With its beautiful landscapes, historical monuments and cultural attractions, the New Forest National Park attracts millions of visitors every year. Whether you are looking to travel alone or with your family, it’s worth checking out what the park has to offer, especially since it’s so close to Southampton and Portsmouth where you can start or end your trip with ease!
The New Forest is an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) with some of Britain’s most picturesque scenery. There are lots of lovely country walks and trails, many water activities and even a few decent beaches. Wildlife abounds too, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels, deer, foxes, buzzards and all sorts of other creatures when you visit.
Here are the best towns/villages I recommend visiting in the New Forest that will make sure you don’t leave any corner unexplored!
Brockenhurst is a small town that is nestled amidst stunning scenery. An ideal destination for a short break or a holiday, there are plenty of interesting things to do around Brockenhurst – from watching wildlife and visiting gardens, to going on walks and checking out historic landmarks.
There are several attractions nearby including Lulworth Castle and Hurst Spit with its bird sanctuary, National Trust beach and RSPB reserve. The surrounding area has many walks open to dogs; they are often taken off their leads on some sections of these walks. Such areas include Dever Wood and Kingsley Country Park where dogs can swim in ponds and lakes during all seasons except summer when it becomes too warm for dogs to swim safely.
Relaxing strolls along Brockenhurst’s tranquil trails are some of the best ways to unwind and de-stress during your next New Forest holiday. One of these walks takes you across Buckler’s Hard: A former shipbuilding village where 60 meters (197 feet) below lies a 19th-century submerged village abandoned in favor of railway infrastructure.
Visiting Buckler’s Hard
Buckler’s Hard is one of New Forest’s most charming attractions. The little village houses several buildings dating back to WWII with exhibitions detailing how it used to be both during and after the war. It’s also home to The National Trust shop which has amazing vintage items for sale alongside gifts for all ages. Check out their website for more information.
Lymington is a popular seaside town located in close proximity to The New Forest. It offers a great base for exploring nearby towns and The New Forset itself. It’s also home to some beautiful beaches and walking trails that are perfect for families. From piers with sea views to nearby walks through The New Forest, there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy.
There are also lots of great pubs in Lymington for taking time out, along with some local restaurants that are well worth visiting. You can also hire a bike, or go boating on Southampton Water. Or perhaps you’d prefer kayaking around historic Mudeford Quay? All these activities are popular in spring and summer when there is usually plenty of sunshine – perfect for getting out and enjoying what Lymington has to offer.
Located near Christchurch, Beaulieu is home to some of England’s most wonderful gardens, including Old Beaulieu Estate, Monks House and The National Motor Museum.
Old Beaulieu Estate – often referred to as The Open Air Museum, features exquisite stone pavilions housing masterpieces from each era of British history. Admire priceless relics from medieval times including some real armour belonging to Henry VIII’s 15-year-old bodyguard who was killed jousting before his king – set against stunning landscaped gardens perfect for picnics. The old red brick follies dotted around the grounds are captivating too—all part of New Forest’s wonderful charm.
Visiting Hayling Island
The New Forest is also home to some beautiful unspoiled beaches. One of these is Hayling Island, on England’s south coast. With its soft golden sands and shallow waters, it’s an ideal place for families with young children.
You can spend hours here having fun building sandcastles or walking along the shoreline. But if you want something more active than lazing around on the beach, there are plenty of other things to do while you’re visiting Hayling Island. For instance, you could try cycling around Pippins Leisure Park. Pippins Leisure Park sits at one end of Hayling Island and contains everything from boating lakes to miniature golf courses. There are tennis courts here too—and even bowling lanes.
Home of The New Forest Heritage Centre, Lyndhurst is a delightfully quaint town filled with boutiques, cafes, and pubs perfect for lunching or casual eating while taking in panoramic views across The New Forest. The town is home to Lyndhurst Castle and its National Trust tearoom, as well as many historic sites such as Bishopsbourne House and St John’s Church.
Ringwood is located just ten miles from Southampton and Portsmouth and has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Ringwood has a number of pretty walks, from easy strolls to more challenging hikes. Ringwood is also home to a host of interesting historical buildings such as Ringwood Manor, which takes you back to the Tudor Period.
Ringwood is also home to a range of pubs, cafés, takeaways, restaurants and shops. If you’re on a self-catering caravan holiday, then I highly recommend popping into Ringwood as this is where you’ll find a range of supermarkets and other shops to resupply your caravan fridge.
Visiting Stoney Cross
Located just outside of Brockenhurst, Stoney Cross is a wonderful place to explore. There’s plenty for kids and adults alike, with everything from small museums and nature reserves to amusement parks and golf courses.
About half a mile from Stoney Cross on foot, you’ll discover the Ocknell Enclosure that is the starting point for one of the many walks in The New Forest. If you’re visiting with dogs, why not also visit, the ponds at Andrews Mare and enjoy a short stroll around the ponds during the sunset? Slightly further away by car, you’ll come across The Rufus Stone, which is a large stone commemorating the death of William Rufus, son of William The Conqueror in 1106.
The nearest pub is The Sir Walter Tyrrel which serves local beers, and home-cooked food, and has a large outdoor patio with a play area. This pub is also near the Rufus Stone, making it a great pitstop before you continue exploring what the New Forest has to offer.
Portmore is one of Hampshire’s hidden gems. The village is located just over five miles away from bustling Bournemouth but still remains firmly off the beaten track for many holidaymakers. This means that Portmore has managed to retain much of its old world charm and quaintness without becoming too commercialised.
I highly recommend visiting the nearby nature reserve – RSPB Portmore Lough. This nature reserve is situated on marshland and has numerous trails and habitats for wildlife. Throughout the year, as the seasons change you’ll be able to discover a range of different birds that migrate into the area. In Spring, you’ll be able to spot lapwings and skylarks, whereas in autumn you’ll come across marsh harriers, coots and raptors. In Winter, you’ll be able to see lapwings, geese, and swans.