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!
The New Forest is also a perfect place to find hidden gems and a very known UK landmark. So, if you are looking for a weekend trip in England, then head out to New Forest National Park!
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 do I spend a day in the New Forest?
The New Forest is a beautiful national park located in Hampshire, England. There are many things to do and see in the New Forest, so here’s a suggested itinerary for a day trip:
Morning: Start your day with a visit to one of the many picturesque villages in the New Forest, such as Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst or Beaulieu. Wander through the quaint streets and browse the local shops, cafes and pubs. You could also visit the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst to learn about the history and ecology of the area.
Afternoon: After lunch, head out into the forest for a walk or bike ride. There are many trails to choose from, ranging from easy strolls to more challenging hikes. You can also rent a bike or go horseback riding. Some popular spots include Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, Blackwater Arboretum and the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive.
Evening: As the day draws to a close, head to one of the many traditional country pubs in the New Forest for a pint and a meal. Many of the pubs have a cozy and welcoming atmosphere, and some even have outdoor seating with stunning views of the forest. Alternatively, you could head to the coast to watch the sunset over the Solent and enjoy some fresh seafood at one of the many beachside restaurants.
Overall, spending a day in the New Forest is all about enjoying the natural beauty of the area, so make sure to take your time and appreciate the scenery.
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.
How do I get to the New Forest?
The New Forest is located in the south of England, about 90 miles (145 km) southwest of London. Here are some ways to get there:
By car: If you’re driving, the New Forest is easily accessible from the M27 motorway. Take junction 1 for Cadnam or junction 2 for Lyndhurst, and follow the signs for the New Forest.
By train: The nearest train station to the New Forest is Brockenhurst, which is located in the heart of the national park. Trains run regularly from London Waterloo, Bournemouth, Southampton, and other nearby cities. From the station, you can catch a bus or taxi to your destination within the New Forest.
By bus: There are several bus routes that run through the New Forest, connecting the various villages and towns in the area. You can catch a bus from Southampton, Bournemouth, and other nearby cities.
Once you’re in the New Forest, the best way to get around is by car, bike, or on foot. There are many cycle and walking paths throughout the area, and there are plenty of car parks where you can leave your vehicle while you explore.
Where to stay in the New Forest?
Best places to stay in the New Forest? 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.
Things to do in the New Forest:
1. New Forest ponies
Top things to do New Forest? 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.
New Forest best places to visit? The village has several local amenities including shops and pubs as well as a community centre that hosts regular events. A large portion of the land is owned by the National Trust, which has maintained its nature conservation values by limiting development on this land.
Burley is made famous by its history of witchcraft. Just go and explore the village centre yourself – you will see a variety of shops that make reference to this to this day.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. Lymington Sea Water Swimming Baths
Best places in the New Forest? Lymington Sea Water Swimming Baths is an open-air natural sea water swimming pool located on the seafront of Lymington, Hampshire. The baths are free to enter, although there is a charge for changing rooms and lockers and towels can be hired at reception.
Sea water swimming baths have been a feature of the Lymington seafront for centuries. The first recorded sea bathing house was built in 1730 and was located where the Marine Pavilion stands today.
Today there are two sea water swimming baths – one for adults and one for children – both with stunning views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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.
20. Paultons Park Home of Peppa Pig World
Best place in New Forest to visit with kids? Paultons Park is a family park located in the New Forest, Hampshire. It is home to Peppa Pig World, an indoor and outdoor amusement area based on the popular children’s TV series Peppa Pig.
A popular attraction for families with young children, Paultons Park has over 60 rides and attractions including two roller coasters, a world-class zoo and an adventure playground set within 800 acres of beautiful countryside.
The New Forest history
The New Forest is a historic and picturesque national park located in Hampshire, England. Its history dates back over 900 years and is closely tied to the country’s monarchy.
In 1079, William the Conqueror declared the area as a royal hunting ground, which he called “Nova Foresta,” meaning “new forest” in Latin. William wanted to create a hunting preserve for himself and his nobles, and the New Forest was an ideal location due to its dense forests, open heaths, and abundance of wildlife.
Over the years, the New Forest became a popular destination for the royal family, who would stay in hunting lodges and go on hunting expeditions. However, the forest was also home to local communities, who were granted “commoner’s rights” to graze their animals and collect firewood.
