The New Forest National Park

The New Forest National Park

Wildflower glades, ancient woodland, heather-coated heath, wild moors, and salt-kissed coastline make up the stunning New Forest National Park. Once the Royal hunting grounds of William the Conqueror, this enchanting realm in Hampshire is today a serene sanctuary where fairytale dreams are brought to life. Fall in love with its otherworldly landscapes and lose yourself to its wealth of attractions, from stunning historic buildings to woodlands graced with New Forest ponies.

If you can’t wait to curate your Hampshire sojourn, uncover the most magical attractions waiting to be enjoyed throughout the year.

Places to Visit

Of the many incredible places to visit in Hampshire, the New Forest boasts an awe-inspiring collection. Wander through the quaint villages of Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, Burley, Fordingbridge and Lyndhurst to find cosy tearooms, antique shops and award-winning pubs. Or, head into its forested reaches to journey through the centuries and discover Bronze Age barrows, historic country houses and magical museums. From gardens to galleries, here are some of the best places to visit in the New Forest.

Highcliffe Castle

A view of Highcliffe Castle in Dorset on the fringes of the New Forest National Park

Just beyond the fringes of the New Forest National Park lies Highcliffe Castle. A Gothic revival mansion perched on the Dorset cliffs, this historic castle is adored for its beautiful, restored interiors and sweeping gardens and grounds. Dating back to the nineteenth century, this Grade I listed home was built by the first Baron Stuart de Rothesay and embodies one of the finest surviving examples of Romantic and Picturesque architecture. Nearly lost to fire and left to ruin in the 1950s, it was brought back to life in the 1970s and today invites visitors to learn about its history, enjoy its green spaces, and relax in its welcoming tearooms.

Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary

Deer surrounded by bracken and purple heather in the New Forest National Park

The New Forest National Park is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and an EU Special Area of Conservation. Home to one of the UK’s largest remaining swathes of unenclosed pastureland and heathland and framed by ancient woodland, it is a magical place for a back-to-nature escape. As well as the beautiful New Forest ponies that can often be seen grazing between knotted trees, it is also famed for its enigmatic herds of resident deer. For the best chance to see them, wander pathways between towering Douglas firs at Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary and take a spot on the purpose-built viewing platform above a wildflower meadow.

National Motor Museum

A classic car parked outside the Bealieu National Motor Museum

To spin the wheels of time, head over to the National Motor Museum in the picturesque village of Beaulieu. One of Europe’s five leading motor museums, this esteemed attraction is wonderful for motoring enthusiasts, showcasing an inspiring collection of cars, motorcycles, and motoring memorabilia. See some of the world’s earliest motor carriages, classic saloons, record-breaking racing cars, and wartime scooters and explore a 1930s car garage. Just three miles down the road, you can also visit Buckler’s Hard, an eighteenth-century shipbuilding village and maritime museum on the banks of the Beaulieu River.

Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway

Botanical borders in Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway in the New Forest National Park

Created by the de Rothschild family, Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway on the Beaulieu River is an unmissable attraction for tranquillity seekers. Flourishing for over a century, the gardens cover more than two hundred acres of landscaped greenery and are woven with a network of trails for sun-dappled strolls. Look out for seasonal highlights that evolve throughout the year, from springtime rhododendrons and azaleas to autumnal acers and nyssa. For a unique way to explore, you can also take a memorable journey on the gardens’ narrow-gauge steam railway. Departing from a replica Victorian station, the train trundles along tracks past dragonfly ponds, summer gardens and towering trees for spellbinding viewing.

New Forest Wildlife Park

A beautiful wolf at the New Forest Wildlife Park

Should you be seeking further immersion in nature, why not uncover some of the New Forest’s wildest residents? The perfect destination for all generations, the family-run New Forest Wildlife Park promises extraordinary encounters with the natural world. A wildlife and conservation park, it is involved in breeding local and international conservation programmes and also works with local rescues, vets and police to protect native and endangered species. Purchase tickets and visit some of the heart-capturing resident animals, such as Scottish wildcat, otters, wallabies and wild boar.

