The island’s unique, wild beauty and laid-back style helped it take the top spot in Cooking Light readers’ votes for ultimate up-and-coming destination.

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For Nature Lovers: Tasman Peninsula

Located 62 miles southeast of Hobart, Port Arthur is an intriguing relic of the era when Britain’s criminals were shipped to Tasmania. Between 1830 and 1877, approximately 12,500 convicts served sentences at Port Arthur. Today it’s like a cross between Colonial Williamsburg and Alcatraz.

To fully appreciate the peninsula’s spectacular 1,000-foot-tall sea cliffs, take a cruise with Tasman Island Cruises. You’ll likely spot albatross, dolphins, and fur seals, plus whales in season (from September to early December, and again in April and July).

For additional encounters with local wildlife, visit the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park to admire these cute but fierce marsupials and learn of the threat of extinction they face. A mysterious disease has decimated the local population, and scientists are so far unable to pinpoint the cause or find a cure. Witness the raucous feeding habits of the devils from a safe distance, and hand-feed kangaroos, which have better table manners.

When you’re hungry, head to The Mussel Boys, open from September 1 through April 30. The oysters couldn’t be fresher: They’re plucked from Norfolk Bay, just across the road.

For Beach Lovers: East Coast and Freycinet Peninsula

The beaches of Tasmania’s east coast, particularly the Freycinet Peninsula, are towered over by pink granite outcrops known as the Hazards. Hobart to Freycinet is 120 miles on a winding road, so you’ll need an overnight stay to savor the surroundings.

The coastal views on the approach into Swansea, the region’s main town, are well worth a detour. Stop at Kate’s Berry Farm & Dessert Café (03-6257 8428) for an English-style scone, served with cream and homemade mingled-berry jam.

A well-marked turnoff from the east-coast highway takes you to Freycinet National Park. From the parking lot, hike to the Wineglass Bay lookout (one to one-and-a-half hours uphill) or further on to the bay itself (two-and-a-half to three hours). If you prefer a more leisurely approach, Freycinet Adventures operates a water taxi that can drop you an easy, flat, 30-minute walk from the bay.

Continue your reverie at Freycinet Lodge, the only accommodation within the park. The lodge aims to have you commune with nature―a task easily done, thanks to the serene setting.

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