In the 18th century, the New Forest became an important center for the timber industry, with oak trees being used to build ships for the Royal Navy. The forest also played a role in World War II, as it was used for military training exercises and as a landing site for gliders during the D-Day invasion.
Today, the New Forest is a popular tourist destination, known for its scenic beauty, diverse wildlife, and historic sites. It remains a working forest, with many locals still exercising their commoner’s rights, but it is also protected by national park status to preserve its natural beauty and heritage for future generations.
What attracts visitors to the New Forest?
The New Forest is a popular tourist destination in the south of England, known for its natural beauty, history, and diverse wildlife. Here are some of the key attractions that draw visitors to the area:
- Scenic Beauty: The New Forest is known for its beautiful landscapes, including rolling hills, ancient forests, and heathland. Visitors can enjoy scenic drives, walking trails, and bike rides through the countryside.
- Wildlife: The New Forest is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including deer, ponies, wild boar, and rare bird species. Visitors can go on wildlife safaris or take part in guided tours to learn more about the local fauna.
- Outdoor Activities: The New Forest offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, watersports, and fishing. There are also plenty of parks and gardens to explore, as well as beaches and seaside towns.
- History and Culture: The New Forest has a rich history dating back over 900 years, including its origins as a royal hunting ground and its role in the timber industry. Visitors can explore historic landmarks, museums, and galleries, as well as attend cultural events and festivals.
- Food and Drink: The New Forest is home to a thriving food and drink scene, with many local producers offering artisanal products, including cheese, beer, and wine. There are also many restaurants, pubs, and cafes serving up traditional and modern British cuisine.
The New Forest is a great destination for anyone looking to experience the natural beauty, history, and culture of the English countryside.
What famous film was filmed in the New Forest?
The New Forest has been the location for many films and TV shows over the years, but one of the most famous movies to be filmed in the area is “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991), starring Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Rickman. The movie was partly filmed in the village of Beaulieu, which was transformed into medieval Nottingham for the production. Many of the film’s outdoor scenes were also shot in the New Forest, including Sherwood Forest and the Battle of the Trees sequence. The movie was a huge box office success and helped to boost tourism in the New Forest.
The New Forest tourist information
The New Forest is a popular tourist destination in the south of England, known for its natural beauty, history, and diverse wildlife. Here is some tourist information to help you plan your visit:
Visitor Information Centers: There are several visitor information centers throughout the New Forest, where you can get maps, guides, and advice on where to go and what to see. Some of the most popular centers include:
- Lyndhurst Visitor Information Center: Located in the heart of the New Forest, this center has a wide range of information on local attractions, events, and activities.
- Beaulieu Visitor Information Center: This center is located in the village of Beaulieu, home to the famous Beaulieu National Motor Museum and Palace House.
- Lymington Visitor Information Center: Located on the coast, this center has information on the many beaches, marinas, and sailing opportunities in the area.
Attractions: There are many attractions to see and explore in the New Forest, from historic landmarks to outdoor activities. Some of the most popular include:
- Beaulieu National Motor Museum: Home to over 250 classic cars and motorcycles, this museum is a must-see for any motoring enthusiast.
- Buckler’s Hard: This historic shipbuilding village was once a key location for building ships for the Royal Navy, and now features a maritime museum and riverside walks.
- New Forest Wildlife Park: This park is home to a wide range of native and exotic animals, including wolves, otters, and bison.
Outdoor Activities: The New Forest is a great place to get outside and enjoy nature. Some of the most popular outdoor activities include:
- Hiking and Biking: There are many trails and paths throughout the forest, ranging from easy strolls to challenging hikes and bike rides.
- Horse Riding: The New Forest has a long history of horse riding, and there are many stables and riding schools where you can explore the forest on horseback.
- Watersports: With its proximity to the coast, the New Forest is a great place to try your hand at sailing, windsurfing, or kayaking.
Accommodation: There are many accommodation options in the New Forest, ranging from campsites to luxury hotels. Some of the most popular include:
- Camping and Caravanning: There are many campsites throughout the forest, offering everything from basic facilities to luxury glamping.
