Things to do in the New Forest
It doesn’t matter if you are on a day trip, short break, or a longer holiday, there is no shortage of things to do in the New Forest. From museums and historic houses, to theme parks, outdoor activities and many outstanding attractions in between. Here are some ideas to help you plan a visit:
New Forest Ponies
If you are looking for some living history, then you can go wrong with a visit to the New Forest, to see one of the main attractions- the New Forest Ponies. They have been roaming the land there for 2000 years. They are what is known as ‘commoner stock’, so although they may seem like wild ponies, they are in fact owned by local people. The ponies are allowed to roam freely across the national park thanks to local land laws.
Horse Riding, Walking, and Cycling
A visit to the New Forest isn’t just about viewing the local animal life; there are plenty of opportunities to get active as well. Horse riding is available at a number of local stables, and you can book lessons whether you are a beginner or more experienced rider. There are also opportunities to book a hack through the forest, so you can stay active, and see a great deal of the wildlife and scenery this stunning part of the country has to offer as well.
If you don’t fancy exploring the National Park on horseback, then maybe you could view the habitats and wildlife of the 193,000 acres of heath and woodland on foot. There are maps and walking guides available if you want to put together your own walking party, or you can join a guided walk. These are run by various different individuals and companies, all with experience and knowledge of the park, and of leading tours. You could even book a walking holiday, or book a walk that takes a few detours to New Forest pubs, which will no doubt serve up plenty of local produce for you to try!
Unsurprisingly, the New Forest is also a haven for cyclists, so if you want to bring your own bike, or hire one when you arrive, you’ll be spoilt for choice with routes to explore. Arm yourself with a cycle map, and you’ll be able to plan journeys down off-road cycle paths, country roads, and cycle routes for those with a bit of stamina. There’s something to suit everyone, and the best bit is, cycling in the New Forest is available all year round.
New Forest Tour Bus
If you want to explore as much of the New Forest as possible, then the best way to do it is on the New Forest Tour Bus. The open top tour buses run on two different routes, passing through towns and villages, countryside, and coastline. You can find out about all the sights thanks to audio commentary, and the best bit is, you can hop on and off when you like. So you can explore some points of interest, or change routes all on the same ticket. Tours run throughout the summer and you can buy a 1, 2, or 5 day ticket.
New Forest Attractions
There are attractions to suit all interests in and around the New Forest National Park, including one of the UK’s leading attractions at Beaulieu. A great family day out is assured here, as you can explore Beaulieu Palace and Gardens, Beaulieu Abby and its exhibitions, and the ever popular Beaulieu Motor Museum. Staying with the theme of museums, you can find out more about the area at the New Forest Centre and Museum, or take a trip to Bucklers Hard and discover what life used to be like in a shipbuilding village in the 18th century.
Animals are a common theme in the New Forest, but it’s not all about ponies. If Beaulieu isn’t your thing, you can visit Marwell Wildlife Park, which has over 200 species of animals on site, or Liberty’s Owl, Raptor, and Reptile Centre. If you’re looking for something interactive to do with the children, then Longdown Activity Farm could be well worth a visit.
Away from the tourist attractions, there is plenty to see and do in the towns and villages in the National Park, and a year round events program as well. There are antique fairs and local carnivals, classic car events, country fairs, and the annual New Forest Festival. The festival is held in Brockenhurst, and you can expect local arts and crafts, New Forest produce, live music, and a host of activities for all the family.
Parks and Gardens
You can’t escape the outdoors for long in this part of the UK, so why not spend some time at one of the beautiful parks and gardens in the area. Moors Valley has an adventure course and play area, and there are large water gardens in Lymington, while Exbury Gardens offers 200 acres of horticulture and a steam railway.