10 Best Things To Do In The New Forest
Our family fell head over heels in love with the New Forest the first time we visited and we would certainly consider it as somewhere to live in the future. Rugged heathland, thick forests and rolling hills make the New Forest somewhere to put on your bucket list no matter where you’re from. Here are our top recommended things to do in the New Forest to tick off your UK bucket list:
*After you discover these New Forest must-sees, check out these top rated travel toys to make road trips and flights with small children a breeze!*
- 1 Find The Wild New Forest ponies
- 2 Visit A Traditional English Market (Lymington Market)
- 3 Enjoy A New Forest Walk
- 4 The New Forest Wildlife Park
- 5 The New Forest Reptile Centre
- 6 Discover Hengistbury Head ‘Secret Island’
- 7 Visit Exbury Gardens
- 8 Visit Paulton’s Park
- 9 New Forest Aqua Park
- 10 Visit Hurst Castle
Find The Wild New Forest ponies
Most people visiting the area want to know where to see New Forest ponies, and the short answer is- everywhere. As you begin to drive into the New Forest you can spot groups of New Forest horses and ponies grazing (they are easily spotted in the sparse heathland and hills) and they even wander through the villages, often stopping in the middle of the road to hold up drivers! When you are lucky enough to spot some New Forest ponies please do not try to approach them or feed them as they are wild animals- admire their beauty from a safe distance!
Visit A Traditional English Market (Lymington Market)
Get the quaint feel of a proper English market at the one held every Saturday in Lymington. Held from 8am until late in Lymington High Street, this market has incredibly been running since the 13th century! Fresh local flowers, delicious farm produce and artisan creations are all available at Lymington Market- the perfect place to pick up a genuine local souvenir of your time in the New Forest.
Enjoy A New Forest Walk
The amazing scenery is perfect for some budget-friendly (free!) New Forest walks. We loved taking the kids through the woodland in the New Forest National Park and through fields of ponies, spotting loads of different types of wildlife and relaxing with a picnic. Here are several walks that are great for taking in the best of the New Forest countryside, either with children (our three kids enjoyed the Wilverley Inclosure route) or without!
The New Forest Wildlife Park
A unique and excellent park that rescues and rehabilitates native wildlife such as owls, deer and otters. The New Forest Wildlife Park costs £12.50 per adult and £9 per child to visit (£38 for a family ticket) and is home to some incredible British animals and birds. Visitors can see the residents being fed, from wolves to otters, and learn about the animals during the keeper talks. There is also an adventure playground, a mini playground for younger children, a Forest Kitchen cafe/restaurant and a gift shop.
The New Forest Reptile Centre
This RSPB-run outdoor centre was a real gem of a discovery during our visit to the New Forest with our children. There are several excellent enclosures built for native wildlife such as the British adder (the only venomous snake) and slow worm. There is a bird-nest camera so visitors can see inside a bird of prey’s nest, and plenty of hands-on exhibits from nature such as shedded snake skin, shed deer antlers, abandoned birds’ nests etc. We signed up as members of the RSPB while we were there and our membership is going to make a great addition to our homeschooling!
Discover Hengistbury Head ‘Secret Island’
Take a small ferry over from the seaside town of Mudeford to the stunning beach of Hengistbury Head. The headland in the English Channel has a white-sand beach that could easily be swiped from a Caribbean island and it is fringed with colourful quintessentially British beach huts. There’s a good restaurant, cafe and ice-cream shop as well as a stall for picking up buckets and spades etc. Dogs are welcome on leads year-round and from Hengistbury Head you can enjoy panoramic views of Christchurch harbour, Bournemouth bay and across to the famous Isle of Wight.
Visit Exbury Gardens
This world-famous gardens belonging to the Rothschild family spans over 200 acres of stunning floral blooms, rare trees, shrubs and woodland. A miniature steam railway is the perfect way to get around the grounds, and there is an adventure playground and cafe to make a day out at Exbury Gardens relaxing for the whole family.
Visit Paulton’s Park
Voted the #1 best theme park in the UK, Paulton’s Park is ideal for taking a break from the New Forest’s greenery and wilderness. If you have little ones take them to Peppa Pig World located inside Paulton’s Park theme park, or simply head to the big rides and have a great day on the rollercoasters.
New Forest Aqua Park
Taking outdoor fun to a whole other level, the New Forest Aqua Park boasts over 4000 square metres of inflatable obstacle course floating on a freshwater lake. The course has two trampolines, slides, hurdles, a climbing wall, monkey bars and more! Visitors can also book kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and wake boarding here, and there is even a campsite for those looking for more than one day of adventures! A 60 minute session on the obstacle course is £15 per person and can be booked here.
Visit Hurst Castle
Walk in the shoes of Henry VIII as you discover his ancient fortress that was built to protect against coastal invasions. Explore the tower where Charles I was said to be kept prisoner in 1648 and get an insight into the living conditions of soldiers throughout time, right up until the second world war. The cafe is open seven days a week and there is an outdoor picnic area with benches for sunny days. Dogs are welcome to visit the castle with you as long as they are kept on a lead, and if you fancy viewing Hurst Castle from a different angle you can sign up for a two-hour paddle boarding or kayaking tour of the nearby coast, including lunch or afternoon tea!
I hope this post has given you plenty of inspiration for discovering one of Britain’s most beautiful areas. We are fortunate enough to live just two hours from the New Forest and we can’t recommend it highly enough for travelling solo, as a couple or with a family- it has plenty for everyone! During your time in the UK be sure to visit the north of England too for more natural beauty and great attractions- check out my friend Louis’ blog on 23 top things to do in York on the cheap!
To see more of our travel adventures click here.