20 unmissable days out in the New Forest

Days out, Activity

Posted by Kate W on 20th November 2020

20 days out for adventures in the New Forest

Wild and enchanting, the New Forest is a place filled to the brim with unique and unusual things to do and places to visit, with family activities, dog-friendly attractions and secret places throughout. 

Meet a host of animals from gentle ponies and donkeys to more tropical creatures at the wildlife park, discover a hill that’s said to hide a dragon and a knight of old, or get moving with activities in the New Forest like canoeing and kayaking.

Whether visiting in search of half-term activities to ensure the kids have a fun-filled break, or planning a getaway just for the adults, you’re sure to find a New Forest day out below with your name on it.

The New Forest is wonderfully central on the South Coast with plenty of good transport links. The trip from London to the New Forest is around 85 miles and if you decide to travel by train, it can take just 90 minutes to reach this fantastic holiday destination.

If you’re wondering what to do in the New Forest on your next getaway, we’ve got you covered. Read through our varied selection of things to do in the New Forest and begin putting together all you need for an unforgettable break.

New Forest cottages

Burley Wagon Rides

1. Burley Wagon Rides

During a New Forest day trip exploring this wild and wonderful landscape, be sure to book in for a Burley Wagon Ride. Meet the wagon at the coach park in the centre of ancient Burley village, and say hello to the handsome heavy horses who’ll take you on your trip down the road before you hop aboard. You’ll travel along a forest track and can unwind while soaking up the charm of Burley and the surrounding New Forest landscape.

Location: Burley

Prices: Adults £5, children £3

Opening times: Monday to Friday: 8am - 5pm, weekends: 8am - 7pm. The rides are open-air so do not run when it’s raining.

Stay nearby at: Bumble Bee Cottage, Burley | sleeps 4 and 2 dogs

New Forest Wildlife Park

2. New Forest Wildlife Park

Meet the animals that make their home at the New Forest Wildlife Park! If you’re searching for things to do in the New Forest for families, this is the place to go. From playful otters to majestic red deer, children will love seeing these wonderful creatures up close. Plan ahead to catch feeding time and listen to talks, walk among fluttering butterflies in the Tropical Butterfly House, and let little ones go wild themselves in the Adventure Playground. Refuel in The Forest Kitchen Restaurant and drop by the gift shop on the way out.

Location: Ashurst

Prices: Adults £12.50, children (3 to 16 years) £9.50

Opening times: Open all year 10.00am - 5.30pm in spring/summer and 10.00am - 4.30pm or dusk in autumn/winter.

Stay nearby at: The Coach House Cottage – Lyndhurst, Lyndhurst | sleeps 4 and 1 dog

The New Forest is a family-friendly holiday destination with outdoor beauty spots and exciting attractions for every generation. Find even more fantastic days out that you and the children will love in our guide to the best kids days out in the New Forest.

Exbury Gardens

3. Exbury Gardens

One of our favourite dog-friendly things to do and places to visit in the New Forest, Exbury Gardens is a beautiful attraction with a variety of flowering plants including large-leaved rhododendrons, classic camellia and delicate primulas seen throughout the year. Look out for the Burmese temple bell hanging from an oak tree, stroll down the exquisite Bridal Walk, and cross the Japanese Bridge to visit the Top Pond where carp and golden orfe swim. With a Winter Garden, Sundial Garden and Daffodil Meadow across 200 acres, this ancient estate has plenty to explore with your dog on a lead by our side.

Location: Exbury

Prices: Adults £8.80, children £3.30

Opening times: Open seven days a week, 10am - 4pm (or until dusk if earlier). Last entry to gardens 2.30pm.

Stay nearby at: Dukes Bath House – Beaulieu, Beaulieu | sleeps 2 and 1 dog

St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery

4. St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery

With detailed oil paintings in one room and ancient artefacts in the next, there’s a fantastically wide range of items and objects to investigate during a family day out in the New Forest at the St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery. They have constantly changing exhibitions on display and interactive exhibits with fun, hands-on activities for kids who like costumes for fancy dress and a replica pilot boat wheelhouse. If you’re thinking up things to do in the New Forest in the rain, this is an excellent place to go.

