Where Is the Best Place You’ve Ever Gone on Vacation?

Real Simple readers divulge their best vacation spots, from cozy family campsites to far-flung beaches. (You might want to grab a pen—or, hey, even your passport.)

Photo by Christopher Silas Neal

About 20 years ago, my husband, Bob, and I boarded a cruise ship to Antarctica. I’ll never forget  the day we anchored near a hill covered with black rocks. As I walked to shore, I realized that the rocks weren’t rocks at all—they were penguins! It was an astounding sight. Since then Bob and I have avoided mainstream getaways, instead opting for the world’s most obscure destinations.
Cheryl Sparks

San Francisco has more physical beauty than almost any other city I can name: The hills, the ocean, and the bay views make up a stunning landscape, and the architecture—especially the Victorian gingerbread houses—pro-vides endless delights. In 2003 I was lucky enough to pay a visit during the annual Bay to Breakers race, a seven-plus-mile run. It’s a must-see: By tradition, the competitors don elaborate and hilarious costumes. I saw one participant dressed as a tiki bar, another as a Viking ship.
Emily Hertler
Red Bank, New Jersey

Two years ago, when our sons were little (one was three, the other 18 months), my husband and I rented a cottage in Eastbourne, a small seaside town in southern England where he had grown up. For a month, the four of us spent long, lazy days visiting farms and villages and exploring the shore. We felt as if we were living in a 19th-century British novel. Life was so simple and carefree.
Melanie Watson
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ever since the age of five, when I learned about koalas, I wanted to go to Australia to see one. Decades later I finally had the money to pay for the adventure. In 2006 my husband and I drove nearly 2,500 miles along that country’s east coast. I will never forget my visit to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, in Brisbane, where—at last—I got to hold a koala, who was named Donatella. I was over the moon. How many people actually get to fulfill a childhood dream?
Jana Crawford O’Brien
Bradley Beach, New Jersey

My dad had always wanted to see Germany, because his mother was born there. So in 2004 my husband and I decided to make his wish come true. We surprised him with the news on Father’s Day and a few months later took him to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The three of us wore beer-shaped sunglasses to Oktoberfest and had a ball. It was wunderbar!
Sandee Lammers
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin