7 New Forest activities for lovers of the outdoors

Days out, Activity, Nature

Posted by Ruth on 20th February 2023

New Forest activities

With 220 square miles of national parkland and 26 miles of coastline, the New Forest is a brilliant destination if you like getting out and about in the great outdoors.

With so many New Forest activities to choose from, you can try something new each day – from New Forest water sports such as kayaking, paddleboarding and wild swimming to more sedate pursuits such as walking and horse riding. Whichever of the New Forest National Park activities you choose, you can immerse yourself in the beautiful and varied landscapes, see wild ponies up close and boost your well-being too.

To help you plan your next action-packed holiday, we’ve rounded up seven of the best New Forest activities; whether you’re looking for adrenaline activities in Hampshire or are searching for the perfect New Forest activity centre to find your new favourite hobby, find inspiration with our blog. And if you’re looking for a New Forest cottage where you can put your feet up after a fun day out, simply click the button below to view our full collection.  

New Forest cottages

Cycling in the New Forest

New Forest bike trails

Cycling is one of the best activities to do in the New Forest as there are so many gentle, off-road trails to get out on and explore. The national park boasts over 100 cycling routes that will allow you to explore the varied landscapes of the area, including flowering heathland, enchanting woodland and meandering coastline.

Brockenhurst is one of the best places to begin your New Forest cycling adventure, as there are so many off-road routes beginning from the town. You can cycle to Lyndhurst, set off on the Hawkhill Trail to Beaulieu or follow the old railway line to Burley. Plus, there is a great cycle hire centre in the town too, if you don’t fancy bringing your bikes on holiday.

Stay nearby: Brookley Cottage, Brockenhurst | sleeps 6

Other places to try

Lepe Country Park

Wild swimming in the New Forest

With both the glorious coast and a network of rivers and waterways, there are plenty of places that are perfect for wild swimming in the New Forest. Of course, before you take a dip, it’s important to suss out the area in which you’ll be swimming, bring a friend with you, and know what to do if you get into difficulty. That aside, wild swimming is a brilliant way to connect with nature and it has even been proven to improve your mental health too.

We’d recommend the beach at Lepe Country Park for a wild swim; the water quality is consistently rated as good and there’s a little kiosk selling hot drinks if you need something to warm you up afterwards.

Stay nearby: Danny’s Cottage, Beaulieu Heath | sleeps 2

Paddleboarding in the New Forest

New Forest paddleboarding

If you don’t fancy getting (that) wet, you can also explore the delightful waterways of the New Forest atop a stand-up paddleboard (SUP). This giant surfboard propelled by a paddle allows you to cruise placidly along the rivers and coastline at your leisure, taking in the sights and sounds of nature around you. In fact, we love it so much that we included it on our list of best water sports to try.

Milford-on-Sea is one of the best places to try paddleboarding in the New Forest. The New Forest Paddle Sport Co. runs experiences, lessons and fitness classes all atop a SUP. Tour the many New Forest villages nearby, enjoy a sunset picnic or even SUP with your dog!

Stay nearby: Driftwood Cottage - Milford-on-Sea, Milford-on-Sea | sleeps 2

Kayaking in the New Forest

Kayaking in the New Forest

Another great New Forest outdoor activity is kayaking - explore the serene waterways of the region and soak in the beautiful scenery as you go. This watercraft allows you to poke about in the creeks that are usually hidden from view, and explore a whole new side of the New Forest landscape. Plus, with so many waterside pubs in the New Forest, a kayak tour puts a new spin on a pub crawl!

We think the best place to kayak in the New Forest is Beaulieu. New Forest Activities has exclusive rights to the private Beaulieu River here and offers guided tours of the waterways in this breathtaking area of the national park.

Stay nearby: The Saddlery, Beaulieu | sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Mountain biking in the New Forest

New Forest mountain biking

We already know that the New Forest is a great place to explore on two wheels, but with such a variety of landscapes and terrain, it’s no surprise it’s already a great location for mountain biking. However, off-road cycling is only permitted on certain routes in the New Forest so it’s best to check before you go.

If you’re keen to get your adrenaline pumping by tearing through woodland and up and down hills, Ringwood is a great place to start. There are many purpose-built mountain bike trails in Moors Valley Country Park, just outside Ringwood, ranging from those suitable for beginners to some trickier track sections.

Stay nearby: Pembrey House, Ringwood | sleeps 8

Horse riding in the New Forest

Horse riding in the New Forest

The New Forest is famous for its wild ponies, but you’d have a hard job getting a saddle on one of them! Instead, head to one of the many riding stables in the national park for a great New Forest activity during your holiday. Saddle up and explore the beautiful scenery on horseback, on some of the most scenic bridleways anywhere in the UK.

Brockenhurst has two stables to choose from – Brockenhurst Riding Stables and Ford Farm Stables – both offering lessons and hacks directly into the national park, making it a great place to base yourself if you want a holiday on horseback. Both also offer livery if you want your horse to come along for a change of scenery too!

Stay nearby: Littlewell, Brockenhurst | sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Alpaca walking in the New Forest

Alpaca walking in the New Forest

One of the more unusual activities to do in the New Forest is alpaca walking. You can meet these comical creatures and get to know a bit more about them before taking them on a gentle stroll through the beautiful national park landscape. It’s an activity children and adults alike will love, and one that’s good for both your physical and mental health too.

One of the places you can go alpaca walking in the New Forest is Slowhayes Alpacas in Marchwood. The farm’s herd of Suri alpacas are gentle and friendly; take them for a walk, enjoy the natural environment and then tuck into an afternoon tea afterwards!

Stay nearby: The Coach House Cottage, Ashurst | sleeps 4 + 1 dog

Activity centres in the New Forest

Activity centres in the New Forest

There's no end of fantastic activities throughout the New Forest for you to discover - but for a whole lot of choice in one place, head to a New Forest activity centre. Several activity centres can be found throughout the New Forest, all offering a range of experiences to make your break extra memorable. 

New Forest Activities is one of our top picks as they offer more traditional activities including kayaking, cycle hire and a ropes course, and more unusual offerings that include bushcraft, archery and laser tag!

Stay nearby: Beaulieu House, Beaulieu | sleeps 8 + 1 dog 

Stay with us in the New Forest

If you’re looking for a holiday where you can spend your days breathing in the fresh air, exploring charming towns and villages, and getting active surrounded by some breathtaking landscapes, the New Forest could be your ideal destination. Take a look at our collection of New Forest cottages by clicking the button below.

New Forest cottages

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.