Location: Lymington

Prices: Adults £6.00, children £3.00

Opening times: Currently only open on Saturdays.

Stay nearby at: Little Moorings, Lymington | sleeps 5

If you expect a few showers during your trip, take a look through our list of things to do in the New Forest in the rain so you can enjoy your holiday no matter what mischief the weather is getting up to.

The New Forest Heritage Centre Museum

5. The New Forest Heritage Centre Museum

Another fantastic dog-friendly attraction in the New Forest and the perfect place to spend a rainy day in Lyndhurst, The New Forest Centre Museum holds a wealth of historical tales and curious displays. Peer through Alice in Wonderland’s Looking Glass or unravel the stories on the panels of the New Forest Embroidery. There are fun activities for children including an interactive Family Tree alongside trails and quizzes to complete, making it an ideal wet weather activity. This museum is free entry too!

Location: Lyndhurst

Prices: Free entry

Opening times: Open seven days a week from 10.30am to 4.30pm. Last entry to the museum is 30 minutes before closing.

Stay nearby at: Bench Cottage, Lyndhurst | sleeps 7 and 1 dog

New Forest Reptile Centre

6. New Forest Reptile Centre

The closest thing in Lyndhurst to a zoo, with hopping frogs and slithering serpents to capture the imagination of youngsters, the New Forest Reptile Centre is a great day out and a fun family place to visit in the New Forest. After meeting the residents of the centre, you can head out on a stroll or hop on your bike and follow a cycle trail through the surrounding woodland. There’s a picnic area where you can take a break to share nibbles, and live wildlife cameras so you might spot a lizard or toad hiding out in the forest too.

Location: Lyndhurst

Prices: There is no charge for parking but a donation of £3 per visit is encouraged.

Stay nearby at: Holmfield House, Lyndhurst | sleeps 7

Hatchet Pond

7. Hatchet Pond

One of the UK’s most important ponds for nature and wildlife, Hatchet Pond near Beaulieu is a unique place to visit in the New Forest and serene spot for getting close to nature. It’s the largest body of freshwater in the county and one of the most wildlife-rich too with a host of the rarest wetland plants and animal species lost to other parts of the UK. As a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area for Conservation, it’s in need of care by visitors as pollution and over-use has placed this habitat under threat. It is an important and exquisite habitat, so enjoy a gentle stroll through this beauty spot leaving nothing but footprints behind you.

Location: Beaulieu

Prices: Free entry

Opening times: Open all year  

Stay nearby at: Beaulieu River View, Beaulieu | sleeps 2

Bolton’s Bench

8. Bolton’s Bench

If you’re searching for secret places in the New Forest, this is a quiet and curious corner of the region to investigate. Bolton’s Bench is a knoll with a bench at the summit that encircles a giant yew tree in Lyndhurst, and people often visit to sit and soak in tranquil views of the surrounding landscape. However, it hides a secret. Legend tells that beneath Bolton’s Bench sleeps a dragon which formed the hill, and a noble knight whose yew-wood bow grew into the tree that stands over the landscape today. It's an intriguing New Forest point of interest for you to visit and charming spot for a walk with your dog.

Location: Lyndhurst

Prices: Free entry

Opening times: Open all year  

Stay nearby at: Beechen Apartment, Lyndhurst | sleeps 2

Wilverley Plain

9. Wilverley Plain

Pack a picnic and venture into Wilverley Enclosure for forest rambles and wildlife spotting among the branches. Wilverley Plain is next to the forest enclosure and is a grass and heathland home to ponies and important bird species. Wilverley oak is an iconic New Forest tree that blew down in a storm but has been propped up so it can continue to grow. Head to Wilverley Plain car park and unpack the bikes for cycle rides through this woodland and heathland; it’s a wonderful family-friendly place for New Forest half-term activities. Dogs are welcome to explore by your side and, with plenty of sticks for chasing, they’ll have a great time in this charming outdoor space.

Location: Burley   

Prices: Free entry

Opening times: Open all year  

Stay nearby at: Laurel Bank, Sway | sleeps 4 and 3 dogs

Ashurst to Lyndhurst Walk

10. Ashurst to Lyndhurst Walk

Stretch your legs with a 14-mile circular walk between the characterful New Forest villages of Ashurst and Lyndhurst. Whether you’re on a walking holiday in the New Forest or planning a family day out during your half-term retreat, it’s a great choice for open views of this enchanting landscape. Look out for New Forest ponies and deer as you walk this loop passing through woodland, long grassy trails, and flat marshy fields. It’s a cycle route too, so hop on two wheels and let the wind whistle past as you ride your way along this trail.

