PADDLE A SEA KAYAK on Coles Bay, off the stunning east coast of Tasmania, and the only sound you'll hear is the slice of your blade through the water. Or the squeaking of dolphins at your bow. Or maybe the plink of your jig just before you haul in a squid for dinner.
Welcome to "Tassie," a pleasure-packed paradise filled with vast wilderness areas, spectacular beaches, and an ever-expanding number of deluxe eco-lodges, expeditions, and adventure ops.
Situated about 150 miles south of the mainland, Tassie was once considered the Appalachia of Australiaa derided island outback with a timber economy and no pizzazz. But thanks to the state's growing commitment to courting eco-tourists and protecting landscapes (national parks and preserves make up more than 40 percent of the island), Tasmania's wild character is paying off. In the past five years, the number of climbers, paddlers, divers, and other visitors has increased by 50 percent.
Spend a day on the eastern shore, along the Freycinet Peninsula, and it's easy to see why. You can swim, bushwalk, or wildlife-watch on gorgeous Wineglass Bay, then retreat to the Freycinet Lodge to slurp down local oysters with boutique Tasmanian wines. Or sea-kayak on Great Oyster Bay with Freycinet Adventures, and enjoy upscale camping and canapes on the white sands of Hazards Beach. Before the bliss overload sends you to sleep, you'll be lucky to hear one more thing: the scuffle of wallabies and wombats foraging in the bush.
Doubles at Freycinet Lodge, US$248$377; 011-61-3-6257-0101, www.freycinetlodge.com.au. Half-day-to-five-day sea-kayaking trips with Freycinet Adventures, US$65$1,066; 011-61-3-6257-0500, www.adventurestasmania.com.