Hurst Castle

The outer walls of Hurst Castle lapped by the sea at high tide in Hampshire

Perched on a sea-kissed shingle peninsula in the Needles Passage, Hurst Castle resides halfway between the mainland and the Isle of Wight. Looked after by English Heritage, it was originally built under the command of Henry VIII as part of a long string of coastal defences. One of the most advanced artillery fortresses of its time, the castle was used as a prison in the seventeenth century. Later, it played an instrumental defensive role in the Napoleonic Wars through to the Second World War. Today, it presents a characterful destination to enjoy seaside strolls, savour the views and indulge in picnics overlooking the Solent.

Things to Do

Whether you are looking forward to peaceful pursuits or exhilarating escapades, the New Forest promises a captivating variety of things to do within its verdant swathes. From soul-soothing walks through evergreen pines to scintillating sailing adventures on the Solent, reveries await at every turn.

Wildlife Watch

Beautiful New Forest ponies running through heathland in the New Forest

A Special Site of Scientific Interest, Special Protection Area, Special Area of Conservation, and a Ramsar site, the New Forest National Park is not only one of the most important conservation areas in the UK, but Europe too. Reaching over two hundred square miles, it is home to vast tracts of ancient woodland, rugged heathland, halcyon river valleys and coastal swathes that provide sanctuary for all sorts of wildlife. Explore the park’s country and coastalscapes to glimpse some of the magical species meandering through its wild spaces, from wild ponies to speckled fallow deer to pine marten. For a further introduction, you can also visit Forest Falconry to meet and fly some of the beautiful resident raptors who reside amongst the trees.


Mist-shrouded countryside in the New Forest National Park

For an immersive experience to savour at your own pace, there are countless walks that lead you through the New Forest’s woodland and heath. A great family-friendly walk, the Bolderwood Deer Watch Trail provides one of the best opportunities to see deer in their natural environment. Meanwhile, the one-and-a-half-mile Blackwood Tall Tree Trail leads you past towering redwoods and some of the oldest Douglas fir trees in Britain. For oceanside forays, the five-mile Milford on Sea loop showcases the park’s coastal gems. Or, for something a little different, Arniss Equestrian offers heavenly hacks through the trees.


A pony grazing beside the trees of Rhinefield Ornamental Drive in the New Forest

The New Forest National Park is renowned for its wilderness landscapes, decorated with more than a thousand pools, dozens of rivers, and hundreds of ancient trees – some of which are over a thousand years old. To pick up the pace and cruise past some of the highlights, you can make the most of the New Forest’s 140 miles of car-free cycle routes, just perfect for cyclists of all abilities. Whether you would like to take your own bike or hire one from operators such as New Forest Cycle Hire, you can lose yourself to the spirit of adventure. Particularly alluring, the Woodland Explorer Food Trail boasts over twenty miles of cycle paths, along with plenty of culinary pitstops en route.


Boats moored on the Beaulieu River

The New Forest is intertwined with countless rivers, streams, creeks and tributaries, each winding their way on a rolling journey toward Southampton Water and the Solent. One of the most spellbinding ways to while away the hours, canoeing trips can be enjoyed along the forest’s tree-lined channels. To safely guide you, New Forest Activities organises unique kayaking and canoeing tours of the New Forest’s waterways and boasts exclusive rights to the privately-owned Beaulieu River. Settle into one of their dog-friendly Canadian-style canoes and paddle through awe-inspiring riverscapes, exploring hidden creeks, uncovering forgotten corners, and enjoying a different perspective of the park.


Boats moored in at the mouth of the Beaulieu River

The New Forest National Park is kissed on one side by the sea, overlooking the Solent and the English Channel beyond. One of the best places in the country for sailing enthusiasts, this forested realm is a magnet for seasoned sailors and new yachters learning the ropes alike. For your own oceanside escape, try your hand at some of the boating activities on offer. At New Forest Water Park near Fordingbridge, heart-racing activities such as wakeboarding, banana boating and speed boating can all be relished on a private lake, as well as leisurely kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. For more traditional boating, Escape Yachting in Lymington provides skippered yacht charter and divine sailing days on the Solent for dreamlike sojourns on a sapphire sea.  

