised for its being integral to the life and landscape of Stanley and as the central landmark of the north-west coast of Tasmania, and is protected under The Nut State Reserve Management Plan. This reserve protects the landform itself as well as key local flora (highlighted by the Straw Daisy) and fauna including its importance as a breeding site for short-tailed shearwaters, peregrine falcons, Little Penguins and several other species.
This plan also protects significant Aboriginal and historic heritage sites surrounding The Nut, and is managed to both protect and resort its natural and cultural values while still providing for a range of tourism and recreational opportunities.
It is overseen by the Parks and Wildlife Service of Tasmania, the Circular Head Council, and local volunteers who work together to restore and rehabilitate the vegetation of the reserve while improving safety and accessibility for visitors and locals alike.
The Parks & Wildlife Service of Tasmania partners with organisation WILDCARE Inc. for donations to support reserve management and nature conservation in Tasmania. To give to WILDCARE and help save The Nut & surrounds as a Wonder of Australia, visit the link below.
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