20 Unique Things to Do in the New Forest

From cute villages, to lavender, to castles, to cars, here’s the best of the attractions in the New Forest for your weekend. 

I hadn’t heard of the New Forest National Park until I was in my late 20s, now, I’m a little bit obsessed. I love it there, and lucky for me it’s less than an hour from my house. 

I’ve still got quite a bit left to explore, it’s a work in progress but I thought I’d introduce you to a few of the best things to do in the New Forest, as discovered so far. 

New Forest Attractions

Just a little bit of background before we begin though. The New Forest is in Hampshire, it’s the smallest of England’s national parks, it’s mostly owned by the Queen and it’s the perfect place for a weekend away. 

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This quiet corner of south England is home to the New Forest National Park, which itself is 219 square miles of nature, beautiful coastline and quaint English charm. And there’s so much to do here, think everything from steam trains to watersports, otters to vintage cars.

So if you fancy a getaway but want to keep it closer to home, head here for an authentically British weekend. Start your journey working your way through this list of top things to do in the New Forest.

Top 20 New Forest Attractions 

New Forest Attractions

1. Visit Brockenhurst village

Brockenhurst is the cutest village, complete with Tudor style houses and a secret watersplash ford. It was once declared ‘Britain’s Most Beautiful Place to Live’ and given that ponies, donkeys and cows happily plod through the village you can see why.

Brockenhurst house

There’s a really cute church there, St Nicholas Church and if you go in the priest will show you around and tell you all about the New Zealanders that were once in the area fighting for us. 

2. Eat at the Huntsman

Errrhmhagod, The Huntsman is so good. I’ve been twice now, once for a weekend dinner with the ladies, and once for Sunday lunch with my boyfriend. Both, wonderful experiences. 

New Forest attractions

It’s a lovely setting, in the aforementioned Brockenhurst, full of lovely furniture, beautiful pictures, and a cool vibe. There’s a lunch menu full of great takes on British classics, and I can definitely vouch for the red wine menu too. 

Also, their beer garden is one of the best in the whole of the New Forest. 

3. Go kayaking on the Beaulieu River 

New Forest Activities are the only company allowed to use river for fun. I took a kayak out for a self-guided tour and had a lovely time kayaking up to Beaulieu. 

It costs £27 for three hours and you can travel up and down the river as much as you please. 

Kayaking on the Beaulieu River

The Beaulieu River is the only river in England not owned by the Queen. It’s owned by Lord Montague, he owns the actual river bed. Something about Henry VIII giving it to his great ancestors back in the day. 

My favourite part of the kayaking in the New Forest was getting to see the big, fancy houses that line the river bed. Riiiiiich people live here. 

Take some time to get an ice cream in Beaulieu afterwards – another one of the New Forest’s beautiful villages. Or if you’re really hungry, try the Pallett’s Tea Shop for a traditional New Forest cream tea, or a bit of cake. 

4. Walk on Lepe beach

To the south of the New Forest is Lepe Beach. It’s lovely. I mean, when I visited it was a beautiful sunny day but still, I imagine on a grey day it’s still nice too. There’s a lovely cafe there, and you can take a nice walk along the seafront too. It’s a great place to walk the dog, or to go in the water. 

Things to do in the New Forest

5. Have a go at archery

Again with New Forest Activities, have a go at the archery. Honestly, first go and I got the yellow bit right in the middle, and then just got progressively worse. 

I ended up coming 5th out of 12. 

Thoroughly enjoyed myself though and that’s the main thing, right? 

Top tip for you: keep your arm up, and back, and hold your fist close to your cheekbone. Retreat. Go for it. And hopefully you’ll at least get it on the board. 

Two hours-ish of archery costs from £18 each, depending on the time of year. Check out New Forest Activities on this link. 

6. Go wild for lavender

Did you know lavender farms are a thing, and that they exist right here in the UK?

The Instagrammers love them

Lavender Farm in the New Forest

– Pic from the New Forest Lavender Farm

The New Forest Lavender Farm has all the sweet smelling stuff you can imagine plus an array of other plants in its nursery. Spend an afternoon exploring and working out which plants you won’t kill once you get back home.

New Forest bluebells

And if you’re into your flowers, check out the bluebells in season at Roydon Woods near Brockenhurst too. 

7. Visit Hurst Castle

Hurst Castle New Forest

As one of Henry VIII’s old joints, it’s exactly as you’d expect; all dungeons, high walls and spooky feels. You can tour Hurst Castle to learn all about its time as an active fortress and then a 17th century prison, before finishing up on the turrets and enjoying the lovely views of Milford on Sea.

It’s a lot bigger inside than it looks from the picture above. I was genuinely amazed! 

Hurst Castle in Milford on Sea

Entrance is £5.50, and there’s a little cafe on site too.

You can definitely spend a day here as there’s a beautiful lighthouse too. I loved it here, but make sure you go on a summer’s day as the 40-minute walk up the spit can be very windy! 

8. Stay at one of the lush spa hotels 

Pony in the New Forest

There are some amazing hotels in the New Forest. Really, really, lovely hotels with spas, golf courses, amazing restaurants and incredible bedrooms.

Hotel in the New Forest

I recently stayed at the Balmer Lawn Hotel. It was LUSH, and I’d totally go back again. 

Jacuzzi Balmer Lawn Hotel

Balmer Lawn Hotel

There was a lovely spa, an amazing restaurant (with the best steak I’ve had in years) and was set in a beautiful part of the New Forest (again, Brockenhurst). We enjoyed an evening in the on site bar, and the next morning (after a buffet breakfast) the Jacuzzi, again. 