Location: Ashurst

Prices: Free

Opening times: Open all year

Stay nearby at: The Coach House Cottage – Lyndhurst, Lyndhurst | sleeps 4 and 1 dog

Whitefield Moor

11. Whitefield Moor

For a shorter circular loop, head to Whitefield Moor and follow this relaxed 1-mile walk through an enchanting space bursting with wildlife and pretty scenery. You’ll pass by the winding stream of Ober Water, heathland with gorse and bog, grassland and woodland too. Take your four-legged best friend along for a dog walk, bring the camera and enjoy photographing the delightful surroundings, or let the children play in the forest. Even the Whitefield Moor Car Park enjoys serene views so you can sit by your car to snack on a picnic after your rural ramble.

Location: Brockenhurst

Prices: Free entry

Opening times: Open all year  

Stay nearby at: Commoners Upper Loft, Brockenhurst | sleeps 2 and 1 dog

Canoeing on the Beaulieu River

12. Canoeing on the Beaulieu River

Take a ‘Beaulieu River Tour’, enjoy a ‘Winter Paddle’, or choose to ‘Paddle to the Pub’. There’s a selection of canoeing experiences on the Beaulieu River you can paddle out on with New Forest Activities. It’s great fun for families or groups of mates getting to know this fantastic region, and if you are interested in other exciting outdoor activities in the New Forest, they also offer sea kayaking, a ropes course, bushcraft, and cycle hire. Adventure and excitement await in the New Forest!

Location: Beaulieu

Prices: Starting at £16

Opening times: 9am – 5pm all week, book your activity online!

Stay nearby at: Beaulieu House, Beaulieu | sleeps 8 and 1 dog

Hurst Castle

13. Hurst Castle

Sweeping views of the surrounding territory and ancient battlements are only the start of this artillery fortress. Originally built by Henry VIII, Hurst Castle evolved over time, having been made use of during WWII, and today exhibits a range of military artefacts for visitors to investigate. Hurst Marine and English Heritage manage the site which is located out on a massive shingle spit, meaning Hurst Castle can only be reached on foot or by ferry. Dogs are also welcome to explore alongside their humans at this pet-friendly New Forest attraction. Enjoy everything this historic New Forest day out has to offer before resting up afterwards in the café. For an unusual way to see this unique New Forest attraction, book in for a paddleboarding session.

Location: Keyhaven

Prices: Adults £5.50, children £3.50

Opening times: Daily 10.00am - 5.30pm during the spring/summer, 10.00am - 4.00pm autumn/winter.

Stay nearby at: Southerly, Keyhaven | sleeps 6 and 1 dog

Lepe Country Park

14. Lepe Country Park

Take a trip to the captivating village of Lepe on the New Forest coast to roam the landscape of Lepe Country Park. This wonderful destination is a great family-friendly day out, dog-friendly attraction to visit, or perfect for a romantic stroll along the seafront. Nature abounds throughout the reserve with lots of birdlife to spot including curlew, dunlin and plover. There are lots of things to do in Lepe, from cycling to birdwatching, and there's also a café called The Lookout which is the perfect place to take in the views over a cup of tea.

Location: Lepe

Prices: Free entry with parking charges £6.00  

Opening times: Daily 7am - 10pm

Stay nearby at: Old Telephone Exchange, Beaulieu | sleeps 2 and 1 dog

Milford on Sea Beach

15. Milford-on-Sea Beach

Did you know the New Forest has a delightful coastline waiting to be discovered? Few people consider a seaside holiday when visiting this county but the New Forest beaches shouldn’t be forgotten. Milford-on-Sea is one of our top choices with a long shingle shore for you to stroll along, tranquil coastal views across to the Isle of Wight, and a couple of cafes and play area by the beach. It's a dog-friendly beach, so the entire family can enjoy a day beside the Hampshire coast.

Location: Barton on Sea

Prices: Free entry!

