The New Forest is a beautiful region in Southern England that is best known for its free-roaming ponies, cows, deer, pigs and donkeys. It is one of the largest unenclosed areas of pasture land, heathland and forest in the country. I visited in autumn and experienced rich golden colours, crisp mornings and cosy pubs. If you’re looking for a quintessentially British escape that is only a short drive from London, look no further. Here are seven things to see and do in the New Forest.
Stay In Quaint Accommodation
The New Forest is home to some beautiful country house hotels such as Lime Wood, Burley Manor and The Pig. However, if you want a more affordable spot then I recommend checking out the Thatched Cottage Hotel, complete with its own gin bar, or browsing the abundance of options on Airbnb. We stayed in cosy converted stables in the heart of Burley village.
Enjoy Hearty British Food
The New Forest is jam-packed with pubs. I am surprised my blood didn’t turn into gravy after all my hearty meals there! If you’re looking for a good Sunday Roast then try the New Forest Inn, The Fox & Hounds or the Huntsman (which all have vegan options). There are some upmarket spots such as The Pig, but you need to book well in advance. If you’re seeking a purely plant-based destination then Offbeet is highly recommended.
Visit The Coast
The New Forest is home to a gorgeous coastline, perfect for a picturesque walk or a cold water dip. Check out these seaside spots.
- Lymington. This colourful coastal town has a popular Saturday street market, offers boat trips to the nearby Isle of Wight and has access to numerous walking trails such as the Solent Way footpath.
- Southbourne Beach. Enjoy a scenic coastal walk around Hengistbury Head and have a dip in the sea.
- Mildford on Sea. If you want more of a village vibe, head to Milford on Sea for cafes, castles and coastal walking routes.
Go Wildlife Spotting
You can’t miss the abundance of free-roaming wildlife in the New Forest. There are literally hundreds of ponies, donkeys, cattle and sheep. The animals belong to a community called “commoners” who have the right to turn their livestock out onto open forest. If you visit in autumn you can see pigs which are released to eat the acorns on the forest floor – a personal highlight! Please remember that they are not domesticated or tamed, so drive slowly and give them the space and respect they deserve.
Visit The Villages
The New Forest is home to numerous villages which are packed with independent shops and cafes. They are a great base from which to explore on foot, as most of them have paths leading directly out into the forest. Here are a few personal favourites:
- Burley. A small village with a famous history of witchcraft as well as a popular fudge shop. Head to The Cider Pantry for “doorstop” bread sandwiches and delicious coffee.
- Lyndhurst. Otherwise known as the capital of the New Forest, this popular town is the heart of the national park. Check out Forest Edge Roasters for great coffee and Boltons Bench for a seat with a view.
- Brokenhurst. Voted “Britain’s most beautiful place to live” this village is a great spot to pick up ebikes and explore the surrounding area. It also has a popular wild swimming spot on the Lymington River – “Brockenhurst Beach”.
- Beaulieu. A picturesque village which is a great place for a riverside walk. Pop into Beaulieu Abbey, Palace House and Exbury Gardens.
The New Forest is an ideal destination for long country hikes, so make sure you bring your walking boots and waterproofs (this is England after all!). I recommend browsing AllTrails to find the right route for you, but here are some well trodden trails you can try:
- Lyndhurst Hill to Swan Green Circular. An easy 10.5km. Click here.
- Brockenhurst & The Tall Trees Trail. An easy to moderate 15km. Click here.
- Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary. An easy family friendly 2.7km. Click here.
- Burley Village & Long Pond Circular. An easy 7.4km. Click here.
- Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. An easy 4km. Click here.
- Lymington Circular Walk. An easy 9km. Click here.
And If It Rains?
Go to the New Forest Aqua Park, complete with an inflatable assault course! It looks SO much fun and would be a great group activity!
If you liked this post, check out my other UK guides.