What is special about New Forest Hampshire? From New Forest walks to stunning villages and beautiful ponies. Learn more about the best list of New Forest things to do.
Located in Hampshire, South England, New Forest used to be a royal hunting ground for William the Conqueror. Today, it is one of the most magical places in England and a perfect destination for family days out.
From cute villages, beautiful forests and many small towns, you can find many things to do in the New Forest. If you are thinking about scenic drives near London or a family day trip you can’t go wrong with New Forest!
What is the New Forest famous for?
What is special about the New Forest? The New Forest is a famous destination for many reasons. It is one of the largest remaining areas of unenclosed heathland, pastureland, and forest in the south of England.
The New Forest is well known for being the hunting forest of William the Conqueror and also is the place where King William II was killed. He was shot by an arrow by Sir Walter Tyrrell in the New Forest in 1100AD. The area is also famous for the native ponies which roam the national park.
Where is the New Forest area?
The New Forest is a national park in Hampshire and can be found between Bournemouth and Southampton, just below Salisbury. This area in the south of England includes many major towns and villages within its land, including Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, Burley, and Lymington.
The New Forest spans down to the south coast of England, across the water from the Isle of Wight. With idyllic glades, open moors, and clifftop walks, it is one of the most popular destinations in England.
How big is the New Forest?
The New Forest covers a huge area of 566 square kilometres or 220 square miles. It became a National Park in 2005 and includes around 15 miles of coast along the south of England.
The 15 miles runs from the most easterly point at Calshot Castle, along to the most southerly point at Hurst Castle. In acres, the New Forest covers 140,000 acres of Hampshire land, with some parts of the park heading into the county of Wiltshire.
Why is the New Forest called the New Forest?
The New Forest got its name from its rich history. The area was created by William the Conqueror as his ‘new hunting forest’, and he promptly named the area ‘Nova Foresta’. Over time this evolved into its English meaning of the New Forest, and eventually became the New Forest National Park.
It was called a forest not because of its woodland or trees, but because it was an area subjected to Forest Law. This means it was reserved for the pursuit of beasts exclusively for the King and his official officers.
How many New Forest ponies are there?
So, how many ponies are in the New Forest? The New Forest has many ponies dotted all across the national park. There are roughly 5,000 ponies in the New Forest area, and they are easy to spot wandering around the heathland.
These ponies enjoy the nutritious food which grows across the open moorland, and you are likely to catch small groups grazing freely in the area. All the ponies in the New Forest are owned by the local people known as Commoners, who have the right to graze their animals on the open land.
Where to stay in the New Forest?
Top New Forest places to stay? There are plenty of lovely towns and villages to stay in around the New Forest. The National Park has plenty of accommodation that suits all budgets, requirements, and preferences. Popular towns to stay in include Brockenhurst, Lyndhurst, Burley, Beaulieu, Lymington, and more.
There are also lots of countryside places to stay which are far more rural. Wherever you stay in the New Forest, be sure to be a Forest-friendly visitor and keep the park clean and friendly.
What to do in the New Forest:
1. New Forest ponies
One of the best things to see in the New Forest National Park is the ponies that roam freely around the land. With 5,000 across the area, you are likely to stumble across some whether you are looking for them or not, but if you are keen to see them, head to Beachern Wood near the town of Brockenhurst.
Never touch or feed these ponies as they are wild animals and can be dangerous, but feel free to watch them from a distance. The foals are particularly lovely to see and are best to visit in spring.
Best New Forest villages? The quaint village of Beaulieu dates back to the 13th century and is situated at the top of the Beaulieu River. The Abbey in the village was founded back in 1204 by Cistercian monks who were given the land by King John.
Today, the village has a charming high street to explore, as well as stunning riverside spots and an impressive motor museum. Beaulieu is great for a day out or as a comfortable base for exploring the rest of the New Forest National Park.
Best places in New Forest? On the coast of the New Forest National Park is the Georgian market town of Lymington. It sits between Bournemouth and Southampton and is famous for its sailing past. In Lymington, you will find two large marinas filled with yachts and fishing boats.
Along the pretty, winding streets are period cottages and beautiful old buildings which make up the town’s many pubs and restaurants. On a visit to Lymington High Street, you will come across many independent boutiques and designer shops, and there is a local market held each weekend.
Places to go in the New Forest? Lyndhurst is a delightful village in the New Forest and is often considered the capital of the national park. The main attraction is the Royal Manor which many Kings and Queens have visited over the years after being declared the royal hunting ground of William the Conqueror in 1079.
Today, the village is still the administrative centre of the New Forest. At the top of the high street is an incredible gothic church that was built in the mid-nineteenth century.
5. Brockenhurst village
Best places to visit in the New Forest? Brockenhurst village has been hailed as ‘Britain’s most beautiful place to live’, and it is clear to see why. It is very common to see deer, donkeys, ponies, and cows roaming the main streets of the village, and there are stunning sweeping views in all directions.
There are various spots around Brockenhurst Village that are well worth a visit, including a lovely swimming spot on the Lymington River and the Watersplash Ford. By population, Brockenhurst is the largest village in the New Forest.
New Forest places to visit? In the heart of the New Forest is the small village of Minstead, nearby the popular village of Lyndhurst. Minstead features many small country roads, which are a firm favourite among the local free-roaming ponies and donkeys in the area.
This village has a rich history and was mentioned in the Domesday Book as Mintestede, or mint place, because it was an area where mint grew in the wild. Minstead is also famed as being the burial place of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.
7. Lepe beach
Where to go in the New Forest Hampshire? Lepe Beach is located within the Lepe Country Park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Hampshire. It offers stunning views across to the Isle of Wight and beautiful coastal walks with cliffs lined by pretty pine trees.