Classic Car Hire

A beautiful Morgan classic car parked in the sunshine in the New Forest

For nostalgic charm, there’s nothing more thrilling than a road trip in a classic car. If you are looking to infuse timeless romance in your New Forest retreat, why not find your vehicle of dreams? Offering bewitching self-drive experiences, the family-run New Forest Classic Hire proposes days to remember. Peruse the portfolio of classic cars and anticipate the excitement of softly winding beside heather-strewn heathland and beneath ancient woodland canopies as sunlight washes the road. From coastal cruises to moorland spins, travel in style behind the wheel of your favourite classic car.

Places to Eat and Drink

Covering more than two hundred square miles of countryside and coast, the New Forest National Park is renowned for its enchanting landscapes. Making it even more enticing, nestled within its forested pockets and heathland idylls are a collection of award-winning eateries offering the best of local cuisine. Discover the best venues and menus in the New Forest to savour the finest foodie moments.

Hartnett Holder & Co

Hartnett Holder & Co nestled within the Limewood Hotel in Hampshire

Hartnett Holder & Co on Beaulieu Road near Lyndhurst proposes a refined yet laidback setting for New Forest feasts. Recommended by the Michelin Guide and bestowed with three AA Rosettes, this atmospheric and elegantly stylish restaurant resides within a country mansion and proposes Italian-inspired meals to dream about. Take a seat in the light-filled dining room and bask in the glorious views of manicured grounds, relaxing as dishes are served by attentive staff and divine aromas and the sound of convivial chatter blend in the air.

Chewton Glen

A colourful repast served at Chewton Glen in Hampshire

Promising delicious delights for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, Chewton Glen is a beloved New Forest highlight. An eighteenth-century country house within 130 acres of estate, it promises an exclusive dining experience for those seeking culinary satiation. Relish flavourful repasts in the beautiful dining room led by Executive Head Chef, Luke Matthews, or in The Kitchen by James Martin. Crafted from ingredients sourced from local suppliers and Chewton’s own kitchen garden, the freshest flavours ensue. For something a little different, you can also visit The Kitchen Cookery School at Chewton for gastronomical inspiration.

Elderflower Restaurant

A sweetly curated dessert served at Elderflower Restaurant

Secure a reservation at the husband-and-wife-run Elderflower Restaurant for epicurean delectation. Residing on the edge of the New Forest National Park in Lymington, this well-established restaurant first opened in 2014 and is recommended by the Michelin guide for its creative modern dishes. Wander from the quayside and head inside, ready to peruse the multi-course tasting and sharing menus of contemporary British cuisine. Each dish is crafted with local, seasonal produce, and can be perfectly paired with a selection of beverages.

The Pig

The colourful, bright interiors of The Pig restaurant in Brockenhurst

Located in beautiful Brockenhurst, the award-winning The Pig restaurant prides itself on serving the freshest British garden food. With a micro-seasonal approach and a twenty-five-mile commitment to food procurement, the kitchen’s talented team sources around eighty percent of its ingredients from the New Forest and Hampshire. Book a table in advance within the dining room or private Green Room and enjoy its pasture-to-plate menus.

The Terrace Restaurant at The Montagu Arms

A delicious afternoon tea served at the Terrace Restaurant in Hampshire

The three AA Rosette Terrace Restaurant offers modern British menus crafted in tandem with the seasons and composed of local ingredients. As perfect for leisurely lunches and luxurious afternoon teas as romantic dinner dates, it sets an idyllic backdrop for fine dining experiences. On the menu, look forward to expertly prepared meals of classic favourites and experimental innovations. For hearty replenishment, you can also savour delicious Sunday roasts.

Seeking a fairytale retreat? Take a look at our collection of luxury cottages in the New Forest.

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