10 of the best places to stay in the New Forest

Days out

Posted by Ruth on 6th November 2020

New Forest

The New Forest is a fantastic destination for a UK holiday, offering a wonderful combination of coast and countryside. Wander through heather-strewn moorland and spot wild ponies, spend a day in coastal villages where smugglers once stashed their swag, or visit thriving towns for a hit of culture.

There are so many great places to stay in the New Forest that it can be hard to know where to begin. Whether you’re looking for the best villages in the New Forest for a family holiday, planning a romantic getaway in a bolthole surrounded by nature or you simply want to take it all in on a short break, we’ve rounded up the 10 best places to visit.

And if you want to find your perfect place to stay to explore all this and more, just click the button below to view our full collection of fantastic New Forest cottages.

New Forest cottages


Lyndhurst: best for literary lovers

Known as the capital of the New Forest, Lyndhurst is a great place to start if you’re wondering where to stay in the New Forest. The village has a traditional high street, charming thatched cottages and a long association with the royal family.

It also has strong literary connections making it a great place to visit for bibliophiles. Lyndhurst was where Alice Pleasance Liddell, the girl who inspired ‘Alice’ in Lewis Carroll’s novels, once lived and she is buried in the local church. Nearby is the resting place of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was buried alongside his wife at Minstead Churchyard.

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Highcliffe-on-Sea: best for sun seekers

On the southern fringes of the New Forest National Park, Highcliffe-on-Sea is one of the best places to stay in the New Forest if you’re looking for a coastal escape. It’s been popular since the Victorian times as a resort due to its mild climate and low rainfall, meaning it’s perfect for a beach holiday.

Highcliffe boasts a beautiful shingle beach where you can see across to the Isle of Wight on a clear day. The calm, blue sea, large beach and seasonal lifeguard presence makes it popular with families in the summer, and it’s a brilliant place to walk dogs in the winter. Highcliffe is also famous for its 1830s castle which stands proud on a cliff just above the beach.

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Ringwood: best for walkers

Known as the western gateway to the New Forest, Ringwood is one of the best places to stay for exploring everything the national park has to offer. It has been the main market town in the New Forest since the 13th century and still has a thriving weekly street market, as well as a wide range of places to eat and drink.

On the River Avon, there are plenty of waterside walks to enjoy. You can also follow the Avon Valley Path which runs for 34 miles from Salisbury to Christchurch Priory. From Ringwood, you can walk towards Fordingbridge or Sopley; both will take a good few hours and allow you to see some beautiful New Forest scenery along the way.

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Milford-on-Sea: best for history lovers

Another of our favourite New Forest destinations on the coast, Milford-on-Sea borders the Solent and has a traditional charm, with a village green and lovely Victorian architecture. Many people visit for the beach which has brightly coloured beach huts and views across to the Isle of Wight.

However, Milford-on-Sea is historically important too. The village green was once the site of an 18th-century battle between smugglers and civilians, dubbed the Battle of Milford Green. And Milford is also home to Hurst Castle, a Tudor fortress built by Henry VIII to protect the Solent. You can walk to the castle, go via ferry or take to the water on a paddleboard!

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Brockenhurst: best for a quintessential holiday

One of the prettiest villages in the New Forest, Brockenhurst was voted ‘Britain’s Most Beautiful Place to Live’ by a national estate agent. It should be top of your list if you want to enjoy a classic New Forest holiday, as the village boasts a charming high street, is surrounded by beautiful countryside and often has ponies, donkeys and deer roaming the streets.

There are plenty of cycling trails around the village which take you through the beautiful scenery of the national park, or you could swap two wheels for four hooves and explore the area on horseback. Along the way, you may see Bronze Age burial mounds called tumuli through the heathland and woodland.

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Beaulieu: best for taking a step back in time

One of the most popular New Forest villages, Beaulieu sits at the head of the River Beaulieu and has some idyllic scenery. It’s most famous as being the site of the Beaulieu Estate, which is home to many attractions including the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu Abbey and the World of Top Gear.

While Beaulieu offers up a classic New Forest landscape, we’d say it’s best suited for those who want to appreciate how things used to be. Whether you want to learn about World War II, follow the footsteps of medieval monks or admire a vintage car, this is the place to do it. When you’re finished taking a trip down memory lane, there are plenty of places to soak up the halcyon atmosphere, including Buckler’s Hard where you might spot a kingfisher or two.

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Burley: best for smugglers and spooks

Burley is another village with classic New Forest charm – picture thatched cottages, wild ponies and plenty of tea rooms to dip in and out of. But Burley isn’t quite like any other of the New Forest villages – in fact, it has quite a colourful past.

Like many places in the New Forest, Burley has an association with smugglers. This part of its history was discovered when a hidden cellar filled with pistols and swag was discovered at the 16th-century Queen’s Head pub. However, it is also famous for witchcraft; a ‘white’ witch once called Burley home and used to stroll around with her pet jackdaw. Burley is also supposedly home to a dragon’s lair – see if you can discover it for yourself at Burley Beacon.

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Fordingbridge: best for a countryside holiday

Nestled between the national park and the Cranbourne Chase AONB, Fordingbridge is one of the best New Forest towns for a countryside break. You can spend your days walking in nature, spotting wildlife and soaking up the scenery.

Families will enjoy the nature walks at Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve or playing in the gardens at Fordingbridge Riverside Park. The Avon Valley Path also runs through the town and is a must for keen walkers. And if you’ve got some energy to burn, why not take on the inflatable obstacle course at the New Forest Water Park?

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Winchester: best for culture

Culture vultures should make a beeline for Winchester, the county town of Hampshire. While technically not within the national park boundary, it’s only a short drive away and well worth visiting for a day filled with beautiful architecture, delicious food and drink and tales of years gone by.

As well its world-famous, gothic cathedral, other popular attractions include Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, the Military Quarter and the Grade I-listed Hospital of St Cross. A short drive outside Winchester is Jane Austen’s House, where the author wrote and published all of her most well-known works.

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Lymington: best for taking to the water

If you’re searching for nice places in the New Forest, they don’t come much nicer than Lymington. Combining beautiful Victorian and Georgian architecture with the laidback charm of a coastal town, Lymington has plenty to do on a holiday in the New Forest.

This ancient seaport is the perfect place to visit if you want to spend time in or on the water, with plenty of options for both. Boasting three marinas, you can take a boat trip out into the Solent and even across to the Isle of Wight. If you haven’t got your sea legs, take a dip in the Lymington Sea Water Baths instead. Or head out on the Solent Way Walk which runs for the length of the famous strait and offers some wonderful waterside views from dry land.

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Stay with us in the New Forest

There is so much to explore on a holiday to the New Forest; immerse yourself in everything this wonderful national park has to offer by staying in one of our New Forest holiday cottages. From historic homes surrounded by heathland to cosy cottages in the countryside, we have a wide range of holiday cottages in the New Forest to choose from. Take your pick by clicking the button below.

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.