– Check out the latest prices at the Balmer Lawn Hotel, and the rest of the facilities! 

9. Take to the water

It can be easy to forget this forest is on the water but it does stretch across 43 miles of coastline. And where there’s water, there’s watersports, and plenty of them in New Forest.

– I REALLY want to do this! 

As well as the kayaking in the New Forest at point number 3, you can keep it chilled with some fishing or boating, or opt to amp up the energy with some paddleboarding or canoeing.

You could even go all out with a trip to the New Forest waterpark, which spans two lakes and looks absolutely AMAZING.

10. Visit the New Forest Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park

New Forest animals

Have yourself a hoot at the New Forest Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park where you can see these two breeds up close. They’re not alone though. If you’re lucky you’ll also see some bison, deer and lynx as well as lots of cool plants.

There’s also a tropical butterfly house and a whole load of things to learn about caring for animals too. 

11. Change gears with a visit to the National Motor Museum

Rev up the action with a visit to the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu. Tickets are £15 and get you in to see 250 cars from multiple eras. Once you tyre yourself out (lols), head up to Palace House, the secret army exhibition or the World of Top Gear where that same ticket will see you right in — bargain!

I haven’t actually been yet, but it’s high on my list so expect a pic soon. 

12. Visit Exbury Gardens to let off some steam

Exbury Gardens

– Pic from ExburyGardens.com

As if your trip could get any more kitsch, take the traditional steam train through Exbury Gardens. It’s the most relaxing way to explore the the 200 acre gardens and see the multitude of flowers and plants its home to.

Tickets cost £18.75 but that does include your 20 minute train ride.

13. Enjoy a beer at Ringwood Brewery

After all these New Forest attractions, you’re bound to have built up a thirst. The Ringwood Brewery is the perfect pitstop for quenching it. You can tour the place for £10, learn how craft beer is brewed before sitting back and enjoying your complimentary drink.

Ringwood Brewery

– pic from Wikipedia

The Ringwood Brewery is right on the edge of the New Forest so if you live west, it’s a great stop on the way home. And if not, you can find the brewery beers on the taps at various pubs throughout the New Forest. 

14. Take your bikes 

New Forest cycling

Cycling round the New Forest is one of the best ways to explore what it has to offer. There are miles and miles of cycle trails in the New Forest and it’s a lovely pace to see it from. 

You can either take your own bikes and park up, to see what’s what. Or, there are plenty of bike rentals shops in the New Forest too. 

15. Check out the quaint New Forest pubs 

New Forest pubs

You’ll find some amazing pubs in the New Forest, ones that are absolutely full of character. From The Oak Inn near Lyndhurst, above, to the excellent beer garden at the Royal Oak near Beaulieu, traditional pub grub is available in abundance. 

After a long bike ride on a summer’s day, there’s nowhere I’d rather be. 

16. Visit The Pig Manor House 

Weekend in the New Forest

Once you’ve finished wandering around all the rural charm of the villages, fill up with some traditional pub grub at The Pig. It’s a beautiful old manor house where you can stay over if you have the cash, or just visit in the day for lunch or dinner.

You need to book early if you want to get in the restaurant but you can turn up to the garden. Those piggy flatbreads in the courtyard are YUM!

17. Hang out at the beach at Milford on Sea 

What to do in the new forest

Milford on Sea is the cutest village. On the south coast of the New Forest it’s a really, really lovely part of England. You can hang out in the village, or walk down to Hurst Castle. It’s a 40-minute walk along the spit and you’ll find an impressive Henry VIII castle with even more impressive views at the end. 

I didn’t actually go to the Greek restaurant in Milford on Sea, but it looked fab. Definitely would next time.  

18. Explore Rhinefield Ornamental Drive 

Rhinefield Drive

If you want a New Forest attraction you can do in the car, check out the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. It’s beautiful.

You can drive along for a few minutes and enjoy the huge Redwood trees, or get out and walk among them. Car parks are close so if you just want a little walk in the New Forest, this is the perfect spot. 

19. Just admire the thatched houses 

New Forest attractions

So many pretty houses in the New Forest! 

Just take a drive around the New Forest and you’ll find many a thatched house in among the brick ones. Get your camera out and enjoy!

20. Admire the New Forest ponies 

what to do in the new forest

The New Forest ponies have the right of way in the New Forest, so if you’re driving – watch out! 

You can find them everywhere, but especially in Beaulieu and Brockenhurst. Just look for them outside the Balmer Lawn Hotel, there are loads there.

Things to do in the New Forest 

Lyndhurst daffodils

I hope this post gives you an idea of just some of the amazing New Forest attractions there are to enjoy. It really is an amazing, active and beautiful place just nestled on the south coast. This guide to things to do in the New Forest is definitely a work in progress. As I explore more, I’ll tell you aaalllll about it! 

* – The New Forest activities – archery and kayaking – and the stay at the Balmer Lawn Hotel, were kindly sponsored in return for coverage on my blog and social media. All were wonderful! 

Things to see in the New Forest

New Forest attractions


More on Hampshire, and the New Forest 

How to Have a Brilliant Weekend in the New Forest

22 Reasons Why I Love Living in Southsea

What to Do in a Weekend in Budapest (includes Itinerary)
Lunch at the No Man's Fort Hotel, in the Solent

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