From cute villages, to lavender, to castles, to cars, here’s the best things to do in the New Forest on your weekend or day away.
I hadn’t heard of the New Forest National Park until I was in my late 20s, now, I’m a little bit obsessed with the New Forest attractions. 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.
This article lists the most unique things to do in the New Forest to help you plan your day trip, weekend or holiday. Almost everything has been tried and tested by me.
– Read on to see the best places to visit in the New Forest!
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.
Also, there are lots of New Forest attractions to enjoy.
Watch my video on what to do in the New Forest
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Top 40 New Forest Attractions
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.
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 – it’s one of the top places to visit in the New Forest.
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.
Visiting Brockenhurst is one of the top New Forest days out.
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.
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. I’d definitely recommend planning your New Forest visit around going to The Huntsman.
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.
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.
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.
– There are loads of outdoor activities to do in the New Forest, it’s why it’s loved so much! –
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. If you’re stuck for what to do in the New Forest, then they’re a great place to start.
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.
– 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.
And if you’re into your flowers, check out the bluebells in season at Roydon Woods near Brockenhurst too.
If you’re with your Grandma and Grandpa and wondering what to do in the New Forest, then a flower trail is a great idea.
7. Visit Hurst Castle
– Hurst Castle is one of the best places to go in the 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.
Hurst Castle is a lot bigger inside than it looks from the picture above. I was genuinely amazed!
Entrance is £5.50, and there’s a little cafe on site too. This is one of the top New Forest places of interest to explore.
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
There are some amazing hotels in the New Forest. Really, really, lovely hotels with spas, golf courses, amazing restaurants and incredible bedrooms.
I recently stayed at the Balmer Lawn Hotel. It was LUSH, and I’d totally go back again.
– Visiting the spas is definitely one of my favourite things to do in the New Forest –
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. If you’re wondering what to do in the New Forest with kids, then get over here!
One of the top New Forest places to visit for sure.
10. Visit the New Forest Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park
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. This is one of the best places to visit in the New Forest for kids – they’ll love it.
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. This is usually cited as the number one thing to do in the New Forest. Get yourself down there!
12. Visit Exbury Gardens to let off some steam
– 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. Mark that as a top place to visit in the New Forest on your map!
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.
– 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.
This is one of the most popular places to visit in the New Forest for a pint.
14. Take your bikes
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. Check out the Woods Cyclery in Lymington for a great place to hire from.
Cycling around is definitely my favourite of all the New Forest activities. It’s just a great pace to see the forest at.
15. Check out the quaint New Forest pubs
– The New Forest pubs are a whole attraction in themselves! –
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 than one of the top pubs in the New Forest.
16. Visit The Pig Manor House
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!
Lunch at No Man’s Fort in Port Solent
17. Hang out at the beach at Milford on Sea
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
– My brother fooling around in the New Forest! –
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.
One of the more natural New Forest attractions, and definitely one of the best.
19. Just admire the thatched houses
– You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have fun in the New Forest, just wander! –
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 the show.
20. Admire the New Forest ponies
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. If you can’t find them, just look for them outside the Balmer Lawn Hotel, there are loads there.
Fact about the New Forest
The New Forest is England’s eighth National Park. It has 61 ancient monuments, 634 listed buildings and 18 conservation areas within its boundaries. The Forest is famous for its wildlife, particularly ponies and cattle.
21. Solent Way Walk
One of the most popular things to do in the New Forest for active travellers, is to walk The Solent Way. It’s a 60-mile footpath linking Milford on Sea in the New Forest with Emsworth Harbour on the Hampshire / West Sussex border. The views from the walk make it all the more special, with vistas out to the Isle of Wight.
It’s also really easy to follow along the coast. Enjoy!
22. Breamore House
– The incredible houses are one of the main New Forest attractions –
Open to visitors April to October, Breamore House is a fantastic house in Fordingbridge in the New Forest. It’s so amazing that it’s used as a filming location in Pride & Prejudice and HBO films too.
Visit the Elizabethan Manor House and Countryside Museum and you can tour the drawing rooms, the dining rooms and the bedrooms too – it really is one of the most magnificent things to see in the New Forest.
If you’ve got a few quid you can hire it out as a wedding venue too.