On a day at Lepe Beach, you will see D-Day remains and can enjoy a stroll in the wildflower meadows. The beach itself is made up of sand and shingle, and various activities are available such as swimming, windsurfing, and kayaking.
Best things to do in the New Forest? Ringwood has been the main market town in the New Forest for centuries. It stands on the west side of the New Forest National Park, at a point where the River Avon crosses.
With a strong history as a market town, Ringwood still holds a lively market every Wednesday morning. In addition to this, the town has a mix of modern and boutique shops, street entertainers, and various pubs and cafes to visit.
9. Hurst Castle
Whats on New Forest? The beautiful Hurst Castle stands on a remote and exposed spot between the Isle of Wight and the mainland of the New Forest. It is a stunning escape by the sea and certainly worth a visit when in the New Forest National Park.
Hurst Castle was built by Henry VIII and was once one of the most advanced fortresses in the country. Visitors can enjoy unbeatable panoramic views from the castle while also learning about the colourful history.
10. Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary
Must see in the New Forest wildlife park? In the heart of the New Forest National Park, along the Ornamental Drive, is Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary. It is known as the best place to observe the deer in the New Forest, and there is a dedicated viewing platform overlooking a large, pretty meadow.
Car parking is free, and the viewing platform is just a short walk from here. Visitors can enjoy the stunning natural surroundings of the park and discover some of the wildlife which calls it home.
11. Buckler’s Hard
Must-visit places in New Forest? Buckler’s Hard was once a busy shipbuilding village, and today it is a very popular beauty spot. It brings stunning scenery and rich history together for a lovely day out in the New Forest countryside. Buckler’s Hard is where Nelson’s Navy ships were built, and there is a Maritime Museum that shares the interesting story of the village over the years.
In some months, you can enjoy a cruise along the Beaulieu River, which provides a close-up view of some of the wildlife on the river banks.
12. Tall Trees Trail
Unusual things to do in the New Forest? Near Brockenhurst is the Tall Trees Trail in the New Forest National Park. The short trail runs around the Forestry Commission’s Blackwater Arboretum and gives explorers the chance to see one of the most important tree collections in the world. You can learn about the tallest, heaviest, and toughest trees on the planet from the various information boards along the trail.
During your trip, you will walk past some majestic conifers which were planted back in the 1850s, making them some of the oldest Douglas fir trees in the country. You can also see views of two enormous Redwoods on this trail.
13. Exbury Gardens
Where to go in New Forest? Exbury Gardens is over 100 years old and can be found in Exbury in the New Forest. It is home to a spectacular selection of contemporary and formal gardens, landscaped woodlands, and riverside views. On a visit to Exbury Gardens, you can set off on the narrow-gauge steam train which travels through the gardens and surrounding areas – a fantastic way to enjoy your surroundings.
These gardens cover 200 acres of land, and they look beautiful all year round, although the best time to visit is spring, when most of the flowers are in bloom.
14. Moors Valley Country Park
New Forest things to do? Moors Valley Country Park is a perfect place to visit for those who love the great outdoors. Located in Ringwood in Dorset, this park offers something for everyone to enjoy. There are more than 1000 acres of parkland and forest to explore.
The Play Trail is ideal for children of all ages, and includes wooden play sculptures, an exciting crocodiles crossing, and a life-size Gruffalo sculpture. There is also a Go Ape Tree Top Challenge for the thrill-seekers of the family.
15. New Forest walks
Best New Forest walks? If walking and hiking is a top pastime of yours, then the New Forest will not disappoint. There are so many walking routes and trails throughout the New Forest National Park, and it is the best way to explore the beautiful heathland, ancient woodland, and quaint villages.
Across the New Forest, you will find over 140 miles of footpath and tracks, so you can find a route suitable for any age or ability.
16. Calshot Beach
Things to do in New Forest this weekend? This unique beach sits on a mile-long shingle spit that heads out into the mouth of Southampton Water. Calshot beach offers great views of the ships arriving and leaving one of the largest ports in the UK.
Not only that, but you can enjoy panoramic views of Southampton, Isle of Wight, and the Solent. Calshot beach is also home to one of the UK’s largest outdoor and water sports centres, so you can try your hand at kitesurfing, windsurfing, climbing, or sailing.
Best places to visit New Forest England? Fordingbridge is a small riverside town that is known as the gateway to the New Forest National Park. It is situated on the banks of the River Avon, and was mentioned in the Domesday Book as ‘Forde’. One of the best things to see in the town is the medieval bridge, which you will find upstream of the ford. It has seven wonderful arches spanning over the river.
Fordingbridge is famed for its smuggling history, and the infamous ‘Smuggler King’, Captain Diamond spent a lot of time in the town.
Is New Forest worth visiting?
The New Forest is certainly worth visiting if stunning scenery, nature, and wildlife are up your street. There is so much to see and do in this National Park, and it is a great weekend destination for families, couples, or individuals.
From relaxing breaks to active holidays, the New Forest offers it all. The diverse area boasts woodlands, heathland, coastline and roaming wildlife, a combination that can’t be found anywhere else in the country.
New Forest England FAQ:
Great news! Entry to the Forest National Park is free so you can explore this amazing park without paying a penny.
There are many dedicated parking spaces around the New Forest. In fact, there are over 100 free car parks in the New Forest so you not only have free entry to the part but also will not pay for the parking!
Yes, Forestry England do not prohibit parking on the verges in the New Forest. Please don’t break the rules! There are enough dedicated parking spaces around the park so there is no need to park your car on the verges!
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