Why we love the New Forest
Snuffle the hedgerows? Or the mix of wild Hampshire coastline and rolling countryside, criss-crossed with bike trails and hiking paths? Because this isn’t just a landscape for admiring, you know: it’s for paddling, pedalling, foraging and swimming; for action-packed days and star-gazing nights.
The New Forest is one of Britain’s smallest national parks, at just 219 square miles (566 square km), but its diversity is staggering: from wildlife-rich woodlands and deer-dotted heath, to historic villages and long golden beaches. Roman ruins, Tudor castles, smugglers’ hideouts – you’ll find them all here.
But don’t just take our word for it: here’s how to plan a New Forest adventure, and see this wild wonderland for yourself.
Walk on the wild side
There’s a walk for everyone in the New Forest – whether you’re spotting deer and ponies on Bolderwood’s forest trails, or soaking up sea views from the Solent Way. There are also five fully-accessible routes, suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, in some of the park’s loveliest nature reserves.
Go off-road on two wheels
Hit the trail! The New Forest has cycling routes for all abilities, from smooth asphalt to cross-country loops. With no high peaks to contend with, you’ll see more and travel further (and your thighs will thank you, too). Fancy a challenge? Try the Northern Forest Circular trail for 17.8 miles (28.6km) of untamed woodlands and heath.
Meet the furry locals
What’s got four legs, fabulous hair, and has lived in the New Forest for over 2,000 years? The famous ponies, of course. These beauties are free to graze in the park, and there are around 5,000 in total. You’ll spy them everywhere, but for near-guaranteed sightings head to Beaulieu or Brockenhurst’s ‘Watersplash’.
Discover a smugglers’ hideout
Pretty Lymington wasn’t always so peaceful: for centuries, this seaside town was a haven for smugglers, who hid their swag in a maze of underground tunnels. Trace its swashbuckling history on a walking tour, and explore its shops, yacht-filled harbour and quirky pubs too. In summer, tuck into the Lymington Seafood Festival.
Get hands-on with history
Built by Henry VIII, one of Britain’s most notorious monarchs, 500-year-old Hurst Castle looms large on the coast. It’s one of the park’s many treasures: other historic hotspots include the 13th-century Beaulieu Abbey, the shipbuilding hamlet of Buckler’s Hard, and Rockbourne’s Roman villa.
Try a new challenge
Get stuck into the great outdoors! The New Forest is full of adventures – from kayaking the Beaulieu River and paddleboarding on the coast, to abseiling, geocaching and ziplining in its many activity centres. Or maybe you’ll learn a new skill, such as foraging, archery or axe throwing?
Things to do in the New Forest
Featured things to do
Spring has sprung – and so have the bluebells. In April and May, stroll and cycle through the cerulean blooms at Pondhead Inclosure and Roydon Woods.Learn more about the New Forest bluebells
SUP at sunset
On summer evenings, slip away for a twilight SUP adventure at Keyhaven – with a peaceful paddle along the coast, and a private beach picnic for two.Learn more about SUP in the New Forest
The hiking trails are quieter in autumn, and October brings the New Forest Walking Festival, for wildlife watching and expert-led rambles.Learn more about the New Forest’s autumn adventures
Cosy up in the New Forest’s award-winning restaurants – such as The Terrace at The Montagu Arms, and The Dining Room at Chewton Glen Hotel.Learn more about food and drink in the New Forest
Places to stay in the New Forest
For a wild escape with a few creature comforts, glamping lodges have tranquil scenery on their doorstep – and maybe even a hot tub too.
Love local tips? Bed-and-breakfast guesthouses are usually run by local families, who happily share their insider knowledge.
Some of the New Forest’s grandest mansions have been transformed into lavish hotels – offering spas, swimming pools and more.
Getting to the New Forest
Trains run from London Waterloo to various stations in the New Forest, such as Brockenhurst and Ashurst, with a journey time of around 90 minutes. Heathrow and Gatwick airports can be reached in around two hours by train, or 60–90 minutes by road. The airports at Bournemouth and Southampton are closer, around a 20-minute drive away.
You don’t need a car to explore the New Forest: take your pick from trains, buses and ferries too. Public transport services are plentiful and well-connected, while there are over 100 miles (160km) of way-marked cycle tracks throughout the park – with bike hire available from various locations.
Want to know more?
For all the latest news, travel tips and things to do, visit the New Forest’s official website.