23. St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery
You’ll find the St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in the beautiful, historic coastal market town of Lymington. Here you can learn about the history of Lymington and the New Forest Coast through the artwork of the local community and beyond.
Expect hands on displays and changing collections to keep you enthralled.
24. Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary
At Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary there’s a purpose-built viewing platform overlooking a large meadow area where a herd of fallow deer regularly gather. And if they’re not there, hold out till feeding time between noon and 3pm and they’re guaranteed to come running.
You can even use that zoom on your new phone you never thought you’d use to get a close up pic.
There are some great walking routes through the deer sanctuary, including one through Bolderwood’s Ancient and Ornamental Woodland. Just generally walking around is one of the top things to do in the New Forest.
Some of the tallest trees in the New Forest are here, from Douglas Fir and Redwoods to native beech and oak. They’ve been here for years.
25. Peppa Pig at Paulton’s Park
Who doesn’t love Peppa Pig hey?
Well, me, but I felt like Peppa Pig at Paulton’s Park needed to be included on this list of the unusual things to do in the New Forest, as it’s one of the most popular. This family theme park has nine rides, and you can meet some of the characters too. There’s also a 4D cinema, water rides and a small zoo too. This isn’t the one for me right now, but maybe you’ll enjoy it?
Let me know.
This is one of the top choices for things to do in the New Forest for kids.
26. Goodall’s Strawberry Farm
A pick your own strawberry farm, who could ask for anything more?!
– If you’re looking for New Forest things to do – go pick some strawberries! –
You can get a wide range of fruits and veggies here, as well as a traditional New Forest cream tea. The picking usually starts from May time.
In autumn you can visit the pumpkin farm here and pick up a pumpkin for your pie, or for carving. Or, if you love your Instagram, don a twirly dress and come and get your pic taken.
27. Go Ape Moors Valley
28. Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum
The Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum, near New Milton, is home to one of the world’s biggest collections of motorbikes. Miller is a motorcycling legend and winner of over 1400 events. At his museum you can take a look around the Racing Hall, Road Bike Hill and our Sports Bike Hall.
There are also animals here, it’s home to alpacas, goats, chickens, donkeys, sheep, turkeys, and ducks. Something for youuuu, something for the kids, that works right?
And most importantly, you can pick up some tea and cake at the Bashley Manor Tea Rooms in the grounds.
Airbnbs in the New Forest
So many unusual things to do in the New Forest, you probably want to stay for a few days right? How about booking an Airbnb in the New Forest so you have the privacy and social distancing, and also the cool digs for the night.
Check out Airbnb’s New Forest listings for some great places to stay – and I’ve picked out the best of the New Forest glamping here.
29. New Forest Wildlife Park
Visit New Forest Wildlife Park in Ashurst and you’ll find bison, wolves, otters, owl and foxes waiting to welcome you. They like to put on a special event for our annual celebrations so keep an eye on the website for the up to date info from the keepers.
The New Forest Wildlife Park is a comparatively small wildlife park compared to some of the others in England, but you can follow the woodland trails to see amazing animals in beautiful natural settings.
30. Go horse riding
The bridleways that criss cross the New Forest National Park make for the perfect route for horse riding. There are a few riding schools in the New Forest so you can take your pick for a trot.
Some riding schools even let you bring your own horse along to be with the others.
The Burley Villa School of Riding is one of the most popular.
31. Play some golf
There’s lots of fun for golfers in the New Forest, with courses for all abilities. There are 9 to 18-hole golf courses here. Luxury five star, Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa has its own 9 hole par 3 golf course within the hotel’s extensive grounds.
While Lymington Golf Centre has pay and play sessions, a driving area and the New Forest Adventure Golf coursefor kids. This one is a bit more fun than the others. The holes are named after towns, villages and special places in the New Forest, so you can get to know the area even more.
There are around ten golf courses in the New Forest so have a look around to find the best one to suit you.
32. Chill at the spa
As quite a ‘fancy’ and ‘well to do’ area, there are plenty of spas in the New Forest to keep you busy for a weekend. I’ve stayed at the Balmer Lawn Hotel, which was blummin lush. Really nice hotel and we had the spa area downstairs to ourselves too.
The New Park Manor Spa is next on my list, as it looks amazing. They have an adults only hot tub area, a large pool, thermal rooms and an experience shower too.