- Bed and Breakfasts: There are many cozy B&Bs in the local villages, offering a chance to stay with local families and experience the traditional New Forest hospitality.
- Hotels: There are many hotels throughout the forest, ranging from boutique hotels to luxury resorts.
Overall, the New Forest has something for everyone, whether you’re interested in history, wildlife, or outdoor activities.
What to do in the New Forest in the rain?
While the New Forest is known for its beautiful natural landscapes and outdoor activities, the weather in the UK can sometimes be rainy, which can put a damper on outdoor plans. However, there are still plenty of things to do in the New Forest when it rains. Here are a few suggestions:
- Visit Indoor Attractions: There are many indoor attractions in the New Forest, including museums, art galleries, and historic houses. Some of the most popular indoor attractions include the Beaulieu National Motor Museum, the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst, and the Palace House in Beaulieu.
- Go Shopping: There are many charming towns and villages in the New Forest that offer a range of shops and boutiques. Whether you’re looking for souvenirs, antiques, or handmade crafts, there are plenty of places to explore.
- Take a Drive: If the rain isn’t too heavy, consider taking a scenic drive through the New Forest. The countryside can look particularly beautiful in the rain, with misty landscapes and moody skies. Just be sure to drive safely and watch out for flooded roads.
- Enjoy Indoor Activities: If you’re looking for some indoor activities, there are plenty of options available in the New Forest. You can go to the cinema, visit a local pub, or book a spa treatment. Many hotels and resorts also offer indoor activities such as swimming pools, games rooms, and fitness centers.
- Attend a Festival or Event: The New Forest hosts many festivals and events throughout the year, even in the rain. Check the local events calendar to see what’s on during your visit. Many events, such as food and drink festivals, music concerts, and craft fairs, take place indoors or under cover.
There are plenty of things to do in the New Forest when it rains, so don’t let the weather spoil your plans. Just be sure to pack appropriate clothing and footwear for wet weather, and keep an eye on the weather forecast to plan accordingly.
Best places near the New Forest to visit
The New Forest is a beautiful part of England with many wonderful things to see and do. If you’re looking to explore the area beyond the boundaries of the New Forest, here are ten nearby places that are worth a visit:
- Salisbury: The city of Salisbury is about 25 miles north of the New Forest and is known for its stunning medieval cathedral, picturesque streets, and bustling market square.
- Winchester: Winchester, about 20 miles north of the New Forest, is a historic city with a rich heritage dating back to Roman times. Its cathedral, Great Hall, and the medieval streets of the city center are all popular attractions.
- Beaulieu: The village of Beaulieu is located within the New Forest, and is home to several popular attractions including the National Motor Museum, the Beaulieu Abbey, and the picturesque Beaulieu River.
- Isle of Wight: The Isle of Wight is a beautiful island just off the south coast of England. It’s a great place to go for a day trip or a longer stay, with stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, and charming seaside towns.
- Bournemouth: The seaside resort town of Bournemouth is only a short drive from the New Forest and offers a wide range of attractions including beaches, parks, and gardens.
- Lymington: The pretty coastal town of Lymington is located on the southern edge of the New Forest, and is known for its Georgian architecture, picturesque harbor, and lovely beaches.
- Christchurch: Christchurch is a historic market town located just outside the eastern boundary of the New Forest. It’s home to a magnificent priory, a stunning harbor, and some lovely beaches.
- Poole: Poole is a bustling coastal town with a rich maritime heritage. Visitors can enjoy a range of attractions including the Poole Harbour, the famous Sandbanks Beach, and the Poole Museum.
- Dorchester: Dorchester is a historic market town that is known for its connection to Thomas Hardy, the famous novelist. Visitors can explore the many landmarks and museums dedicated to his life and work.
- Stonehenge: The ancient monument of Stonehenge is located about 25 miles north of the New Forest, and is one of the most famous landmarks in England. It’s a great place to visit for a day trip to explore the mysterious history of the site.
All of these places are easily accessible from the New Forest, and offer a range of experiences and attractions to suit all tastes.
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!
The population of New Forest National Park is around 34,000. Only three towns within the National Park have over 3,000 people. The largest is Brockenhurst with 3,400 people followed by Sway & Lyndhurst.
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