This Switzerland-size island off the southeastern coast of Australia has long been synonymous with the impossibly remote, and even today, it seems exotic and far away to many Australians. But despite the island’s end-of-the-earth reputation, the flight time from Sydney to Hobart is just under two hours. The first European sighting of the island was by the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman in 1642, but it was the British who tentatively began to settle Tasmania 150 years later. Fierce battles with the Aboriginal people gave Tasmania a rough-and-tumble reputation. But today, Hobart, the capital, is a peaceful city that provides few clues to its turbulent history. Aside from its natural beauty, Tasmania lures visitors with its burgeoning food and wine scene.
Even short treks in Freycinet National Park, about three hours from Hobart, reward hikers with glorious panoramas. The view of Wineglass Bay is breathtakingly beautiful and is one of Tasmania’s most celebrated sights. The walk to the beach takes about two hours along a path that meanders through eucalyptus trees and brush, climbing to a rocky lookout that offers enthralling views of the bay — a perfect crescent of white sand, lapped by the indigo sea and backed by rugged pink-and-gray granite mountains.
■ A generation of young and imaginative chefs is making exceptionally creative use of Tasmanian produce and seafood. I had my favorite Hobart meal at The Source Restaurant (655 Main Road Berriedale, Tel.  3-6277-9904), an avant-garde restaurant with views over the Derwent River, adjacent to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), one of the largest private art collections in the Southern Hemisphere. Also consider Peacock and Jones (33 Hunter Street, Tel.  1800-375-692) on the Hobart waterfront, which emphasizes Tasmanian produce and wine.