Chewton Glen is known as the fanciest of all the spas in the New Forest. It’s award winning and has Europe’s largest hydrotherapy pool, a 17m indoor pool and aromatherapy saunas, crystal steam rooms and loads of outdoors activities too.
Limewood, the Rhinefield House Hotel and Careys Manor Hotel all look pretty sweet too!
New Forest Attractions Tip
Sign up for a Go New Forest Card.
This way you can get lots of money-saving offers on attractions, activities, places to stay, shops and eating out. There are around 350 offers are available for card holders, all for £10.
34. Apple Court Garden & Nursery
Apple Court Garden and Nursery is actually just outside of the New Forest, but absolutely worth including in this guide to things to do in the New Forest thanks to its tranquility and proximity. If you want a cup of tea and cake in the sun then this is the place to enjoy it. The Japanese Garden is filled with koi carp, Japanese maples and bamboo. While the rest of the garden has tropical plants, unusual horticulture and mature flowers, shrubs and trees from around the world.
You can also expect exotic, sub-tropical borders, grass borders, a fern walk, woodland borders, many day lilies, and other unusual plants too.
35. Hire a New Forest Classic Car
Surely this is one of the coolest things to do in the New Forest?
Hire a classic car from New Forest Classic Car Hire and you can enjoy a unique self drive experience across the New Forest. Cruising around the New Forest in a classic car sounds like an amazing thing to do on a summer’s night, especially as the sun’s setting. You can choose from an AK Cobra 427, a Jaguar E-Type Series 1 2+2 Coupe or an Austin Healey 3000 Mk III Convertible
Prices start from £150. If you’re looking for unusual things to do in the New Forest with your mum and dad – this is the one.
– Horse riding is one of the top attractions in the New Forest –
36. Go swimming
Leisure centres in the New Forest include Applemore, Ringwood, Lymington, New Milton and Totton. They’re all indoors, and they all have lanes if you want to do ‘proper’ swimming. Make sure to check each pool for their opening times before you go. Some of them have spas and saunas too.
There are quite a few hotels in the New Forest with a swimming pool too.
– The ponies are one of the main New Forest attractions –
37. New Forest Outdoor Centre
The New Forest Outdoor Centre is a great place for team building activities – perfect for stag and hen groups too. You can do axe throwing, rock climbing, fire craft skills and canoeing too.
I’ve never been but it all looks so much fun I’ve just spent over half an hour looking round their site. I want to go and play!
38. Take a wagon ride in Burley
Burley is one of the New Forest’s prettiest villages, and the most unique way to see it is with Burley Wagon Rides. You can take a 20-minute ride on a horse-drawn wagon and go on a joyful little trot around the nearby woodland.
In Burley you can also get an afternoon tea to round off the day. You’ll find afternoon teas are a ‘thing’ in the New Forest – available in every village.
– Of course, the main New Forest attraction is the actual New Forest. Take your time to wander around and enjoy. –
39. Take a powerboat in Lymington
Get your mates together and you can get out on a power boat for the day. For around £350 between up to ten of you, you can get the boat for yourself. Where you then take it is up to you – pack a picnic to really make the most of the day.
Of all the amazing attractions in the New Forest, cruising out on a powerboat is definitely up there!
40. Drink cider at New Forest Cider
And if all else fails, or you’ve completed the entire list, then visit the New Forest Cider Factory. Here you can sample the unpasteurised, real cider straight from the barrels in the pretty village of Burley.
The apples used come from their New Forest orchard and you can choose between dry, medium, sweet, Kingston Black and Perry as well as a selection of bottled ciders including their handcrafted Cider Bouche and popular Champagne method Cider.
And if you’re reeeeeally interested in cider production then check their website regularly for details of their annual steam pressing weekend and you can watch the cider being pressed in the traditional way.
They also offer accommodation if you’re really planning on getting on it.
Things to do in the New Forest
It’s hard to find secret places in the New Forest, as it’s so open and available to visit. My top tip for finding New Forest hidden gems would be to go somewhere that’s a little more difficult to get to. If there’s a car park and toilets, and it’s a sunny day, you can guarantee it’ll be busy. Go off piste and see what you find!
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!
ROUND UP OF FUN NEW FOREST ACTIVITIES
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