Opening times: All year  

Stay nearby at: The Lookout - Milford-on-Sea, Milford-on-Sea | sleeps 6

Norley Farm

16. Norley Farm

Meet the donkeys of Norley Farm. This region is well-known for the large animals including the New Forest donkeys, ponies and pigs that roam free on the landscape, but this attraction offers a wonderful chance to get up close and hear all about these large, gentle creatures. You can book in for a farm walk or a full-day experience with the donkeys and the people who work closest with them every day. They also have cows, goats, alpacas, pigs and ponies, and the experiences vary depending on the time of year with everything from haymaking to show prep, so you’ll get a true feel for farm life.

Location: Lymington

Prices: Minimum coast of £25 for a farm walk, £65 for an experience day

Opening times: Call or email to check times and book in.

Stay nearby at: The Sail Loft – Lymington, Lymington | sleeps 2 and 1 dog

Buckler’s Hard

17. Buckler’s Hard

This 18th-century shipbuilding village is an iconic New Forest destination with orange brick houses lined up and leading down to the river creating an enchanting village view. Besides the beauty of Buckler’s Hard, there are plenty of quaint attractions to pop by. The Maritime Museum tells the story of Buckler’s Hard, beginning with its days as a free port for the trading of sugar before it flourished as a naval shipbuilding centre. Step back in time when you enter Shipwright’s Cottage and Workshop, join a Living History guided tour of the village, or relax aboard a river cruise.

Location: Buckler’s Hard

Prices: Adults £6.90, children (5 - 17) £4.70

Opening times: Daily between 10am - 5pm during spring/summer and 10am - 4.30pm during autumn/winter.

Stay nearby at: The Shipwrights, Beaulieu | sleeps 6 and 2 dogs

Hockey's Farm Shop

18. Hockey's Farm Shop

This delightful destination made it onto our list as a place to go in the New Forest, not for adventure and thrills but simply for a taste of the rural life. Bursting with charm and delicious goodies to discover, stop by Hockey’s Farm Shop to pick up a selection of tasty meats ideal for a big breakfast or family dinner during your holiday. Pop by the café for a roll, a cream tea or coffee and cake, where you can get a flavour of their scrumptious offerings before picking out your favourites to take away – there are special hampers too!

Location: Buckler’s Hard

Prices: A selection of reasonably priced items in the café and shop.

Opening times: Monday to Friday 9.00am - 5.00pm, Sunday 10.00am - 4.00pm

Stay nearby at: The Harbourmasters, Beaulieu | sleeps 8 and 2 dogs

Forest Forge Theatre Co

19. Forest Forge Theatre Co

Plan an evening out at the theatre and see the stages of the Forest Forge Theatre Company come to life with comedies and tragedies, original tales and classic plays shown throughout the year. They run youth theatre clubs and adult workshops if you fancy a class yourself as part of your break, but we’d recommend you sit back and let them entertain you with their 35 years’ experience and range of plays. They take shows to local venues too so no matter where you’re staying in the New Forest, it’s always worth checking out their schedule of events. Expect belly laughs and a few stray tears.

Location: Ringwood

Prices: Tickets prices vary

Opening times: Check website for showtimes

Stay nearby at: Pembrey House, Ringwood | sleeps 8

National Motor Museum

20. National Motor Museum

See the quaint bodywork and peer in to see the subtle leather seats of classic cars and motor carriages from years past. The National Motor Museum has an exhibition telling the story of the motorcycle and a Motoring in Miniature collection with more than 800 toy cars – see if you can spot your childhood toy. With the oldest motorcar at this museum dating all the way back to 1875, and with over 280 cars at the site, this attraction in the New Forest is an unbeatable day out for motor fans.

Location: Beaulieu

Prices: Adult £24.75, children (5 -16) £12.50

Opening times: Daily between 10am - 6pm during spring/summer and 10am - 5pm during autumn/winter.

Stay nearby at: Treetops, Beaulieu | sleeps 5

Plot your adventures on this New Forest attractions map:

New Forest holidays

Ready to begin your South Coast break? If you’ve got your eye on a few of these exciting New Forest activities, days out and places to visit, browse our portfolio of New Forest accommodation to book your getaway.

New Forest escapes

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.