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Hottest Travel Destinations of 2011

Kimberley, Australia

Courtesy of Tourism Western Australia

Kimberley, Australia

The rust-colored landscape in northwestern Australia is as wild as it gets—it’s one of the last frontiers in a country known for having plenty of rugged, off-the-beaten-path areas. Until recently, mostly archaeologists and thrill seekers ventured into the Kimberley’s untouched territory (roughly three times the size of the U.K.), which has close to 2,000 miles of virgin coastline and caves with Aboriginal paintings said to date back 40,000 years. That’s all changing now that more cruise vessels are dropping anchor along the Kimberley’s rugged shore. The most notable among them is the 106-passenger Orion of Orion Expedition Cruises (10 nights from $7,735), which has 53 light-filled cabins—some with private balconies—and marble-clad bathrooms. After a stop in Broome, the region’s largest town, with white-sand beaches and 19th-century Japanese-style architecture dating to the heyday of the area’s pearl industry, it’s all wet landings: Zodiac boats are your only transportation to the natural wonders that await. You’ll travel up a wildlife-filled river to King George Falls, the mightiest waterfalls on the Kimberley coast, and make an excursion to Montgomery Reef, where green sea turtles, sharks, and rays can be spotted in the waters below. Just be sure to take lots of pictures—there’s no place to buy a postcard. —Sherri Eisenberg

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